Mercy and Not Sacrifice
After Jesus looks at Matthew and says, "follow me," the new disciple finds himself in the middle of an argument between Jesus and the Pharisees. The Pharisees, concerned with following the letter of the law, begin to ask why Jesus would hang out with someone like Matthew -- a tax collector. In response, Jesus offers the Pharisees a little homework: "Go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.'" But what does it mean? What is Jesus saying? Without resolving these questions too quickly ('go and learn" is part of the homework!), I think one part of the answer is found in what Jesus is doing with his words as much as what he's saying. He's defending the humanity and inherent worth of Matthew. Jesus is placing the value of mercy above whatever legalism might stand between Jesus and Matthew.