I HAVE NOT COME TO CALL THE RIGHTEOUS, BUT SINNERS
Key Verses: 9:12-13
"On hearing this, Jesus said, It is not the healthy who need a
doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: "I
desire mercy, not sacrifice." For I have not come to call the
righteous, but sinners.'"
1. Read verses 1-2. When Jesus returned to his own town, who met him?
What did they want? What moved Jesus' heart? Why? What did Jesus
say? What do his words teach us about the man? About the nature of
sin? About Jesus?
2. Read verses 3-8. What was the response of the religious leaders?
What did Jesus say? Why is criticism of Jesus evil? How did Jesus
heal the man and demonstrate his authority to forgive sins? How did
the crowds respond?
3. Read verses 9-10. Who was Matthew? What reveals him as a selfish
sinner? What might his life as a tax collector be like?
4. What did Jesus say to him? What did this mean? How did he respond?
Why? What shows his changed life and new joy?
5. Read verses 11-13. What did Jesus teach those who criticized him?
Why? Read verses 14-17. How are Jesus' disciples different from the
Pharisees? Why must they be? Explain the three metaphors Jesus
When we study Matthew's Gospel, we learn, first, Jesus' messianic
ministry, second, the way to Jerusalem and his glorious crucifixion and
resurrection. Right now, we are studying Jesus' messianic healing
ministry. Jesus is our spiritual king. He heals our sinsickness.
Isaiah described his healing ministry as follows: "He took up our
infirmities and carried our diseases" (Mt 8:17). Now, with our
incurable diseases and sinsicknesses we can go to Jesus to be healed.
Jesus is our friend and he heals our paralytic diseases and incurable
sinsickness. In today's passage, Matthew 9:1-13, Jesus heals the
paralytic and a man named Matthew. And Jesus also rebukes the
Pharisees, who were like old wineskins, so that they may repent and
receive the Spirit of God and God's mercy in their hearts as servants
First, Jesus heals a paralytic (1-8). As we studied in the last
chapter, Jesus attempted to have a retreat so that his disciples might
have a time to rest and eat and study what they had seen when Jesus was
healing the sick. Actually, the retreat was necessary. Mark 6:31 says,
"Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not
even have a chance to eat, he said to them, Come with me by yourselves
to a quiet place to get some rest.'" But the disciples could not have a
retreat due to the stormy sea on the way to the retreat place in
Gerasa. They also could not rest, for as soon as they stepped on the
soil of Gerasa two demon-possessed men horrified them, yelling and
screaming because of their own sinsickness. The next day they had to
come back to the Galilean district. Jesus wanted his disciples to have
a certain time for resting. But when they crossed over and came to his
own town, some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. Jesus
saw their faith. He said to the paralytic, "Take heart, son; your sins
At that time, a paralytic was known as a kind of sinsick person.
Paralytics are those whose whole bodies or parts of their bodies are
paralyzed and they cannot take care of themselves. So they depend on
others and burden others endlessly. They are not ashamed, but take it
for granted that others should help him. According to John's Gospel,
paralytics are men and women of unthankful minds. Once, Jesus saw a man
who had been paralyzed for 38 years. Among so many sick people, Jesus
picked this most miserably crippled man, the 38-year paralytic. Jesus
asked him, "Do you want to get well?" His answer was to complain that
people did not help him get into the water when the pool of Bethesda
was stirred (Jn 5:6-7). A complaining mind is an unthankful mind.
According to the book of Romans, unthankfulness is the worst sin among
many sins. Unthankfulness is the root of sin (Ro 1:21).
There was a young man who looked handsome and neat. Once his
shepherd sent him to Chicago for Bible study. When finished Bible study
and was about to go back to his home, his shepherd's mother asked him
to take a box of groceries to her son. But the boy forgot and just
left, without even saying good-bye. His shepherd, who had received a
telephone call that the groceries were coming by the boy, was happily
expecting his return. But the boy did not bring the groceries and
appeared to his shepherd with empty hands. His shepherd was unhappy
about it and did not give him happy smiles. Then the boy wrote a note
about how bitter his heart is because he was not warmly welcomed. He
was not thankful at all, even though he lived in his shepherd's house
for a long time. He was unhappy, not because he could not get happy
smiles and dinner, but because of his unthankful mind. The young man
could not be healed of his unthankfulness because he does not know the
concept of thankfulness. He knows very well about selfishness, but he
does not know thankfulness. So he is as miserable as a paralytic. Here
we learn that when we are going to be healed from paralysis, then we
must know what kind of sinsickness we have. Otherwise, we become
self-righteous like the Pharisees.
The spiritual meaning of Jesus' healing the paralytic is so deep. We
cannot fathom it without much prayer and spiritual enlightenment. The
teachers of the law said to themselves, "Ah, this fellow is
blaspheming!" Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, "Why do you entertain
evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, Your sins are
forgiven,' or to say, Get up and walk?' But so that you may know that
the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins....Then he said
to the paralytic, Get up, take your mat and go home.'" (3-6). The
Pharisees' first mistake was that they did not know the compassion of
God. Of course, the paralytic emanated bad odor. He looked like the
living dead. But Jesus had great compassion on him. Jesus' heart went
out to him. Jesus already decided to heal him so that he could live,
achieving what he wanted to achieve. Jesus healed him so that somehow
he would become a great man of God.
The Pharisees' other mistake was that they had no noble humanity.
So they could not see the paralytic as a human being like themselves.
We should not be legalistic like the Pharisees. But we must be like
Jesus did not just argue. He demonstrated that he has the authority
to forgive the paralytic's sin. Look at verses 6b-8. "Then he said to
the paralytic, Get up, take your mat and go home.' And the man got up
and went home. When the crowds saw this, they were filled with awe; and
they praised God, who had given such authority to men." Through Jesus
we have the forgiveness of sins.
Second, Jesus heals Matthew (9-10). The Bible calls this part the
calling of Matthew. But when we read this passage carefully, this is
precisely Jesus' healing Matthew. One day Jesus saw a man named Matthew
sitting at the tax collector's booth. Who was Matthew? Other gospels do
not call him Matthew, but Levi the tax collector. It is very funny that
Levi the tax collector calls himself "Matthew." He became Matthew after
a long time. But here he didn't call himself, "Levi the tax
collector," he called himself, "Matthew." "Matthew" means the teacher
of mankind. In his self-esteem, Matthew, the author of this gospel,
called himself "Matthew," acknowledging that he was no more Levi, but a
servant of God. Anyway, as soon as Jesus saw him, he told him, "Follow
Look at verse 9. "As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named
Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. Follow me,' he told him,
and Matthew got up and followed him." The narrative is short. But this
event is outstanding in Bible history. Matthew had been Levi the tax
collector. At that time, tax collectors were known as public sinners.
They were hated by their own people because they entered the service of
their country's enemies and amassed fortunes at the expense of their
own suffering people. To the people, who were fanatically
nationalistic, tax collectors were the object of hatred. The Jews
called them, "quislings," "renegades," and "traitors" and regarded them
The tax collectors were called sinners because of their
selfishness. These days a selfish person is known as a smart person.
They do everything to satisfy their selfishness; if only they can make
money, they are ready to betray their consciences and sense of honor.
In this individualistic society, selfishness has been largely condoned.
But in the Bible, selfishness is comparable to leprosy. A selfish
person is dirty like a leper. A selfish person is harmful. Selfish
people damage others' welfare intentionally and unintentionally. Mostly
selfish people gain money through extortion, stealing, cheating and
lying. But mostly they are unhappy. How nice it would be if doing such
things could make them happy. But they are unhappy people, because
there is no one in the world who can buy happiness with money.
Biblically speaking, selfish people are the same as unthankful people.
Matthew was a selfish person. He was sitting at the tax collector's
booth. Jesus knew that he was a public sinner. Jesus also knew that he
was an able man. Jesus knew that he was a powerful sinner, while the
paralytic was a powerless sinner. Jesus did not see Matthew's human
condition. Jesus saw that he was lost in sin. As soon as Jesus saw him,
he forgave all his sins. Jesus saw the image of God in this wretched
man. Jesus saw in him the possibility of growing to be a great man of
God. Jesus did not ask him, "Would you like to follow me?" Jesus
ordered him, "Follow me." When Jesus ordered him, "Follow me," Jesus
had decided to help him until this selfish tax collector, who was like
a scorpion, would be changed into a sacrificial man of God. When Jesus
ordered him, "Follow me," he decided to make him one of his disciples
so he might be a shepherd for all selfish people in the world. We must
raise many Levi the tax collector type of people as shepherds for the
glory of God.
How did Matthew respond to his calling? As soon as Matthew heard the
voice of God through Jesus, he abandoned everything and followed him
(9). To Matthew the things of the world were no longer treasures to
him. To Matthew Jesus was the source of joy in his life. At the moment
Matthew met Jesus, due to Jesus' messianic compassion, his spiritual
eyes were opened; his value system was changed. He was so happy that he
had new life overflowing in him. In the past, Matthew's life had been
full of troubles and the devil's torment (Ro 2:7-9). But since Jesus
came into his heart, he could find the direction of life, and joy was
In the past Matthew was a penny-pincher. But now to Matthew, money
didn't matter. He did not know what he was doing. But he was preparing
a great banquet. First, he invited Jesus and his disciples. Next he
wanted to invite many noble people. But he knew none. So he invited
many tax collectors who were his friends, and who were branded as
public sinners by people. The joy of the feast was great. The taste of
the food was great. Everything was so great that the feast was like a
jubilant heavenly banquet. Jesus called a selfish sinner and healed
him. Praise Jesus!
Third, I have come to call sinners (11-13). There were some unhappy
fellows. They were the Pharisees, who said, "Why does your teacher eat
with tax collectors and sinners'?" (11) The hypocritical Pharisees
could not tolerate Jesus' fellowship with sinners. Moreover, they could
not tolerate seeing that sinners were joyful and eating so deliciously
with much gusto. Perhaps the Pharisees could not eat delicious food
and complained all the time about the menu to their wives. So inwardly
the Pharisees envied Jesus' disciples that they were eating so
deliciously with unutterable happiness. The religious leaders were in
essence called to be the shepherds of God's people. They had to take
care of those people who are lost in sin. But they had no shepherd
heart of God. They thought they were righteous and God's sheep were
unrighteous sinners because they had no license from the Pharisees.
They criticized Jesus for eating with sinners. Their human segregation
was very strict. But Jesus didn't have any sense of segregation. He was
eating deliciously with his disciples and all the tax collector class
What did Jesus say in response to their criticism? Look at verses
12-13. "On hearing this, Jesus said, It is not the healthy who need
a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: "I desire
mercy, not sacrifice." For I have not come to call the righteous, but
sinners."'" These two verses are very famous and well quoted by many
people in history. But what is the main point of these verses? The main
point of these verses is that Jesus came to this world to save sinners
from their sins. This reminds us of John 3:16. It says, "For God so
loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever
believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Here we learn
something about Jesus. Jesus knew why he came to this world. He had a
broken shepherd heart to embrace all the sick people of the world
spiritually and save them until no one was left.
Today we learn that we Christians are learners of Jesus. We must
learn that Jesus desires mercy, not sacrifice. Buddah also talked about
mercy. But Buddha's mercy was sympathy with suffering people. Jesus'
mercy is different. Jesus' mercy has hope that the people suffering
from their sinsickness may be changed and used for the glory of God.