9 As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector’s booth; and He *said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him.
10 Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?”12 But when Jesus heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
- The Pharisees wouldn’t be caught dead eating with the tax collectors and sinners – they were too much above that. (see here and here and here)
- But, Jesus showed them up by eating with the tax collectors and sinners, and not doing things “the Pharisees’ way”
- So,while the Pharisees could not criticize Jesus for who He was (ie NOT a tax collector and sinner), they criticized Him for associating with people that they had deemed “unacceptable”. He was not following THEIR self-made rules of who you could and could not associate with
- But rather than taking their issue to Jesus, they sniped at him to His disciples. Cowardly? Trying to undermine Him by driving a wedge between Jesus and His disciples – planting seeds of doubt in their minds?
- In this instance, Jesus proactively responded to their criticism. As the Pharisees’ comments were not directed directly to Him He could have let it go. It says “when Jesus heard this” – it may have been that the disciples reported the Pharisees’ comments to Him.
Why and How did He respond?
- He may have wanted to deal (counteract?) with the doubt about Him which the Pharisees seeded in the minds of His disciples
- He used the Pharisees’ criticism of His ministry as an opportunity to teach the disciples what His ministry was all about. God used the narcissists to present Jesus with a teaching moment. And Jesus knew what to do with that opportunity.
- Jesus did not rebuke the Pharisees (do not rebuke a scoffer or he will hate you). Instead He gave them them the same lesson He taught His disciples – ““It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.”
- But then He also admonished them with an instruction / challenge – “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’”
- And finally, He explained Himself with a truth (“for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”) that they could easily use to justify themselves – if they were further hardening their hearts by continuing to think that they were – or use to seek Him. IE – a Pharisee who heard Jesus’ last phrase could easily say, “Oh right, He’s here for the bad guys, not me”, or he could humble himself and say, “I’m a sinner, and He’s here to help guys like me”, and begin to seek Him. Its a parable that gave enough truth to seek Him with, for those who were willing.