- Religion and Philosophy
"I Desire Mercy Not Sacrifice."
“ I Desire Mercy Not Sacrifice “
At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is unlawful on Sabbath.”
He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread – which were not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven’t you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the Temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent? I tell you that one greater than the Temple is here. If you had known what these words mean ,’I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
Matthew 12 : 1 - 8
It was one Sabbath day. The Pharisees were always on the lookout for Jesus and his disciples every Sabbath.They were on the lookout to find whether there were any Sabbath- breaking activities done by Jesus and his disciples . If they found any, then they would gain further grounds in destroying the credibility of Jesus.
Who are these Pharisees ?
The largest and the most influential sect in the New Testament times were that of the Pharisees. Their name is derived from the verb “parash” which means “to separate.” They were the Separatists or Puritans of Judaism who withdrew from all evil associations and who sought to give complete obedience to every precept of the oral and written law. They originated as a separate group strictly after the times of Maccabees and by 135 BC they were well-established in Judaism.
Their theology was founded upon the entire cannon of the Old Testament which included the Law of Moses, or Torah, the Prophets and the Writings. They attached great value to the oral law or tradition which they observed scrupulously. They practiced ritual praying and fasting, and tithed their property meticulously. They kept the Sabbath Day very strictly allowing not even for healing the sick nor for the casual plucking of grain for eating by the Wayside.
The religion of the Pharisees is seemingly a whitewashed religion. It is a display of hypocrisy , self-righteousness and legalism. The Lord JesusChrist disapproves much their practice of external religiosity. They have religion, sacrifices and rituals but they have no love in their hearts. They have no compassion for the lost and sinners.
Jesus says, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” The Pharisees have not realized that they were not pleasing God with their rituals and sacrifices because they have no mercy and compassion for their fellowmen. They were always critical and judgemental about the failures of other people. They have no consideration for the weak. They always consider themselves holier than all the rest of the people. This is highly detestable to God.
As Christians, we should always desire mercy above anything else. How can we show mercy ? We show mercy first by forgiving all people who offended us. If we regard any iniquity or resentment in our hearts, our offering no matter how big is done in vain. God will not honor this sacrifice.
We also show mercy by not becoming judgemental or critical about other person’s imperfections, weaknesses and failures. We should be considerate enough. We should be patient regarding our brother’s imperfections. It is not a good Christian testimony to react with flare-up at our househelper’s failures.We must be constantly reminded that we are not perfect and had also our failures and times of weaknesses. We must be reminded that God has been very longsuffering in dealing with all our failures and weaknesses. If God has not been lonsguffering to our failures and imperfections where we shall be now ? While we are on earth nobody is perfect, we are all in the life-long process of sanctification. God is not yet finished with us.
We show mercy also by becoming sensitive to the needs of our fellow men particularly the poor, needy and the hurting people. If we can, if we can afford it, we must do something to alleviate their burdens, pains and sufferings. As it is written, how could the love of God dwell in us if we have abundance and do nothing about a poor brother’s need.
If we say we are a Christian, a precious child of God, an elect of God, yet we have an unforgiving heart or a critical attitude about others’s imperfections or has a deaf ear to people’s cry for help and claim we do God a service by being involved in a church ministry, then we are living a double life, a life of hypocrisy, just like the Pharisees who were living lives detestable to God.
Christianity and mercy are inseparable. A true Christian who is truly saved by God’s grace realizes the very great mercy and compassion God poured out on him, will also be merciful and compassionate to his fellowmen. He will forgive other person’s offense against him for he experienced a very great forgiveness from God. Having realized God is longsuffering in dealing with him , he will also bear with his brother’s weaknesses and imperfections.
I may say this is one of the valid test of genuine Christianity. Christianity without exhibiting mercy is not a true Christ-centered religion. We may be active in the church ministries, we may never miss church services, we may never neglect our tithes but if we have no mercy in our hearts, if we have no compassion for our brothers and fellowmen ,our religion is a vanity and highly detestable to God. Jesus desires our mercy rather than our sacrifice.