“And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice’, you would not have condemned the guiltless.” Matthew 12:7
You’ve probably heard the story about how several blind people were asked to make a determination on what an object was. The object is really an elephant, but one touches a tusk and says “It’s a spear,” and another grabs onto a leg and determines “It’s a tree.” They were blinded to the truth of it being an elephant because they couldn’t see.
Throughout Jesus’ ministry, he continues to correct a group of spiritually blind men known as the Pharisees. In Jesus’ day the Pharisees were actually the men who served as religious leaders. To be a Pharisee there were certain requirements; you had to follow the Levitical law to the T, you had to memorize the first five books of the Bible, and many more. In fact, they added over 250 laws so they wouldn’t even come close to breaking the law of God. In their zeal for the law they completely missed the purpose of the law and God’s purpose of redemption through a Messiah, Jesus Christ.
These men despised Jesus and his teaching and they tried to corner him one day about his association with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus responds in Matthew 12:7 “And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice’, you would not have condemned the guiltless.” You have missed the big picture! Jesus was actually quoting a scripture from Hosea 6:6 knowing that the Pharisees would know exactly what he was referring too.
At times I am like the blind man and get so excited that I found a “trunk” or a “tree” in God’s Word, and yet sometimes I miss the big picture. Paul writes to Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:15 and he says “Christ came to save sinners.” When we put our faith in Christ and not in our own efforts we are born again into God’s family, and he asks us to join the family business of saving sinners. We ourselves do not save, but we proclaim a message that does!
In order to proclaim a message of salvation, we need to be around people that are in need of saving! Now that is not to say that we as Christians don’t need to hear and believe the Gospel on a daily basis, but those who need the gospel are the lost. So I have to ask myself, “Have I been hanging around with tax collectors and sinners?” In order to proclaim the good news to lost people I need to be with lost people!
When I served on staff with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) we had an analogy that we often challenged each other with. In the game of football there is something known as the red zone. The red zone is the last twenty yards before you make it to the goal line and make a touchdown. In FCA our red zone was lost people. It’s difficult to score a touchdown, or see people come to faith in Christ, if you are on the other end of the field and spending all your time with other Christians. Unfortunately, American culture has made it easy to pocket ourselves in groups of Christian sub-culture, and not be with those who are in need of a savior for their eternal salvation!
I pray that for myself and for you that we might not get caught up in our American Christian culture while we miss the big picture of what Christ came to do, save sinners. At the same time, evangelism and being with lost people doesn’t need to be another law that we lay on top of ourselves like, “how many people did you share the gospel with this week?” Our identity and salvation are eternally rooted and secure in Jesus Christ!
Before we are with lost people we need to delight ourselves in God! When we delight ourselves in God evangelism becomes an outpouring of that time. Think about it. It’s easy for you to share with others about your new favorite restaurant or Netflix show because you enjoy it. May we enjoy Jesus more and more each day and may that flow out when we spend time with tax collectors and sinners!