Mercy and Steadfast Love
Matthew 9:13 ESV
Hosea 6:6 ESV
I cannot begin to imagine how difficult life was for Jesus in 1st Century Palestine.
The different religious groups Jesus dealt with were numerous and diverse. Many of them opposed Jesus.
There were Samaritans who lived north of Judah and south of Galilee. They were descendants of the Northern Tribes of Israel who had been captured by the Assyrians in the 8th Century B.C. (2 Kings 17). Many were taken to Babylon. They inner-married and worshiped Yahweh God but they also worshiped foreign Gods. Samaritans and the Jewish people did not generally speak to each other. Most of the time the Jews avoided contact with the Samaritans. When Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman she was probably not sure how to handle that situation because it was very unusual.
There were Sadducees who were a religious group and a political party made up mostly of the priestly aristocracy. They accepted only the Torah and they accepted the Roman government and the Greek culture. They controlled the Sanhedrin (a group of men chosen to act as a court of justice). They were not a fan of Jesus and His disciples.
There were Pharisees who were also a religious group and a political party in Judaism. They were not as influential than the Sadducees. The Apostle Paul was a Pharisee prior to his conversion to Christianity. The Pharisees were also hostile to Jesus and His ministry.
The Essenes were the smallest religious group in Palestine. Their observance of the Sabbath was very rigid. They studied the Torah at length. Some scholars believe the man carrying a jug of water was a member of the Essene Community (Luke 22:10-12).
The Zealots opposed Roman rule and were ready to take action if needed. Prior to becoming a disciple, Simon Peter was a Zealot (https://www.agapebiblestudy.com/documents/Religious%20divisions%201st%20cent.htm).
In Matthew 9:9 Jesus called Matthew as he was working as a tax collector. Matthew immediately stopped what he was doing and he followed Jesus. Immediately after, as Jesus reclined and spoke with other tax collectors and sinners the Pharisees asked Jesus’ disciples why Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners? In Matthew 9:13 Jesus said, “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Jesus spoke the words of Hosea 6:6 when the prophet wrote, “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”
Each of the groups Jesus came into contact with had their own agenda when they met Jesus. Pretty much, everyplace Jesus went He was confronted by different groups who opposed him.
Each group had their own reasons for opposing Jesus and they were all different. Still, every time Jesus had dealings with people from various groups He had only one thing in mind…to love them.
I think that’s nothing short of miraculous.
Time after time, day after day Jesus loved them. Regardless of what they thought of Him, He loved them.
Even when they tried to trick Him and trip Him up, He loved them.
Jesus gave them love and He taught them truth about God.
When Jesus was arrested and beaten, He loved them. I can’t begin to imagine how difficult that would have been.
Jesus wanted them to understand that steadfast love for God was really what God wanted. God wants us to love Him in return.
Jesus also wanted them to understand that knowing God, really knowing God was much more important than the ritual of burnt offerings.
I had the opportunity to sit with a great Spiritual Director for many years and he help me to understand what was really important in my faith journey.
Henri Nouwen in The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming put it this way,
“Now I wonder whether I have sufficiently realized that during all this time God has been trying to find me, to know me, and to love me. The question is not “How am I to find God?” but “How am I to let myself be found by him?” The question is not “How am I to know God?” but “How am I to let myself be known by God?” And, finally, the question is not “How am I to love God?” but “How am I to let myself be loved by God?” God is looking into the distance for me, trying to find me, and longing to bring me home.”
My Spiritual Director help me to understand that it is God who searches for me day and night, night and day and longs for me to come. My love for God changed dramatically once I realized how very much God loves me.
The most difficult concept I struggled with was how God could possibly love me that much.
As I aged and I let myself be known by God and as I opened my hands to receive God I came to know how much God loves me. I came to a point where I knew God was waiting for me to come. I could hear God calling me…
Spiritual Practice: Listen
Listen. Hear God calling you to come. Open your hands to receive God.
In God, Deborah