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Text Sermons : John Wesley : Go and Learn

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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.”
Matthew 9:12&13
This is one of two occasions in Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus quotes this verse from
Hoseah: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” On this occasion it is in response to the Pharisees
objection that Jesus is having a meal with tax collectors and sinners. The other occasion
that He quotes this verse is when the Pharisees object to Him doing what they consider
unlawful on the Sabbath. Some might say that Jesus took delight in shocking the
Pharisees (and us), but that is nowhere near the truth. The truth is that Jesus took delight
in showing mercy and would love us to do the same. If He could show mercy He did, if
we can show mercy we should.
Wesley suggests that Jesus is saying here that when personal acts of mercy and personal
acts of sacrifice interfere with each other, Jesus always prefers acts of mercy. He goes
on: “yea, before all ceremonial institutions whatever; because these being only means of
religion, are suspended of course, if circumstances occur, wherein they clash with love,
which is the end of it.” In other words, love is one of the main reasons for religion, and
sometimes one of the best ways to show love is to show mercy. It would seem that God
prefers acts of mercy even more than sacrifice itself.
Hidden in the verse before us today is a command for us to consider: “Go and learn what
this means.” In fact perhaps there are two commands, going and learning. The learning
part includes understanding and believing that God requires us to be merciful and
rejoicing in the fact that He has shown us mercy. The going part involves going out into
the world, which might be the home, the school, the workplace, the shopping centre and
looking for opportunities to be merciful. The going part might also mean picking up the
daily newspaper or watching the news and considering how showing mercy today might
change the news tomorrow. The going part really means taking what we have learnt and
going out and putting it into practice.
Go and learn.
Let us rejoice in the God who has shown us mercy
Outcasts of men, to you I call,
Harlots, and publicans, and thieves! He spreads his arms t'embrace you all
Sinners alone his grace receives:
No need of him the righteous have;
He came the lost to seek and save. (29)

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