What Does It Mean? Pt. 2
Study Guide April 17, 2016
Pastor Clay Olsen
Do you ever wonder where some of our sayings got started…like the saying, ‘Bring home the bacon‘? We usually connect that saying with winning a victory or bringing home a check for your employment. But in England, as early as 1445, bringing home the bacon was connected with actually ‘bringing home the bacon’. Yeah, it was the result of winning an unusual contest. Six bachelors and six maidens would question several married couples about their first year of marriage. And whichever couple’s answers showed the most harmonious relationship would be awarded a large prize of pork. They literally brought home the bacon.
And what about that saying of “If I’m wrong, I’ll eat my hat”? What kind of hat were they talking about? In early European cookbooks there were dishes called, ‘Hattes’.
And they could be pretty good ones made from like eggs and dates and such. But other ‘hattes’ could be made from things like ‘kidneys’ or ‘tongues’. And those were the ones that were ready to go if someone was making a bet or was sure he was right about something and said, “If I’m wrong, I’ll eat my ‘hatte’”…which was basically saying, “If I’m wrong, I’ll eat this hunk of kidney or tongue or whatever…”
One more here: How about, ‘Give em’ the cold shoulder‘? What do you think of in connection with this one? Right, we associate that saying with someone responding to another by ignoring them or slighting them somehow. But here again, the origin of this saying is very literal. During the Middle ages when guests overstayed their welcome, whereas, when they first came, they gave them a hot meal with some cooked meat, but if they wanted them to take the hint that it was time for them to move on they would just set out a piece of cold shoulder meat instead…and they would quickly get the message.1
We give these examples because in Jesus’ interactions with the Pharisees, He often challenged them with sayings of the day that were meant to really drive home His point with them. But sometimes in our day, it helps to explore these sayings a bit more to really understand what they meant.
We turn to an encounter Jesus had with some disgruntled Pharisees. Matt 9:10-13- “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. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?” But when Jesus heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. “But go and learn what this means: ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.“” NASU
There are a couple things we are going to unpack from this. The first has to do with with the fact that the Pharisees were continually wrong about who Jesus was and they were continually wrong about who they were. Jesus stood before them as the Great Physician of souls. We also know Him as our Great Physician who heals our bodies, and as the One from Whom all healing comes. Christians Doctors often tell their patients that they are treating the wounds or sickness, but God is the healer.
But how odd that these so-called Teachers of the Torah and the Tanakh did not even know or had not paid attention to what their own prophet Jeremiah had stated about the human condition. The Complete Jewish Bible Version puts it like this: Jer 17:9- “The heart is more deceitful than anything else and mortally sick. Who can fathom it?” CJB The heart, of course, is a reference to the soul, and the prophet clearly reveals that the diagnosis of the human soul is that it is that it is mortally sick, it is terminally ill, meaning; we each need a Physician of Souls to come and heal our mortally sin sick soul. But who on Earth can heal a mortally sin sick soul? Well, only the God of Heaven can heal the soul. And Jesus reveals that not only can the God of Heaven heal the sin sick soul, but the God of Heaven was now God on Earth, and He, Jesus Christ, the Great Physician, was now standing right in front of them.
However, because of the their pride, they both rejected the fact that Jesus was the Physician of souls and they rejected the notion that they were mortally sick sinners. And so, Jesus adds, “…but I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” And this in itself was a rebuke to these Pharisees, but it probably went right over their heads. Again, they should have known that Jesus was making a subtle charge to their attitudes here as well, because the Psalmist had clearly stated: “God looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God. Every one of them has turned aside; They have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one.” Ps 53:2-3 NKJV The phrase “None who does good” refers to the fact that there is not being one human being that is without sin and righteous in and of himself. And even Proverbs reinforces each person’s sin problem by saying; “Who can say, “I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin”? Prov 20:9 NKJV And the answer is: ‘No one! There is none righteous!‘
Isn’t it strange that what Jesus made so clear, people the world over have made so cloudy? The Bible makes it clear that everyone on Earth has a terminal sin condition…each person has a mortally sin sick soul that can only be healed by the Great Physician of souls, the Lord Jesus Christ. And this Great Physician came for us. Jesus came for us. The Divine Doctor of souls even makes house calls. And every mortally sin sick person needs to ask Jesus, the Physician of souls, to heal their soul.
So these Teachers of the Law were wrong about who Jesus was, the Soul Healer, and they were wrong about who they were, sinners who needed a soul healing, and they were even wrong about what God the Great Physician wanted once a soul had been healed and was in a right relationship with God. In other words, not only were they wrong about the condition of their soul they were even wrong about the spirit of their religion.
Once again, here is where a God directed relationship parts company with man driven religion. Here’s what we mean: Jesus then said to them: “…go and learn what this means: ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE…” How do you think this struck them? I’m sure they didn’t get this either, because they couldn’t seem to see, as we say, ‘the forest for the trees‘. They had the sacrificial system down pretty well, they just completely missed the spirit of the whole experience. Now, first of all, since it was God Himself that created the sacrificial system, which He had required of them for a couple thousand years now, we know that Jesus was not speaking against the offerings of sacrifices. What He was doing was reiterating the very thing they should have known about through their prophet Hosea, since he had already told them this 700 years earlier. Take a look at what God says through Hosea in Hos 6:6- “For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” NKJV They should have stopped and thought, “Say, this Jesus is saying to us exactly what Hosea told us 700 years ago about what God wants in a relationship with people.” And note: ‘more than burnt offerings”. Mark it down: God has a desired priority that He both wants and is looking for in relationship with His people. What God wants and what God is looking for is not just what we put into our service and sacrifice for Him, but especially, if we are putting our heart into what we put into our service and sacrifice for Him. Or, what God really wants and is looking for from His people, from you and from me, is that He wants our devotion to Him to be even higher and deeper and wider than our discipline for Him. What God longs for, more…far more, than even our service unto Him, is our love for Him. He wants our religious actions to be inspired by our relational affections for our God and Father; our Lord and Savior. That is a priority desire of God’s, and thus, it is to be a priority devotion of ours.
And with God saying this about what He desires notice what He is also saying about what He does not desire: ‘I do not desire sacrifice more than mercy, nor do I desire burnt offerings more than the knowledge of God.’ Or, ‘I do not desire sacrifice more than compassion.’ You know, as God’s redeemed people, we especially need to be aware of this and focus on this; that God does esteem our service for Him and our sacrifices for Him, but we are to realize that what He really wants from us is that we serve Him and sacrifice for Him because we are fully devoted to Him; that we are seeking to love God with all our heart and soul and mind. Remember, Jesus told His disciples that He called them not just to serve Him, but to be with Him…with Him in a growing devoted relationship. So you and I are to realize that in God’s eyes, the choicest part of the discipline of our offerings of service and sacrifice to Him is the amount of our devotion that we give to Him and express to Him.
Actually, just in terms of all the religious activity that we see the world over, whether that is in the form of overtly false religions or even in the religious rituals of nominal Christendom, God has already revealed His attitude toward religious rituals that are done apart from truth and love for God Himself. Listen to what God said about this: Mal 1:10- “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands.” NIV
As you watch the religious rituals going on around the world, as we mentioned, everything from the false religions of the world to the fallacious religious activities of nominal only Christendom, think of what God’s attitude is toward it all: “Oh, that one of you would just shut the doors. I will not accept your offerings.” Remember, Jesus said that God is looking the whole world over for worshipers. But those who come to Him must worship in ‘spirit and in truth’. Apart from a reborn heart relationship with God and a love of the truth of God, God says, you might as well just shut the doors to your temples or so-called houses of worship. God is not accepting their offerings until they accept His Son, Jesus Christ, and then seek to worship with a spirit of love for Him and and a love for His truth.
Now, let’s wrap this part up with one more curious, but powerful saying that Jesus said next. Back to Matt 9:14-17- “Then the disciples of John came to Him, asking, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. But no one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and a worse tear results. Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.“” NASU
What was the ‘old garment’ or the ‘old wineskin’? It was the ‘Old Covenant’, particularly the Law and it’s moral and ceremonial requirements. Jesus was ushering in the ‘New Covenant’. He did not come to add the New Covenant to the Old, for that would be like trying to attach new cloth to old cloth or to put new wine in old wineskins; they would tear or burst apart. And really, what Jesus was doing was continuing a revelation that He had earlier told them all in Matt 5:17- “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.” NLT
Remember, Jesus completely fulfilled all the requirements of the Law. And in doing so, Jesus did what no person had ever done or ever could do, and that is, live a sinless life in complete obedience to God and thus fulfill the Law and achieve perfect righteousness. He did not come to attach any more requirements or teachings to the Law to help people become better sinners, nor to just be a good moral example for others to try to follow so that they could achieve salvation based on their own good works outweighing their sins. No, the very purpose of the Law was to show all people that they all fell short of the righteous standard of God and needed a Messiah, a Deliverer, a Savior. And this Messiah had now come to both live the righteous life in obedience to the Law that no one else had lived or ever could live, and would also then sacrifice His sinless life as a substitute for sinners so that they could have the guilt and sentence of their sin removed from them and be credited with Jesus’ righteous obedience of a life that had fulfilled the requirements of the Law. This was a ‘New Covenant’, this was new wine in new wineskins, this was a completely new garment. It was the garment that the prophet Isaiah had spoken about when he said, “I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness…” Isa 61:10 NASU
Over and over, Jesus was pointing people to Himself as the One that each person was in need of, so that they could not only better understand all these amazing teachings of that had been revealed in the Old Testament and those being revealed to them now in His teachings and later in the teachings of His Apostles in the New Testament, but mostly so that they could come to understand that in Him, in Christ alone, they could have ‘new life’ in Him, their Messiah, the Savior of the World. From the teachings of the Prophets to the revelations of the Apostles; it all pointed to Jesus Christ, in whom alone is eternal life with God.
1. Old sayings from Charles Panati’s Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things, pp. 93-94