But go and learn what that means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
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After this, that He might not seem to put them that were bidden to shame, by saying, they that are sick; see how He makes up for it again, by reproving the others, and saying,
Go ye and learn what that means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice. Matthew 9:13
Now this He said, to upbraid them with their ignorance of the Scriptures. Wherefore also He orders His discourse more sharply, not Himself in anger, far from it; but so as that the publicans might not be in utter perplexity.
And yet of course He might say, Did ye not mark, how I remitted the sins of the sick of the palsy, how I braced up his body? But He says no such thing, but argues with them first from men's common reasonings, and then from the Scriptures. For having said, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick; and having covertly indicated that He Himself was the Physician; after that He said, Go ye and learn what that means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice. Thus does Paul also: when he had first established his reasoning by illustrations from common things, and had said, Who feeds a flock, and eats not of the milk thereof? 1 Corinthians 9:7 then he brings in the Scriptures also, saying, It is written in the law of Moses, You shall not muzzle the ox that treads out the grain; and again, Even so has the Lord ordained, that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.
But to His disciples not so, but He puts them in mind of His signs, saying on this wise, Do ye not yet remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? Matthew 16:9 Not so however with these, but He reminds them of our common infirmity, and signifies them at any rate to be of the number of the infirm; who did not so much as know the Scriptures, but making light of the rest of virtue, laid all the stress on their sacrifices; which thing He is also earnestly intimating unto them, when He sets down in brief what had been affirmed by all the prophets, saying, Learn ye what that means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice.
The fact is, He is signifying hereby that not He was transgressing the law, but they; as if He had said, Wherefore accuse me? Because I bring sinners to amendment? Why then ye must accuse the Father also for this. Much as He said also elsewhere, establishing this point: My Father works hitherto, and I work: John 5:17 so here again, Go ye and learn what that means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice. For as this is His will, says Christ, so also mine. Do you see how the one is superfluous, the other necessary? For neither did He say, I will have mercy, and sacrifice, but, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice. That is, the one thing He allowed, the other He cast out; and proved that what they blamed, so far from being forbidden, was even ordained by the law, and more so than sacrifice; and He brings in the Old Testament, speaking words and ordaining laws in harmony with Himself.
Having then reproved them, both by common illustrations and by the Scriptures, He adds again,
I am not come to call righteous men, but sinners to repentance.
And this He says unto them in irony; as when He said, Behold, Adam has become as one of us; and again, If I were hungry, I would not tell you. For that no man on earth was righteous, Paul declared, saying, For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23 And by this too the others were comforted, I mean, the guests. Why, I am so far, says He, from loathing sinners, that even for their sakes only am I come. Then, lest He should make them more careless, He staid not at the word sinners, but added, unto repentance. For I am not come that they should continue sinners, but that they should alter, and amend.
4. He then having stopped their mouths every way, as well from the Scriptures as from the natural consequence of things; and they having nothing to say, proved as they were obnoxious to the charges which they had brought against Him, and adversaries of the law and the Old Testament; they leave Him, and again transfer their accusation to the disciples.
And Luke indeed affirms that the Pharisees said it, but this evangelist, that it was the disciples of John; but it is likely that both said it. That is, they being, as might be expected, in utter perplexity, take the other sort with them; as they did afterwards with the Herodians likewise. Since in truth John's disciples were always disposed to be jealous of Him, and reasoned against Him: being then only humbled, when first John abode in the prison. They came at least then, and told Jesus; but afterwards they returned to their former envy.