And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
‘Mercy’ or ‘steadfast love’ (chesed) in Hosea’s context meant loyalty to Israel’s covenant relationship with Yahweh God. When the Pharisees criticized Jesus for sharing a meal with social outcasts and law-breakers, Jesus told them to go learn what covenant faithfulness looks like in action. Jesus was busy embodying spirit of the Mosaic Law by sharing a meal with those in need of relationship, but the Pharisees were so focused on the letter of the Law that they missed that Jesus was fulfilling the Law before their very eyes.
Rebekah Devine is Executive Assistant to Shane Claiborne at Red Letter Christians. She holds an M.A. in Biblical Exegesis, an M.Litt in Theology and the Arts, and a B.S. in Biblical Studies. Rebekah blogs sporadically at rebekahdevine.com, and is writing a memoir about growing up messianic Jewish(ish) called A Wandering God Was My Father. Find her on Facebook and Twitter (@rebekahmdevine).
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