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12But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”


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12. Not they who are in health need a physician It is evident from Christ’s reply that the scribes erred in two ways: they did not take into account the office of Christ; and, while they spared their own vices, they proudly despised all others. This deserves our particular attention, for it is a disease which has been always very general. Hypocrites, being satisfied and intoxicated with a foolish confidence in their own righteousness, do not consider the purpose for which Christ was sent into the world, and do not acknowledge the depth of evils in which the human race is plunged, or the dreadful wrath and curse of God which lies on all, or the accumulated load of vices which weighs them down.

The consequence is, that they are too stupid to feel the miseries of men, or to think of a remedy. While they flatter themselves, they cannot endure to be placed in their own rank, and think that injustice is done them, when they are classed with transgressors. Our Lord glances at this second error by replying, that they who are in health have no need of a physician It is an ironical admission,520520     “C’est une concession par ironie, (c’est a dire, moquerie;”)—”it is an admission made in irony, (that is, in ridicule.”) and is intended to show that they are offended when they see sinners, because they claim righteousness for themselves. Because you are in health, (he says,) you despise the sick, are offended at them, and cannot endure the sight of them: but a physician ought to be affected in a very different manner. He afterwards points out that he must discharge the duties of a physician, because he has been sent by the Father to call sinners

Though Christ begins with reproof, yet if we desire to make progress in his doctrine, what he has put in the second place must receive our first consideration. He came to quicken the dead, to justify the guilty and condemned, to wash those who were polluted and full of uncleanness, to rescue the lost from hell, to clothe with his glory those who were covered with shame, to renew to a blessed immortality those who were debased by disgusting vices. If we consider that this was his office and the end of his coming, — if we remember that this was the reason why he took upon him our flesh, why he shed his blood, why he offered the sacrifice of his death, why he descended even to hell, we will never think it strange that he should gather to salvation those who have been the worst of men, and who have been covered with a mass of crimes.

He whom you detest appears to you to be unworthy of the grace of Christ. Why then was Christ himself made a sacrifice and a curse, but that he might stretch out his hand to accursed sinners? Now, if we feel disgust at being associated by Baptism and the Lord’s Supper with vile men, and regard our connection with them as a sort of stain upon us, we ought immediately to descend into ourselves, and to search without flattery our own evils. Such an examination will make us willingly allow ourselves to be washed in the same fountain with the most impure, and will hinder us from rejecting the righteousness which he offers indiscriminately to all the ungodly, the life which he offers to the dead, and the salvation which he offers to the lost.

13. But rather go and learn He dismisses and orders them to depart, because he saw that they were obstinate and unwilling to learn. Or rather he explains to them, that they are contending with God and the Prophet, when, in pride and cruelty, they are offended at relief which is given to the wretched, and at medicine which is administered to the sick. This quotation is made from Hosea 6:6:

For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice;
and the knowledge of God more than burnt-offerings.

The subject of the prophet’s discourse had been the vengeance of God against the Jews. That they might not excuse themselves by saying that they were performing the outward worship of God, (as they were wont to boast in a careless manner about their ceremonies,) he declares that God has no delight in sacrifices, when their minds are destitute of piety, and when their conduct is at variance with uprightness and righteousness. That the statement, I desired not sacrifice, must be understood comparatively, is evident from the second clause, that the knowledge of God is better than burnt-offerings By these words he does not absolutely reject burnt-offerings, but places them in a rank inferior to piety and faith. We ought to hold, that faith and spiritual worship are in themselves pleasing to God, and that charity and the duties of humanity towards our neighbors are in themselves required; but that sacrifices are but appendages, so to speak, which are of no value or estimation, where substantial truth is not found. On this subject I have treated more fully at the tenth chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews. It ought to be observed that there is a synecdoche in the word mercy: for under one head the prophet embraces all the kindness which we owe to our brethren.

For I came not Though this was spoken for the purpose of reproving the pride and hypocrisy of the scribes, yet it contains, in a general form, a very profitable doctrine. We are reminded that the grace of Christ is of no advantage to us, unless when, conscious of our sins, and groaning under their load, we approach to him with humility. There is also something here which is fitted to elevate weak consciences to a firm assurance: for we have no reason to fear that Christ will reject sinners, to call whom he descended from his heavenly glory. But we must also attend to the expression, to repentance: which is intended to inform us that pardon is granted to us, not to cherish our sins, but to recall us to the earnestness of a devout and holy life. He reconciles us to the Father on this condition, that, being redeemed by his blood, we may present ourselves true sacrifices, as Paul tells us:

The grace of God, which bringeth salvation, hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, and righteously, and devoutly in this world, (Titus 2:11,12.)




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