Mercy not sacrifice

Jesus Comforting

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto/PeteWill

They were gathered at Matthew’s house, dining with tax collectors and people that were known as “sinners”. The Pharisees couldn’t understand that, how could Jesus and his disciples hang out with “those people”? They had to question Him…

Jesus answered them:

“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)

The Pharisees were the most religious people at that time. They knew all about the Law and they thought they were righteous because of the things they did (the sacrifices, the loud prayers, the “rules” they followed to the letter). They thought they deserved favors from God. They didn’t need a savior because they could save themselves.

But they got it all wrong.

They made their rules more important than God’s will. They were blinded by their own pride, they thought they were worthy. They had the Savior from God right before their eyes but they didn’t recognize Him.

The Law given by God did require a sacrifice. But He would rather sacrifice Himself, and that’s what the Pharisees never saw coming (in spite of so many prophecies).

They didn’t expect Jesus to sacrifice Himself to free us all:

For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:14)

Jesus gave His life as the sacrifice required by Law to purify us and make us holy (that means, separated for God). So we don’t need to do that anymore. The Law was fulfilled. The price was paid.

As the apostle John wrote:

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2)

It is easy for us to look at the Pharisees and judge them. But how many times we are tempted to do the same thing? How many times we do something for God and think we’re good enough? How many times we look at other people and think we’re better than they are, for whatever reason? How many times we make deals with God to get His favors in return? “Lord, if you do this for me, I promise to do that in return”.

Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice so we don’t have to do that. Sacrifices didn’t work.

The sacrifices by themselves aren’t capable of changing a person. Only a relationship with God can do that. Now, we can have a relationship with God instead. No more sacrifices, bargains and deals searching for favors from God.

We receive mercy and grace from Him, so the same way we receive, we must show and give them to other people too. That is the sign of a truly transformed heart.

This post is part of the “One Word at a Time Blog Carnival” hosted by Peter Pollock. Check out other posts that were written based on the word “sacrifice”.



  1. I think we’re on the same train of thought with our posts this morning. It’s really easy for us to fall into the role of Pharisee when we seek religion rather than God.

    • Katdish, thank you for your comment. I’m checking your blog now for your thoughts on this subject (sacrifice).
      By the way, congratulations on the giveaway you’re doing with Peter, way to go! I’m sure a lot of people are interested in getting a blog makeover with WordPress.

  2. Great post!

    “The sacrifices by themselves aren’t capable of changing a person.” – I like this line and that you follow it up with “relationship”. The sacrifice gives us access to the Father. It is both the door and the foundation to a transformed heart within the Kingdom of God. Amen.

    • Ryan, thank you very much for your feedback, I appreciate it!

  3. No bargains with God. I liked your thought that we often think we can (sacrifice) and work for the Lord, and expect “Pay back” from Him.
    Yes, Mercy not sacrifice.

    • Yes, unfortunately I see that view more and more commonly in several “famous” churches in Brazil. I will probably talk about it again in the future.
      Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment again, Hazel, I appreciate it.

  4. This, I needed to see this today. There is something I’ve been missing. Too often I’ve held the “He doesn’t require sacrifice” over others, completely missing His own desire for me to show mercy. Taking this thought into the evening with me…

    • Kelly, thank you very much for your comment and feedback, I appreciate it.

  5. “They had the Savior from God right before their eyes but they didn’t recognize Him.”

    And He is right before our eyes every day–even in the “small” things. I don’t want to miss seeing Him.

    • Very good point, Sandra, me neither!
      Thank you for reading and commenting, I appreciate it.

  6. Thank you, Cris, for this thought-provoking post. I particularly liked the Bible verses you used. God bless you as you bless others.

    • Mari-Anna, thank you for your comment, it’s very encouraging.
      God bless you too!

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