“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." (Matt. 9:12)

Here Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house. Seated at the dinner table were tax collectors and “sinners.” At some point Pharisees saw this and asked Jesus’ disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”

Jesus’ answer clarifies his mission for coming to the physical world. Notice that he doesn’t say that "I have come to die for people’s sins." No. He specifically says that he has come to “call” the sinners. How does he call sinners?

Let’s consider what the word “call” means:
Let’s say it is dinner time, and we want the kids to come in the house from their play, and eat dinner. What do we do? We call them.

Let’s say that we want to go out to dinner with a friend. What do we do? We call them.

Let’s say that we have a long lost relationship with an old friend, and we’d like to renew that relationship. What do we do? We call them.

Let’s consider what the Webster’s Dictionary says the meaning of “call” is:
1) a: to speak in a loud distinct voice so as to be heard at a distance : shout ; b: to make a request or demand c: an animal : to utter a characteristic note or cry; d: to get or try to get into communication by telephone ; d: to invite or command to meet : convoke ; e: to rouse from sleep or summon to get up; f (1): to give the order for : bring into action."

As we review the applications of the word call to this situation, it would probably be most appropriately, c: "to summon to a particular activity, employment, or office d: to invite or command to meet : convoke e: to rouse from sleep or summon to get up f (1): to give the order for : bring into action."

In this case, what would the “particular activity” or “action” that Jesus would be “calling” ‘sinners’ (like us) to do? Quite simply, the "call" is explained with Jesus' confirmation of the greatest commandment:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matt. 22:37)

What about Jesus "dying for our sins" - as the ecclesiastical institutions teach?

We know the Supreme Being can forgive all of our sins, simply by our humble request for forgiveness. This is why Jesus advised his students to pray to God for forgiveness:

"Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us." (Luke 11:4)

If the Supreme Being can forgive our sins when we ask Him, why would Jesus need to suffer on the cross for that purpose? Or - as many ecclesiastical Christians teach - why would God have to "become a man and die for our sins"?

First, the Supreme Being never becomes a man - He is always the Supreme Being. Second, the Supreme Being never dies. God is not subject to the laws of the physical world - the laws of time and death. He created them, and controls them.

Furthermore, what good is it to have our sins forgiven if we just go back and do them again? What gain is made? Unless we are pursuing the “call” that Jesus is making - the call to return to our loving relationship with the Supreme Being, we will simply fall back into 'sin' (activities born of selfishness) after being forgiven.

It is also clear that Jesus is seeking to educate and teach to those in need. When he says, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick,” what is he saying?

He is clearly saying that it is the ‘sinners’ need his help. In other words, he has come to bring us self-centered people back home to the Supreme Being - back to our loving relationship with God.

Then he says, “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’”.

This quote is taken from the book of Hosea (6:6-7):
[God speaking]"For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings. Like Adam, they have broken the covenant — they were unfaithful to Me there."

Jesus is explaining the meaning of God's statement with his activities of sitting down with 'sinners'. Rather than focusing on the regimen of temple offerings and a show of sacrifice, God is looking for our acknowledgment of Him - our return to our relationship with Him. And He is looking for those who seek Him to also have mercy upon others, and help "call" them home.

This is precisely what Jesus is doing, and what he is explaining. Jesus is pleasing God by having mercy on the 'sinners' by inviting them to dinner and speaking to them about God.

Let’s consider this in light of the supposed theory of Jesus’ dying for everyone’s sins. Remember that the Supreme Being prefers “mercy” over “sacrifice.” Why? Because mercy is when a person becomes lenient, forgiving, and compassionate towards another. In this context, it was God’s mercy that motivated Jesus to come here in the first place to teach us that we will only be happy if we are loving and serving God. While the Supreme Being could simply punish us ‘sinners’ for our sins, He has compassion for us, and sent His loving servant to call us back to Him - so that we could leave our lives of self-centeredness and return home.

Now if being 'saved' was an automatic process of just acknowledging Jesus' suffering on the cross, why would Jesus have bothered to travel the land, teaching - and calling the 'sinners'?

In other words, we are 'saved' by hearing and applying Jesus' teachings -- and understanding that those teachings were so important - important enough to suffer on a cross for.

This article is republished from The Real Teachings of Jesus.