Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Matthew 9 - Mercy, Not Sacrifice

Matthew 9

When a pack of pharisees kvetched about the moral character of Jesus' dinner companions, he invoked Hosea 6:6 when he said, "go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice'."

So I went. I went to Hosea and learned that his word for mercy is "hesed", translated elsewhere as "love" and meaning right conduct towards your neighbor and God. Sacrifice refers to the religious ritual of giving offerings, presumably to God.

The religious establishment considers sacrifice a win-win. When they do it, they feel superior; when others do, they get rich. Hesed doesn't really figure into it. The whole operation could go on quite nicely without a whiff of it.

On the other hand, hesed is a win-win for humanity and God. Because when they do hesed, they will sacrifice - really sacrifice, really lay down their lives. Even for tax collectors. And as always, God leads the way: "for God so heseded the world, that he sacrificed his only begotten son." Or something like that.

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