7 And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. – Matthew 12:7
I was thinking about this statement and something occurred to me. Although the accusation that the Pharisees had made was directed at Jesus, it was also leveled more specifically at His disciples and He was merely considered “guilty” of the infraction for allowing them to do what the Pharisees saw as unlawful. Jesus presented a very brief legal defense of their actions according to principles laid down within the same Law they were using as the basis of their accusations. But Jesus goes beyond that to call them “guiltless.” He draws on the words of Hosea to illustrate the principle He is using here as well. God desires mercy and not sacrifice. Does this mean that God doesn’t require sacrifice? Clearly not. What it means is that we are to consider our own place before God as well and remember the mercy that we require before we seek to pronounce judgement over someone else’s failure. After all, with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you and Jesus says that is true even in judgement. Mercy should be given freely from those of us who have needed it so very desperately ourselves. That is what God desires.