Matthew 12:7 “If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.”
This is the second time that Jesus has quoted Hosea 6:6 to the Pharisees. The first was in Matthew 9:13 when asked why He was eating with tax collectors and sinners. And now this second time when his disciples were picking wheat on the Sabbath because they were hungry. What’s so important about Hosea 6:6 that the Pharisees needed to understand?
Hosea 6:6 “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.”
When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, He answered with the words of Deuteronomy 6.
Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
This is true for all the Law. So laws concerning eating with sinners and laws concerning the Sabbath are only meaningful if they are undergirded by Love. This is what Hosea 6:6 is saying. God desires loving kindness and mercy not sacrifices and burnt offerings. He desires to know us and to be known by us and acknowledged as our God before all. This is what the Pharisees were missing. This is what blinded them to the Messiah and this is what can blind you and me today.
This whole following Jesus thing boils down to love. Without it we are lost. Without it our worship is empty, our actions meaningless. When Jesus healed on the Sabbath, He was giving people an object lesson of what really mattered. And two thousand years later hasn’t changed the reality of that lesson one bit. We need it more than ever. Let your every movement be motivated by love.