I cant even imagine the uproar this would have caused among the people! They would have been floored by such a proclamation. The religious elite would have been outraged. This statement went against so much of what their culture deemed acceptable.
But why was this so revolutionary? What did Jesus even mean when he said, I desire mercy, not sacrifice.?
What makes this quote significant is that Jesus restated what would have been familiar to the people, but in true Jesus fashion, he was doing it in a way that looked different to what had become comfortable and familiar.
Throughout the Old Testament, the religious rules stated that certain burnt offerings and sacrifices were often made to atone for sins when the people broke one of Gods commandments, which meant that when the people were offering their sacrifices and burnt offerings, it was because they had sinned and strayed from Gods ways. God had told the people that there was something he desired of them more than he desired their sacrifices and burnt offerings.
Listen to 1 Samuel 15:22 NIV. But Samuel replied: Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
Jeremiah 7:22-24 NIV says something similar. For when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you. But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward.
Proverbs 21:33 NIV makes it clear. To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.
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