Matthew 9:9-13 And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him. 10 And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? 12 But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. 13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
Matthew was also called Levi and the same event is recorded by Mark and Luke.
Mark 2:14-17 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him. 15 And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him. 16 And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? 17 When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
Luke 5:27-32 And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me. 29 And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them. 30 But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners? 31 And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. 32 I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
Jesus called Matthew, a tax collector (publican), to be a disciple. Publicans collected taxes for the Romans and were looked upon as sinners by the Scribes and Pharisees. Matthew immediately left his profession to follow Jesus. Matthew organised a feast for Jesus and his disciples and invited publicans and other people regarded as sinners by the Jewish leaders. We might suppose that he wanted the others to meet and hear Jesus.
The Scribes and Pharisees found fault with Jesus because he was eating and drinking with such people. Jesus’ mission was to call all men to repent and obey God so that they might be saved. Jesus likens himself to a doctor, curing men of the ‘illness’ of sin. It is clearly necessary for a doctor to have contact with their patients if they were to effect a cure.
Likewise, Jesus must meet and converse with sinners. The Scribes and Pharisees had no compassion on those they classed as sinners. They were not willing to extend mercy to them and try to convert them from the error of their ways.
They were so bigoted that they didn’t want Jesus to do it either. They considered themselves righteous, but showed no mercy.
The teaching of Jesus had little effect on those who were convinced of their own righteousness. Offering sacrifices prescribed by the Law was not acceptable to God if the offerer desired mercy from God but refused it to others.
One scribe who met Jesus understood the principle.
Mark 12:33 And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.
Sadly, most of the Scribes and Pharisees didn’t. Those who would be Jesus’ disciples must understand this principle.
Matthew 7:2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
Those who desire mercy must show mercy.
I hope you find this helpful.