“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. ..." (Matthew 9:12)

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Matthew 9:10-13)

What does Jesus mean by 'call'?

Notice that he doesn’t say that "I have come to die for people’s sins." He specifically says that he has come to “call” the sinners. How does he “call” the sinners?

The word "call" is being translated from the Greek word καλέω (kaleō) - meaning "to call aloud, utter in a loud voice." Let’s consider the practical meaning of the word “call:”

Let’s say it is dinner time, and we want the kids to come in the house from their play, and eat dinner. What do we do? We call them.

Let’s say that we want to go out to dinner with a friend. What do we do? We call them.

Let’s say that we have a long-lost relationship with an old friend, and we’d like to renew that relationship. What do we do? We call on them.

Let’s consider what Webster’s Dictionary says about the meaning of “call:”
1) a: to speak in a loud distinct voice so as to be heard at a distance: shout; b: to make a request or demand c: an animal: to utter a characteristic note or cry; d: to get or try to get into communication by telephone; d: to invite or command to meet: convoke; e: to rouse from sleep or summon to get up; f (1): to give the order for: bring into action."

As we review the applications of the word "call" to this situation, it would probably apply most appropriately to: c: "to summon to a particular activity, employment, or office d: to invite or command to meet: convoke e: to rouse from sleep or summon to get up f: to give the order for: bring into action."

What does 'call the sinners' mean?

In this case, what would the “particular activity” Jesus use to “call” ‘sinners’ (like us)? Quite simply, the "call" is coming from Jesus' teachings - the most important of which is the greatest commandment:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matt. 22:37)
None of this has to do with anyone dying for our sins. The concept of Jesus dying for the sins of future generations was the creation of sectarian institutions to attract followers by creating an easy, yet imaginative way for feeling saved.

This is easy because no change of heart or change of one's lifestyle is needed.

But this isn't what Jesus taught. Jesus was asking us to have a change of heart - a change of consciousness from being self-centered to being God-centered.

Jesus' teaching to love God "with all your heart" is the opposite of self-centeredness. And this requires work. It is not so easy. It requires a commitment to change.

As far as sins, we already know that God can forgive all of our sins, simply by our humble request for forgiveness. This is why Jesus advised his students to pray to God for forgiveness:
"Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us." (Luke 11:4)
If God can forgive our sins, why would Jesus need to suffer on the cross for that purpose?

Furthermore, what good is it to have our sins forgiven if we just go back and do them again? What gain is made? Unless we are pursuing the “call” that Jesus is making - the call to return to our loving relationship with God, we will simply fall back into 'sin' after being forgiven.

Who are the 'healthy' and who are the 'sick'?

It is also clear that Jesus is seeking to educate and teach those in need. When he says, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick,” what is he saying?

He is clearly saying that those who are lost need his help. In other words, he has come to bring the fallen back home to God - back to their loving relationship with God.

Then he says, “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’”.

This is taken from the Book of Hosea when God said:
"For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings. Like Adam, they have broken the covenant — they were unfaithful to Me there." (Hosea 6:6-7)
Jesus is explaining the meaning of God's statement with his activities of sitting down with 'sinners.' Rather than focusing on rituals, God is looking for our focus upon Him - He wants us to give Him our hearts and our dedication to Him. He wants us to return to our relationship with Him. And He is looking for those who seek Him to also have mercy upon others - helping Him "call" them home.

This is loving service. Acknowledgment and mercy are actions. They are expressions of love.

And this is precisely what Jesus is doing, and what he is explaining. Jesus is pleasing God by having mercy on the 'sinners' by inviting them to dinner and teaching them about the Supreme Being.

Yes, Jesus was exhibiting mercy in his loving service to the Supreme Being.