"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Friday, July 16, 2010

Matthew 12:1-14 -- Jesus vs. Sabbath Tradition

Matthew 12 begins

1At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. 2When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, "Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath."

It wasn't unlawful for the disciples to eat grain from someone else's field. (see Deut. 23:24,25)

Nope, it wasn't
stealing that the Pharisees deemed unlawful for the Sabbath. It was the fact that they picked grain and rubbed it in their hands before eating it. Why?

In their tradition these actions "constituted reaping and threshing" which was work, and therefore, not lawful to do.

Sabbath (from sabat meaning "repose or rest") was a day God instituted for the Israelites and all animals and aliens living within their land as a sign of the children of Israel's relationship with God and a "lasting covenant" (see Exodus 31:16). It was also "an act of mercy for both man and beast, to give them needed rest each week." (Wiersbe, pg. 42) Indeed keeping the Sabbath was important enough to be included in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20).

Jesus answered their charge by reminding the Pharisees of the actions of King David, the priests and words the prophet Hosea records, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice."

Indeed Jesus says if the Pharisees knew what these words meant they would not have condemned the innocent! (Mt. 12:7)

How could Jesus declare his disciples innocent when according to Tradition (the Law?), they were guilty? Appalling!

I'm sure his next words really pushed their buttons!

8"For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."

What?! Is Jesus calling himself the Lord of what God instituted (the Sabbath) and gave as Law to Moses? Does Jesus get to set the rules of what does and does not violate Sabbath rest?

But wait! He doesn't stop there! Next he goes into their synagogue and meets a man with a shriveled hand.

10...Looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, they asked him, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"

Since they were wanting to accuse Jesus, it seems the Traditional answer would be an emphatic "no!" At least according to the legalists' Tradition.

But as Wiersbe puts it in his commentary, "Any religious law that is contrary to mercy and the care of nature should be looked on with suspicion. God wants mercy, not religious sacrifice. He wants love, not legalism."

Jesus answered them with this:

11He said to them, "If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath."

Read that? Humans are more valuable than sheep!

And it's lawful to do good on the Sabbath which probably means it's a great idea to treat others kindly and mercifully any day of the week - holy day or not.

Jesus didn't just stop with saying those wise words, but he healed the man.

13Then he said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other.

Can you imagine the man there? Just happened to be in the synagogue that day probably never realizing his hand - his withered, crippled hand - was going to be healed!

My pastor often points out this man's faith. Surely over the years he'd tried to stretch out that hand, willed it to be whole, to move, to grab - all to no avail. He couldn't play ball with the kids...at least not any that involved catching. It was difficult to steady and carry a hot bowl of soup from the stove to the table. Yet, here one Saturday when told by Jesus to stretch out his hand, he did..."and it was completely restored"!


Yet not everyone can celebrate your miracle with you...are their hearts just that cold?

14But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.

I say legalists are just party poopers, eh? Jesus did a good deed yet they scurry away making plans about how they might rid the world of him.

What do you think about this passage? What does Jesus declaring himself "Lord of the Sabbath" mean? How do you think the Pharisees took those words? Why do you think they wanted to kill Jesus? Might he be disrupting their Tradition in a way that made them furious?

Noted quotes from The Bible Exposition Commentary, volume 1 by Warren W. Wiersbe


Lat said...

Very good verses indeed.Extolling mercy to following rules of legalism.

I do not know how Bible readers interpret how man is the "lord of the Sabbath'.I think it's like how God proposes but man imposes.Afterall it's man who does all the work of either resting or doing deeds.So that's why man is the lord of the Sabbath not God.

I heard the saying,When you enjoy working passionately,you don't work anymore.So if it's Sabbath day or not,if you have faith,then you are who you are.Passionately doing what a human being is suppose to do in the first place.

sarah said...

Essentially Jesus is here teaching the common sense has more to do with religion that only following the letter of the law. I agree whole heartedly. I see the same phenomenon amongst Muslims today. Rules must not be broken - just do as the Imams say and don't question it. Humans preach is rigidity where God is flexible and merciful.

As for the pharisees plotting, perhaps it is because Jesus with his statement
For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath - is telling them that he is the awaited Messiah. Therefore they knew instantly - if it were true- that their authority would now be submissive to his. Oh the human Ego knows no bounds!

As for the incident of the hand. Is the real meaning that those who were obedient and recognised the truth of Jesus - they would recieve blessings and healing and be restored to full health (spiritual as well as physical)?

Susanne said...

Lat, thanks ...I liked reading your thoughts on what "Lord of the Sabbath" means! Really interesting. Later I'll share what a couple commentaries suggested. I love what you said about "extolling mercies." Yes, that is what humans should be doing because we ALL need mercy at some time or another! :)

I appreciate your comment!

Susanne said...

Sarah, you often have such thought-provoking comments. I'm so glad you share your views on such things. I really like how you applied this teaching to today and the rigidity of following rules...at the expense of mercy and the spirit of the law.

I agree that the human ego is quite great! I think all sins are rooted in this...selfishness, right? Basically wanting self exalted above God and everyone else.

I like your thoughts on the healing hand miracle...nice way to turn it into a spiritual truth as well! Really enjoyed that!

Thanks so much for your feedback!