A Moment with the Bible
Matthew 12:9-14, #2
Visualize this scene. Mark’s account (Mk. 3:1-6) tells us that as Jesus entered the synagogue, the Pharisees watched Him closely to see whether He would heal on the Sabbath “so that they might accuse Him.” Jesus did not shrink from the challenge. He first called to the man with the withered hand and had him stand in the midst. Jesus then challenged them with these words: “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” The Pharisees did not answer. Can you imagine that? Look at them. They stood silently and arrogantly looking at Jesus and refusing to give Him the obvious answer. Jesus then “looked around at them with anger being grieved by their hardness of heart.” With that, Jesus turned to the man and commanded him to stretch out his hand. The man obeyed and his hand was restored whole. Now let’s make a few observations.
It is first important to notice that the Pharisees were using this occasion to find a way to accuse Jesus. Isn’t that interesting? The only possible fault they can find in Jesus is that He is healing a person on the Sabbath. They have long given up trying to find some actual evil in Him. They can only resort to accusing Him of doing something good. It is a great testimony to the fact that our Lord lived sinlessly in His time on the earth.
Notice also Jesus’ question: “Is it lawful to save life or kill?” The Pharisees were happy to accuse Jesus of doing a good deed on the Sabbath, but they did not see their own hypocrisy when they immediately went out and plotted to kill Jesus on the same Sabbath! Their refusal to be honest in their evaluations is the reason for their lost condition. This ought to be considered an important challenge for all of us. Are we being honest with the scriptures or are we reading into the scriptures what we would like to see? Are we being honest with ourselves concerning the way we are living, or are we justifying our actions while condemning others? These are vital questions that each of us must answer. Without such unbiased honesty, we will lose our souls as surely as did these Pharisees.
A Moment with the Bible
Jesus entered one of their synagogues on the Sabbath and a man was present who had a withered hand. Now what is the first thing that came out of the mouths of the Pharisees? They ask Jesus if it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath. Why would they ask this? Would they ask this question of a person who had never done a miracle in his life? You see, their very question indicts them. By their question they admit that they believe Jesus has been doing miracles. Is that not amazing? Here are unbelievers who confess that Jesus is performing miracles, but at the same time they are trying to discredit Him. This is an excellent lesson for us. There are times when we think that if we could just do a miracle, everyone would believe in the Lord. Or, if Jesus would just come down and show Himself to the world, all would come to Him. Neither is true. Jesus did miracles, people believed they were indeed true miracles, but they still did not follow Him. God literally came down to this earth and showed Himself, and yet most of those who saw Him, still did not believe. Belief is a matter of choice; it is not a matter of enough evidence. The evidence is present for all to see, the choice is a matter of one’s own will.
Mark’s account adds to this and tells us that when Jesus heard their question, “He looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts” (Mark 3:5). This is one of the few times we see Jesus displaying the emotion of anger. Anger of itself is not wrong, though one’s anger can result in sin (Eph. 4:26-27). Jesus’ anger is because of their hard heart in spite of the overwhelming evidence He had provided them. Hebrews 3:7-19 tells us that this same hardness of heart was the reason for God’s wrath against the Israelites in the wilderness. A hard heart is the attitude that men and women have when they simply decide they are going to do things their own way and not submit to the commands of God in the scriptures. Beware! The wrath of God will be poured out on those who act in this way.
A Moment with the Bible
Matthew 12:1-8 #3
Notice Jesus words, “Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here.”
Three times in this text Jesus indicted the Pharisees for a lack of careful observation of the scriptures and a negligence in applying the words they read. Twice He says, “Have you not read,” and the third time He says, “If you had known.”
The progression of Jesus’ arguments goes like this. David and his men ate the holy bread designated only for priests, but the Pharisees did not condemn David. The disciples simply ate grain and the Pharisees condemned them. David and his company of men had a pressing need, but Jesus and His company had a greater mission. Jesus’ argument concerning the priests and their work on the Sabbath is similar. The priests were laboring every Sabbath for the service of the temple in order to honor God. The Pharisees had not even considered the principle of priestly labor. But Jesus’ disciples were laboring on the Sabbath for the One who is greater than the temple. They labored for the One who was the architect of both the physical temple and the heavenly temple after which it was patterned. If the priests can labor for God on the Sabbath, sacrificing animals and cooking and eating their portion, then certainly the disciples can glean some grain in order to strengthen themselves in service to the One who is the Lord of the Sabbath.
The primary point of this text is that the Pharisees missed the true meaning of the Sabbath. It was intended as a gift to man with the intent that God would be honored. Our worship today is the same. God has given us a great gift in teaching us to pray, sing, give, share His word, and partake of the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of Him. But these are not intended as the goal; these are a means to the goal of growing to be more like Him and honoring Him in our lives. God designed these particular parts of worship with a spiritual goal. If we miss that purpose, we have not truly worshiped.
A Moment with the Bible
Matthew 12:1-8, #2
The Pharisees have accused Jesus’ disciples of violating the Sabbath by gleaning grain as they passed through the fields. Jesus defends their actions by using two examples that show that not all work on the Sabbath was forbidden. As we will notice later in this text, even the Jews allowed for some work on the Sabbath, as in the case where one of their sheep fell into a ditch. But under what conditions could work be done on the Sabbath and not be violating the law against laboring?
The first example Jesus used was the incident in which David was fleeing from Saul at the direction of God. When he and his men arrived in Nob where the priests were, he asked for bread for his journey. Having nothing but the showbread, the priest offered this to David and David accepted it since it was a matter of survival and there was nothing else to eat.
The second example Jesus used was the simple fact that the priests worked every Sabbath and yet were guiltless. However, notice Jesus’ words in each of these examples. In the case of David, He said, “He did that which was not lawful.” In the case of the priests, He said, “The priests profane the Sabbath.” Now, the question is, were the priests actually profaning the Sabbath? Of course not. They were serving God on that day and there was no prohibition of such on the Sabbath. In fact, service to God on the Sabbath was the greatest way to keep the day. In the same way, David was also guiltless. Laws concerning worship and the keeping of the Sabbath were not intended to bring extreme hardships on man. As Jesus said in the parallel text of Mark 2:27, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Here is where the quote from Hosea 6:6 applies: I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” Jesus said that if they had understood this text “they would not have condemned the guiltless.” Compassion for man’s condition supercedes laws concerning worship. This was true when a Jew would pull a sheep out of the ditch on the Sabbath. It is true today when we come to the aid of a person gravely ill instead of attending morning worship. There is never a time when we can violate laws of morality. But the purpose of worship is to bring us to greater love for God and our fellowman. The laws of worship must at times be compromised in order to meet that goal.
A Moment with the Bible
Matthew 12:1-8, #1
In the Old Testament, there were three passages that defined restrictions concerning work on the Sabbath: Exodus 20:8-11, “You shall not do any work;” Jeremiah 17:21-24, “Carry no burden;” Exodus 35:3, “Kindle no fire.” In this text, the Jews have accused Jesus’ disciples of violating the command against work. It is interesting that Jesus constantly challenged the Jews concerning the understanding of the Sabbath command. The Pharisees found it necessary to specifically define every imaginable Sabbath violation. If a woman left a needle in her garment and took more than two steps, it was determined that she violated the Sabbath. They had turned the Sabbath command into something oppressive, instead a day of rest and worship.
We must also note that the disciples had not gone into the fields to reap, but to glean. In other words, if they had been reaping a crop, they certainly would have been violating the Sabbath. But gleaning was different. Under the law, the poor were allowed to glean. This would include picking from the corners of the field or gathering that which was dropped by the harvesters. However, Jesus does not use this argument in defending His disciples. Instead, He quotes Hosea 6:6, “I desire compassion, and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” If they had known what this meant, they would not have condemned the innocent. So, in context, what did the Hosea passage mean?
First, we should note what it did not mean. God was not saying, “All I want from you is compassion, I don’t want you to offer sacrifices.” That would contradict all the direct commands for animal sacrifices. In the context of Hosea, the people had decided to return to God in a superficial way. Their lives had been filled with immorality and decadence and God had been sending partial judgments against them. Their solution was to offer a few sacrifices, and by the third day, God will make everything better. But the God was angry with their attitude. Their goodness, He said, was like a morning cloud that went away. It was only a false promise of righteousness. Therefore, God’s rebuke meant, “I desire compassion (Hebrew: steadfast love and from-the-heart service), not simply animal sacrifices. The principle is timeless. God wants no less from us. Just “going to church” is not going to cut it. He requires a complete from the heart service.