NOT WHAT WE’RE USED TO
Father, open my heart to relationship with You this morning as I leave religious habits behind.
Read Matthew 12:1–14
12 At 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. 2 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”
3 He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. 5 Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? 6 I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
9 Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, 10 and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”
11 He 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? 12 How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
13 Then 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. 14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.
New International Version (NIV)
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ReflectWhat are some of the cultural traditions of your church (for example, dress or music traditions)?
Jesus continues causing controversy by pushing the boundaries of what the religious leaders expected. Perhaps we could put ourselves into their sandals: Why do you think they didn’t want people to do any work on a Sabbath, such as harvesting grain or healing someone (1,2,10; cf. Exod. 20:8–11)?
The original command for a day of rest was God-given; but over the centuries the religious leaders had prescribed it in minute detail, stemming from the best of intentions to help people keep the Law. “It’s the way we do it… it’s what we’re used to.” But they had turned what God intended as a blessing into a burden of prescription and parameters. And now Jesus was offering grace and truth rather than grim tradition.
Perhaps it shows that “religion” is more about doing or not doing, trying to earn favor with God, whereas what Jesus offers is God coming to us in mercy and forgiveness (7,12). He challenged the perceived wisdom of the religious leaders then—might he need to do the same today?
How can you follow the true spirit of a Sabbath rest? Take a day, or even an afternoon this week, and focus your heart on Christ alone, resting in his presence and doing what would please him.
Christ, be my rest. Teach me not to focus on rote or rules but on building a friendship with You.