LOVE COMES FIRST
Lord Jesus, I thank you that nothing is powerful enough to separate me from your love.
Read Matthew 12:1–14
Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath
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,’[a] 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.
- Matthew 12:7 Hosea 6:6
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Jesus said, ‘The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath.’1 How do people benefit from observing the Sabbath?
The differences between Jesus and the Pharisees come to the fore in today’s reading. The Pharisees criticize Jesus’ disciples for plucking and eating grain because they believed this was reaping and involved breaking the commandment not to work on the Sabbath. The Pharisees had good motives: their additional rules were intended to stop them coming anywhere near breaking God’s laws. But they had ended up missing something vital about the Sabbath. God intended it as a blessing, whereas following their Sabbath rules would have meant the disciples going hungry and the man with a withered hand being denied healing – hardly a blessing!
Jesus challenged their view with examples from Scripture of laws that were broken for the greater good. To alleviate their hunger, David and his men ate the consecrated bread (or shewbread) which only priests were normally allowed to consume. Jesus also makes the point that the sacrificial system from which they benefited was only possible because priests worked on the Sabbath.
The Pharisees may seem extreme, but it’s also easy for us to lose sight of God’s love for others when we believe we are in the right. For example, we can get involved in arguments over doctrine that leave others hurt; resist change even though many will be helped by it; pressure people to get involved in projects we believe are of God when they already have too much on, etc. How do we know when to challenge and when to show compassion? The Pharisees stuck rigidly to their rules regardless of people’s circumstances, which must have made their decision-making easier in some ways. We, though, are called to be led by God’s compassion and there is no shortcut to that other than walking closely with the Lord.
In Mark 3:4 Jesus talked about the Sabbath as a day to do good not evil. Pray and listen to God about what that might mean for you.
Gracious God, thank you for this timely reminder that the Sabbath is a day for liberty and liberation, not legalism. Sometimes needs override a custom. Help me to put this insight into practice.
1 Mark 2:27, TNIV
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