A Discussion About The Sabbath
At about that time Jesus was walking through some grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, so they began breaking off some heads of grain and eating them. But some Pharisees saw them do it and protested, “Look, your disciples are breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath.”
Jesus said to them, “Haven’t you read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He went into the house of God, and he and his companions broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests are allowed to eat. And haven’t you read in the law of Moses that the priests on duty in the Temple may work on the Sabbath? I tell you, there is one here who is even greater than the Temple! But you would not have condemned my innocent disciples if you knew the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!”
Jesus Heals On The Sabbath
Then Jesus went over to their synagogue, where he noticed a man with a deformed hand. The Pharisees asked Jesus, “Does the law permit a person to work by healing on the Sabbath?” (They were hoping he would say yes, so they could bring charges against him.)
And he answered, “If you had a sheep that fell into a well on the Sabbath, wouldn’t you work to pull it out? Of course you would. And how much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Yes, the law permits a person to do good on the Sabbath.”
Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored, just like the other one! Then the Pharisees called a meeting to plot how to kill Jesus.”
Matthew 12:1-14 NLT
My Thoughts: After reading this entire account my thoughts gets down to this: these religious leaders seriously thought eating grain and healing a man’s shriveled hand on the Sabbath were sins, yet it was okay to plot to kill Jesus! How did they not immediately realize they were breaking one of the sacred Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:13)?
The Pharisees justified their decision because Jesus said he was the LORD which was blasphemy (according to their laws) however, does that really warrant a death penalty? What brought on such a strong decision?
First, let’s take a look at the laws the religious leaders were referring to from my NIV study notes:
“The Pharisees had established 39 categories of actions forbidden on the Sabbath, based on interpretations of God’s law and on Jewish customs. Harvesting was one of those forbidden actions. By picking wheat and rubbing it in their hands, the disciples were technically harvesting, according to the religious leaders. Jesus and the disciples were picking grain because they were hungry, not because they wanted to harvest the grain for profit. They were not working on the Sabbath. The Pharisees, however, could not (and did not want to) see beyond their law’s technicalities. They had no room for compassion, and they were determined to accuse Jesus of wrongdoing.”
Jesus points this out to the Pharisees and compares this truth for the story about David and his men eating the bread from the temple. (You can read this story in 1 Samuel 21:1-6.) The need for food was more important than priestly regulations. Jesus was telling the Pharisees that if they condemned him and his disciples for eating when they were hungry, they might as well condemn David, something the religious leaders would never do without causing a great uproar between the people.
Jesus was not condoning disobedience to God’s laws. Instead he was emphasizing discernment and compassion in enforcing the laws.
Then Jesus infuriates the leaders further when he said he was Lord of the Sabbath, because he claimed to be greater than the law and above the law. To the Pharisees this was heresy. They did not realize that Jesus, the divine Son of God, had created the Sabbath so he had the authority to overrule their traditions and regulations.
(Definition of heresy: opinion or doctrine at variance with the orthodox or accepted doctrine, especially of a church or religious system.)
The final straw for the Pharisees happened when they tried to trick Jesus by asking him if it was legal to heal on the Sabbath. The laws said healing could be performed if it was an emergency, but healing a man’s shriveled hand was not an emergency.
Jesus responds in such a way it made their laws seem petty and ridiculous; specifically by showing they would put more value on an animal than a man. Could Jesus have waited another day to heal the man’s hand since it wasn’t an emergency? Yes, however, if Jesus had agreed to wait to heal the man, he would have given in to the Pharisees authority which placed their laws above human need. Instead, Jesus made it clear that God is a God of people and not laws therefore the best time to help someone is when they need help.
Since Jesus overruled the Pharisees laws and actions in front of a crowd in the synagogue, they were consumed with pride and outrage. Essentially Jesus made it clear for all to hear that the Pharisees were more loyal to their religious systems than they were to God.
It was their feelings that brought on the strong decision that the only solution was to kill Jesus.
Pride and anger are some of the most dangerous feelings especially when they are combined, wouldn’t you agree? In fact, I’m going to step out on a limb and say it is pride and anger that have led to many relationship problems, and certainly are the root of many current world problems.
CAUTION: We all have an opinion about what is right or wrong and most of the time we don’t want anyone to prove otherwise, especially in front of an audience! When that happens, we go into a defensive posture just likes these Pharisees did, which leads us directly into sin.
Closing Prayer: Father God, this was a very convicting lesson today because we are reminded that when we make decisions based solely on our feelings an even bigger sin typically follows. Father I ask that you guide our thinking to be more in line with Jesus. I also ask that we don’t seek to harm anyone who doesn’t agree with our opinion or beliefs, but instead we seek a loving solution. I ask this in the name of Jesus