Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Matthew, Chapter 12 part 1

Chapter 12 of Matthew is another chapter that is very large, so I have decided to break it into two parts. Today we will be discussing the first 21 verses, while I will reserve verses 22 through 43 for tomorrow. In today's lesson, we will see Jesus establish Himself as Lord of the Sabbath. We will also see how he fulfills more of the prophesies found in the book of Isaiah. In all this, we will also see how the rift between Jesus and the Pharisees began to grow because of His ministry.

Why is it important that Jesus proclaim Himself Lord of the Sabbath? This first section seems asinine in our 21st century view, but in the first century the Sabbath was incredibly sacred to the people of Israel. Absolutely no work was done on the Sabbath, so when Jesus and His disciples merely plucked some grain to feed themselves the Pharisees freaked out. To them this was a great blasphemy, especially coming from someone who proclaimed to be the Son of God. This shows the short-sightedness of man, and why Jesus needed to proclaim Himself Lord of the Sabbath. The Pharisees could not see past the law that man had been given. Even though this was God Incarnate telling them that the law was no longer valid, they were still hung up on the law.

5Or haven't you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent? 6I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. 7If you had known what these words mean, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent. 8For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." – Matthew 12:5-8

Jesus is much like a lawyer citing precedent here. At the same time, He also states that He is greater than the Temple. What the Pharisees feared in this is the loss of their power. The Temple was the source of the Pharisees earthly power. As men, they had become blinded by this power. By Jesus saying that He was higher than the Temple he also presented a threat to that power. Instead of seeing Jesus for the blessing that He was they saw him as a threat to the status quo.

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." – Matthew 12:11-12

I love how Jesus illustrates a higher purpose here. Instead of being restricted by the law, He expands it by doing good. Still, the Pharisees continued to be shortsighted, as we see them plot to kill Jesus for doing good. To me, this is one of the most absurd parts of Scripture. I cannot understand why they would want to kill someone who was clearly performing miracles just because it was a minor violation of their law. As we know, however, it was prophesied.

18"Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
      the one I love, in whom I delight;
   I will put my Spirit on him,
      and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
19He will not quarrel or cry out;
      no one will hear his voice in the streets.
20A bruised reed he will not break,
      and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
   till he leads justice to victory.
21In his name the nations will put their hope." – Matthew 12:18-21

We have seen this before in Isaiah 42. Jesus keeping his anonymity here is an important part of Scripture because it shows His humble nature. Jesus came to serve, not to draw attention to Himself. That is why we are told He would not quarrel or cry out. During His ministry Jesus never went out of His way to draw attention to Himself. Instead, He let His actions speak for themselves. From a completely secular perspective we can see this humble nature grew to the point where He is the most influential being in Human history. Even the most self-aggrandizing person does not have the world's system of dating based on the year of His birth. Jesus accomplished this with a public ministry that last barely three years and had only a small, local following.


  1. Why were the Pharisees so legalistic about work on the Sabbath?
  2. How would Jesus performing these miracles be viewed today with our current views of the Sabbath?
  3. What do you think of Jesus' humble nature?

1 comment:

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