The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-14)

April 13, 2014

Book: Matthew

The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-14)
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Scripture: Matthew 12:1-14


Sermon Notes

1 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 on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent? 6 I tell you that one 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 accuse 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 man 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.

  1. Next Sunday is the Resurrection (Easter) Sunday.
  2. 40 days preceding this is called Lent (40 days to receive Jesus’ resurrection through prayer, meditation, etc). The first day of Lent = Ash Wednesday (March 1, 2014). This is to remind us that we are ash, and will return to ash. If we remember this, we will be humble – we must be humble.
  3. Today is Palm Sunday. Today, we remember the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on a donkey. Palm branches were on the road under the feet of the donkey. This is fulfillment of Daniel 9:27~56? 77th prophecy.
  4. This coming week is called Passion Week. We remember Jesus’ willing suffering to go to the cross for our sins – as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. John 2:2 “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins – not only ours but also those of the whole world.”
  5. Today’s story is NOT the story of Palm Sunday, but it MATCHES the story of Passion week.

v. 14 “But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.”

In this story, we see this as a series of crucial events in his life.

Of course, in everyone’s life there are crucial moments on which much is hinged/depends. This is one of those moments for Jesus.

This was the final decision (rejection) of the Pharisees – they wanted to see “how can we kill him?”

Jesus deliberately violated the Sabbath “rules” and traditions multiple times to let us know that these “rules” cannot make us holy. Only our hearts can make us holy. The Pharisees thought the absence of work was true holiness. But Jesus shows that true rest (Sabbath) is found only in him. True rest, true sabbath can be found in worship to God. Have you ever sometimes been tired of worship? Be careful answering.^^

v. 1-2

At that time, the fields were laid out by the roadside without fences. According to tradition, any hungry traveler was allowed to pick some grain and eat – the disciples were not stealing. The Pharisees don’t criticize the picking of grain, but the fact that *GASP* It’s Sunday!~

The Creation story says God worked for 6 days and rested on the 7th. He did not need rest, but he rested to give us rest in him. He blesses us by acknowledging him as God, and having a relationship with us.

Over time, the Pharisees lost the true meaning of the sabbath. They tried to define the sabbath very very theologically. There were 39 actions declared as “work” that must be done the day before and not be done on the Sabbath.

  1. Picking = harvesting
  2. Opening = threshing
  3. Preparing = Winnowing
  4. Getting ready to eat = preparing a meal

Jesus appeals to

  1. David
  2. the priests
  3. the Prophet
  4. Himself

in his answer to their accusations.

#1 Appeal to David v. 3-4

The picture of the Tabernacle at that time, there were 3 divisions.

  1. Temple court
  2. Holy place
  3. Most holy place

Every week, 12 pieces of bread were placed in 2 lines of 6 on a table – representing the 12 tribes of Israel and showing God’s provision. This bread was changed into new bread every week. This bread was then given to the High Priests every week to eat (as salary kind of).

BUT 1 Samuel 21:1-6, David and his soldiers entered the Tabernacle and gave David and his soldiers this holy bread. God did not punish David and his soldiers. Why? Their need for food was more important the priestly rules.

Jesus, “If David could break the ‘rules’ in a special case, how much more could not I do so?” Jesus says “haven’t you read?” Of course they’ve read it – but this reveals their true ignorance of the story. They didn’t understand clearly and didn’t apply the true meaning of the Scriptures. John 20:9-14? “You study the Scriptures thinking that by them you have life, but you do not know that these Scriptures testify about me. And you do not have life because you do not come to me.”

The true meaning and purpose of the Scriptures (in their entirety) is to see and find Jesus.

#2 Appeal to the Priests (v. 5-6)

Yes, the people were not to “work” but rest on the Sabbath. But remember true worship is true rest.

On the Sabbath day, worship services were doubled, offerings were doubled. Many things had to be done.

  1. Making fires
  2. Preparing animals
  3. Lifting them on the altar
  4. Carrying the animals
  5. etc, etc

If “ordinary” people did it – it would be illegal. But because they were PRIESTS, it was “legal.” Why? Because they were priests and worship MUST be done. Even the same things can be seen as right or wrong depending on who does it.

The topic of Hebrews = Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (in becoming our merciful High Priest). Hebrews 4:15-16? “We do not have a High Priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but a HP who was tempted in every way as we are, but was without sin. Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with confidence to find mercy in our time of need.”

  • The priests had to sacrifice animals first for themselves, and THEN for the people.
  • But Jesus was without sin, so he offered sacrifice DIRECTLY to God.
  • Humans offered animals, tried to show the way to God.
  • Jesus offered himself, and IS the way to God.
  • Human priests are mortal – cannot pray for people permanently.
  • Jesus is forever alive and still NOW is interceding for us at the right hand of God.

#3 Appeal to the Prophet (v. 7)

“I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” – this is one KEY verse of the Old Testament (Hosea 6:6) – “I” = God.

God wants love, not legalism.

Rituals and even keeping the Law can be valuable ONLY when carried out with an attitude of LOVE for God and men.

If our hearts are far from God, then ANY Law keeping is USELESS – no more than empty mockery.

What God desires more than sacrifice = mercy, compassion, answering the call of human needs – this is the greatest service. To worship rightly is to love each other. (1 John? “A new command I give you – to love one another just as I have loved you. By this all men will know that you are my disciples.”)

#4 Appeal to the Lord of the Sabbath (himself) v. 8

This sentence means “I” Jesus is the Creator of all creation, the true rest, the true blessing, the true object of all worship. He is the provider of all needs. Phil 4:19 “My God will meet all your needs according to the glorious riches …”

  • If Jesus is the center, all is well.
  • If something else is the focus of your worship, something is wrong.

Next, Jesus shows practically that he IS the Lord of the Sabbath.

v. 9-13

This same Jesus is still with us here and now.

Jesus entered the synagogue, not the market.
To the Pharisees, synagogue is like the church room. We know what we are doing in this room. This is a room for worship, Bible study, prayer, religious education, holy fellowship – for themselves, with God.
In this synagogue, they had no love, no concern, no mercy on him. Their only concern was “the rules.” They used this man to find fault with Jesus.

Remember, we are like in a synagogue – we are here to learn, to pray, to love each other. If in this room, we are not kind, hate, ignore, despise, then we are no better than they are. Sometimes in this room, we need to look around and see the person next to you. If someone next to you looks lower than you, don’t ask, “Hmm, is THIS guy worthy to worship in here?” NO. Be kind, be merciful. He is created in the image of God – he is worthy.

Jesus questioned the Pharisees in response.

Mark (same story) – Jesus says, “Is is more lawful to do good or do evil? To save life or kill life?”
Doing good fulfills the intention of the sabbath. If we do not do good (as children of God), it is evil.

If they were truly children of God, they would have said, “Lord, have mercy on him! He needs your touch, your healing!”

Let me say more about this story next time.

Jesus wants mercy, not just ritual sacrifice.

May God bless all of us with his wonderful promise and covenant.

Let’s pray.