Summary: What role should the Sabbath play in our lives?
In 1981 the movie, Chariots of Fire, won the Academy Award for Best Picture. This Hollywood film told the true story of a devout Christian, Eric Liddell, in a very positive way. I want to just show you a clip of the film. Eric has decided he must forfeit his chance to run in the 200 meter dash at the 1924 Paris Olympics because the qualifying meet will be held on Sunday. His coach, and some others, try to convince him to change his mind.......wow! It is great to see someone who is willing to hold to his convictions no matter what it costs. Yet, think about the stand that Eric is taking. He won't participate in the race, simply because it is on Sunday. He believes that to run on Sunday violates the Biblical command, the 4th of the Ten Commandments...to keep the Sabbath day holy.
Many of us in this room probably would not agree with Eric's position. We would have said, "Eric, lighten up a little. Is this really the mountain you want to die defending? It is just one race. There will be plenty of time to go to church before or after the meet. Your decision not to run may keep you from witnessing to others about Christ." Today most Christians see Sunday as just the day we happen to meet for church. Many feel there is really nothing special about the day and going to church on Saturday night or Wednesday evening is just as good. Who is right? Eric Liddell, and other Christians who have been zealous in their efforts to observe the Sabbath, or the many Christians today who have no qualms about playing, shopping, or working on Sunday? How important is the Sabbath? Frankly, this is not an easy question. I have good Christian friends who take very different positions on this issue. But, I believe the Lord wants us to seek what His will is for us. Today our journey through Matthew brings us to Chapter 12:1-14. Let's pray that as we look at God's Word, He would show us what role the Sabbath should play in our lives.
Our text has Jesus and the Pharisees disagreeing about the Sabbath. The first incident involves Jesus' disciples picking some grain. Matthew 12:1 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. There is no reason to believe the disciples are starving. They are out for a Saturday afternoon walk, they are hungry, so they pick some grain along the road. It doesn't sound like a very tasty snack to me, but I'm sure it was very nutritious. The Pharisees, the religious leaders who have become Jesus' opponents, are very upset by this. What Jesus and His friends are doing doesn't bother them, but when they were doing it was a big problem. 12:2 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, "Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath." The 4th Commandment reads, Exodus 20:8-10a "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work,..." The Pharisees claimed this meant that thirty-nine types of work were forbidden on that day. One of them was reaping grain.
Matthew 12:3,4 He answered, "Haven't you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 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." Jesus asks, "How can you guys condemn my friends for eating a few heads of grain which God did not specifically forbid, when the Old Testament did not condemn David for doing something which was a violation of the law?" Jesus' point is that the Pharisees' rigid interpretation of the Old Testament law is inconsistent with Scripture itself. Jesus then asks, 12:5 "Or haven't you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent?" Jesus notes that the law allows the priests to do work in the temple on the Sabbath because their work in facilitating worship is more important than the Sabbath principle. Then He says, 12:6 "I tell you that one greater than the temple is here." Or, in other words, "The work I have to do is far more important than what the priests did in the temple." Jesus sums up His argument in Verse 12:7 "If you had known what these words mean, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent." That is a quote from Hosea 6:6 which shows that the Pharisees have missed the whole point of God's law. Their judgmental attitude, not the disciples snacking on grain, was what really violated the Scripture. 12:8 "For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." This statement was guaranteed to shock the Pharisees. Jesus is saying, "If you Pharisees are really interested in honoring the Lord, you should join the disciples and follow Me."