Summary: Jesus ate and healed on the Sabbath, going against what the leaders taught. So what can or can’t a person do on the Sabbath. How to keep the spirit of the Sabbath while being Sunday Christians.
Matthew 12:1-14 – Remember the Sabbath
Today we are continuing to look at the life of Jesus, and we are reading from the passage where Jesus confronts the religious authorities about what to do and what not to do on the day of worship. Let’s read Matthew 12:1-14.
Danny Dutton, age 8, from Chula Vista, California, was asked to write to "Explain God" for his third grade homework assignment. This is part of what he wrote.
“You should always go to Church on Sunday because it makes God happy, and if there’s anybody you want to make happy, it’s God. Don’t skip church to do something you think will be more fun like going to the beach. This is wrong! And, besides, the sun doesn’t come out at the beach until noon anyway.”
I have found that people tend to cling to rules about spending the Sabbath more than to other rules. I remember so many of the rules about what to do and what not to do on Sundays. Well, the insistence of rules dictating Sunday activities is not new. John Calvin, whose teachings are the backbone of Baptist and Presbyterian churches, set up a church state in Switzerland. There, church attendance was mandatory. And like most other times a good idea goes bad, he also set up rules about what height hair can be before it’s immoral, about naming children anything but OT names, and about what colors clothes could be. Calvin the theologian should have known more about grace than he showed.
And the religious leaders in Jesus’ time should have understood the scriptures better than they showed as well. We can see them today criticizing Jesus for picking grain on the Sabbath. Jesus and His disciples were hungry, and so they got something for themselves to eat.
Well, I suppose technically they were working. But there is more to life than technical precision. They were hungry. Would it have been better for them to have passed out in the grainfields because they starved themselves? Is that better?
But this wasn’t so much a breaking of the explicit rules of the OT. Over the years people added to the rules because the OT rules were a little vague at times. The motives were fine, that is, they wanted people to keep in line and do things that would please God. But over time the rules became as important as the original laws. The traditions became as important as the laws themselves.
And even though Jesus was careful not to break OT laws, He didn’t care so much about breaking traditions. I said it before: Jesus was a rebel. He went against the common culture, and even went against what the good religious people believed and taught too. They called Jesus a sinner then, and churchy people call rebels sinners today too, if they go against what it looks like the Bible might be saying, paying no attention to the heart or the motives of the person. If it looks like a duck, then therefore it is, no questions asked.
But Jesus was no sinner. He didn’t mind breaking what others set up as rules. And he quoted an OT story of when the great Jewish hero King David did a similar thing: he ate consecrated bread, which was unlawful for him to do. Jesus caught them with a flaw in their own logic. Would they condemn their hero David by condemning Jesus, or would they let Jesus off because they didn’t want to condemn David as well?
You know, if we applied today’s laws and standards to all Christians over the years, none of them would line up. If we applied our standards of good Christian living to 2000 years of believers, no one would get it right. That’s part of the reason why we shouldn’t judge another person’s spiritual condition: because only God knows the heart.
Jesus went on to say what was most important. He said mercy, pity, kindness, forgiveness, compassion, were more important than beating yourself or others up for what you or they do. Giving others the benefit of the doubt and not being too quick to form an opinion about them is better. Jesus said so.
Because then in v8 He said, “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” What does that mean? It means that serving Jesus fulfills the Law. It means that putting Jesus first makes up for all the stupid things you wind up doing. I read this week about hypocrisy. It said that there are only 2 ways not to be hypocrites. #1 is to be perfect. #2 is to be honest. And since your performance and behavior will never be perfect, you’d better at least be honest with yourself and with others about your weaknesses and sins. Serving Jesus fulfills the Law. Make sure you work harder to follow Him than you do to get everything just right.