Read Matthew 12:1-14.
"For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." NIV
We have to see this passage in light of Jewish law. Nothing was allowed to be done on the Sabbath -- from sun down the night before to sun down the next night. Even all their food had to be prepared in advance. This was a very strict law for these people. And for the Pharisees, the law had definitely come above people and the mercy they needed.
Jesus here reestablishes that the law is not abolished, but that mercy reigns higher. By doing so He is stating again His authority to be above the law which totally enrages the Pharisees. What Jesus is saying is blasphemy in their eyes. Christ is placing Himself in a position to change hundreds of years of tradition, and they will not tolerate it. By hiding behind the law, they justify their own hypocrisy.
Christ is calling for a clearer form of the law -- one that sees people before the legality. One that places His children as a priority. Maybe we in the 21st century have taken it a bit too far the other way. We could use more respect for the Sabbath -- one that respects rest and refreshing, worship of God, and time for renewal.
Surely we can find a balance. Is Jesus saying abolish the laws of the Sabbath? Absolutely not. The Sabbath was created as a day to rest and renew ourselves. It is the only way we can continue to be able to work the other six days. If God does it as an example, then we should follow His lead, not only because it is commanded, but because He has demonstrated the value of a Sabbath rest.
But when we get caught up in legalism that sacrifices human decency and compassion, we have destroyed all the safeguards that God has established. The law was made to guide us, not to imprison us. And if we sacrifice others for the law, we are not living as Christ lived. We have come to make the law a ritual that has become a religion of its own. Jesus says to follow the law, but not worship it. See people more than the law and meet their needs.
- Do research on the Sabbath. What is its purpose? How did the Jews' strictness of the law undermine the purpose? How have we today destroyed the
- Some people work on the Sabbath and some play all day. Which one is not keeping the Sabbath holy? Support your answer with Scripture.
- Do you take a Sabbath rest? If no, why not? Do you believe you should make a change?
- Do you lean toward legalism or mercy in your life? Which is more valued by God? Does He expect us to throw out the law and just be merciful? If not, how do we find a balance?