Matt. 12:1-8-Having just told them that His load was light…we are immediately given an example of how Jesus properly interpreted the Law and the teachings of the Pharisees (who weighed people down with regulations and laws, Luke 11:6). Jesus gives examples of how David and the Priests broke the Sabbath Law…but this was not God’s Law, but the Pharisees interpretation of the Law. According to God’s Law, it was legal to pick grain from another man’s field in order to satisfy hunger (Deut. 23:25), but not to do regular work on the Sabbath. It was this second aspect that they were accusing the disciples of doing. Jesus reminds them of an incident in the life of David when he ate the bread in the Temple that was reserved exclusively for the priests (This bread was actually 12 cakes, made from fine flour. They were placed in the Holy Place in the tabernacle each day on the table which stood on the opposite side from the candlestick. At the end of each day the bread was reserved to be eaten by the priests, and by the priests only. This is the bread that David was given by Ahimelech the priest for him and his men to eat. In so doing, David broke a ceremonial law, in the same way that the disciples had done. (Ryrie, 1 Samuel 21:6)-The priest recognized that his moral obligation to preserve David’s life by providing bread superseded the ceremonial regulation concerning who could eat the showbread (Lev. 24:5-9).” Jesus supports this action by quoting Hosea 6:6, “I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice.” Jesus was well aware that the Pharisees knew about this concept of the concession of the ceremonial law to the moral law (after all, were not the priests actually working on the Sabbath when they serve in the Temple?), and at times they even abused this concession to their own advantage (Mark 7:10-12). His point: while the Pharisees may have an interpretation of the Law that allows them certain privileges, He Himself is the very Lord of the Sabbath, it is His Law to give and to uphold. His relation to the Law is nothing like theirs.
Matt. 12:9-13-What immediately follows, the healing of the man with the withered hand, on the Sabbath…is yet another example of His rule over the Sabbath. He also explains the hypocrisy of the Pharisees…in that, they would save a sheep on the Sabbath, but not this man. In other words, as He had mentioned before, they were willing to make concessions when they thought it would help them…but not when it might help someone else.
Matt. 12:14-21-The Pharisees were not willing to listen to Him, they had already decided that they would have to get rid of Him. Jesus was aware of this so He distanced Himself from them. In the meantime, He continued to heal many people. But in so doing, He warned them not to tell what had happened. He knew that the more word spread about His healing ministry…the more intense the persecution from the Pharisees would be. Verses 17-21 tell us that Jesus fulfilled Isaiah 42:1-4…by explaining the method of His ministry. While He would confront the Pharisees with their theological errors, He was not combative, trying to rally an army to take over Israel. Instead, He would proclaim justice, to all people, even to the Gentiles. Isaiah said, “I will put my Spirit upon Him…” This was a war of the spiritual realm, not the physical.
Prayer: Father, I truly believe that when we accept Jesus as our Savior, that our lives should take on a whole new moral quality and be in keeping with His life…holy and righteous. And You have shown us that this will bring about a substantive change in our behavior. But sometimes I take things further than You do and I begin to set up my own rules of behavior, and dress, and speech, and other matters. Then, if I’m not careful, I judge others by my set of standards…not necessarily by Yours. Please forgive me. Please help me to follow in the pattern of Jesus’ ministry…to live a godly, righteous life…and at the same time, to extend grace and mercy to those who don’t know You.