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Saturday, January 30, 2010

1/31/10- Matthew 12:1-14 Jesus and the Sabbath

(Healing of Man with Withered Hand; Mosaic Cathedral Monreale)
1/31/10 Matthew 12:1-14

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 the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? 6 I tell you that one [a] 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 human being 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.

Calvin abridged: This passage shows how how malicious the Pharisees were and how superstitiously they were attached to outward and slight matters. They blame the disciples for harvesting corn on the Sabbath. The keeping of the Sabbath is holy, but not in such a manner that they imagined. They were hypocritical in being so exact in trifling matters. Elsewhere Christ rebuked them for paying a tithe of mint and cumin but neglecting the important matters of the law (Mt 23:23). Hypocrites allow great liberty in important things while being rigorous in the observance of ceremonial and outward things. Christ has five arguments against them: 1) David’s necessity enabled him to eat holy food. 2) the priests break the Sabbath by sacrificing, circumcising, and temple upkeep; 3) Ceremonies were meant to help people; 4) Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath; 5) The Sabbath was made for people not people for the Sabbath. Jesus then heals a man on the Sabbath. He reminds them that sheep are cared for on the Sabbath, so why shouldn’t humans be cared for.

Thoughts: Christ allows for two things here on the Sabbath- things of necessity and things that help others. It is a given that the Sabbath is to be kept. Jesus kept the Sabbath numerous times (Lk 4:16 says it was his “custom” to go into the synagogue on the Sabbath). Yet over and over again he allowed for people to be helped on the Sabbath- by eating and by healing. In our day and in our culture we have completely desecrated any idea at all of a Sabbath. We are twice as productive as we were in 1949, live in houses three times as big, with smaller families, and our working hours as a nation have increased 247% since then. We worship work and the things work provides (money and things). We really have a hard time keeping a real Sabbath on the Lord’s Day. When our country was founded every colony had Sabbath laws but small Rhode Island. Now the Sabbath laws are virtually useless, and merely symbolic. The Sabbath is clearly for our good- to give us rest and to draw us closer to each other and especially God. The reasons given for the Sabbath are that God rested (Ex. 20) and that we should not be slaves to work (Deut. 5). In our day we have become slaves to our work. Keeping a Sabbath is a check to selfish use of time and things; It is a giving of these things to God. The recession we are in is a lesson in over-extension of our loans, our credit, and our time.  It is amazing that God offers us rest, and we refuse it. 

Prayer: Lord, all my time is a gift from you. Today, on the Lord’s Day, I give you one day back to you.

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