Monday, June 23, 2014

The Pharisees Begin To Oppose Jesus

Matthew 12:1-14

“At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat.  But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day.” (Matthew 12:1-2)

The word translated ears of corn means literally a head of grain rather than what we think of as an ear of corn in our day.  As the disciples passed through the fields of grain they hungry and picked some of the heads of grain to eat, in accordance with Deuteronomy 23:25, “When thou comest into the standing corn of thy neighbour, then thou mayest pluck the ears with thine hand; but thou shalt not move a sickle unto thy neighbour's standing corn.”  They were not harvesting the grain or collecting any to take home.

Because they were doing this on the Sabbath day, the Pharisees rebuked Jesus for what the disciples were doing, referring to the command in Exodus 20.9-11.  “Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.”

 Because it did not refer specifically to the Sabbath day, they overlooked the exception in Exodus 12:16.  “And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you.”  Feeding oneself was not to be considered work.  There were also exceptions for watering and feed livestock or rescuing trapped or injured animals.

“But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the showbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?  Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless?” (Matthew 12:3-5)

Jesus pointed out that there were exceptions to the law.   When fleeing from Saul, David and his companions had eaten the showbread even though it was supposed to be eaten only by the priests because preserving life is more important than that rule.  In the same way, the every priest who offered a sacrifice on the Sabbath as required by the law violated that particular commandment, yet were not guilty of doing wrong.  The purpose of the law was to free them to remember and worship God, not to limit what they could do. 

“But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple.  But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.  For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.” (Matthew 12:6-8)

In their emphasis on following their religious customs the Pharisees had overlooked some things about God,  First, he was greater than the temple or their laws, having made them and was capable to setting them aside if he so chose.  Secondly, He was more concerned with how other people were treated than with whether a certain sacrifice was offered.  Had they understood that, they would not have been so quick to judge the disciples for something that actually wasn’t wrong.  God, and his son had the right to decide how the Sabbath was to be celebrated.  The Pharisees did not. 

A couple of years ago, a nationally known pastor wrote that it is the pastor’s duty to set the standards for his church.  Apparently he is making the same mistake the Pharisees made, overlooking the fact that God and not the pastor is the one who decides how god should be worshipped.  It is a problem for a lot of people.

“And when he was departed thence, he went into their synagogue: And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him.” (Matthew 12:9-10)

Resentful that Jesus had said they didn’t know as much as they thought about God, and unable to prove him wrong, the Pharisees were looking for something they could use to discredit him, much like the negative ads we see in polkitical campaigns.  When they saw a man with a shriveled up and useless hand, the Pharisees asked if the law allowed for doing medical work on the Sabbath.  They were sure Jesus would heal the man, and also that the law made no specific provision for him to do so.

“And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?  How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.” (Matthew 12:11-12)

Jesus asked which of them would leave one of their sheep trapped in a pit because it was the Sabbath instead of pulling it out?  If they would not consider that wrong, why would they consider doing the same thing for a person wrong?  A person is more important than an animal to God.  Doing something good was just as acceptable on the Sabbath as on any other day.
“Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other.” (Matthew 12:13)

Jesus then simply asked the man to stretch out his arm, which none of them would consider work.  When the man obeyed, his arm was restored to health.  Since Jesus had not visibly done any work, there was nothing the Pharisees could say, but their anger was not satisfied. 

“Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.” (Matthew 12:14)

The Pharisees began to plot how they could discredit or kill Jesus.  Like most political leaders, they were more concerned with keeping their power and prestige than with the welfare of the people or the country.  They will not stop until they have eliminated the opposition.

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