Matthew 12:1-14

With Peter Veysie

George Methodist Church

Sunday 24th October 2021

8am and 10am


I am so aware of the many theological conversations which put us into a place of disagreement and often seperation from one group to another. We have differing opinions on so many doctrines and we need to find some common ground so as to move forward, otherwise we fail to be Jesus’s hands and feet on earth as it is in heaven. 

Ryno shared that one of his friends had said that a good question to ask ourselves is “What would make Jesus smile?”

I have wrestled with this question this week in having to make some tough decisions and found myself asking deeper questions than just the ones on the surface which was extremely helpful.

I often find in life that you need to have a space between stimulus and response in order to think thoroughly through the results of what you might say or not say.

I find that there is a need for balance very often between grace and law and also that everything is subject to Jesus and definitely not the other way around. 

In our text today it would seem that Jesus is breaking the law of the Sabbath according to the religious Pharisees and yet we need to understand very clearly that he is the Lord of the Sabbath and the Sabbath is not the “lord” of Him.

This is not doing away with the Sabbath but rather investigating the Lord of the sabbath’s theological teaching on this. I want to also hopefully identify how to create a balance between law and grace because as Jesus says in Matthew 5:17: “I have not come to abolish the law but to fulfill them.”

In this Article,on this scripture, David van Drunan a Syst Theol lecturer at Westminister university in USA says  “I argue that Jesus meant exactly what he said: he came not to abolish but to fulfill the law and the prophets, and that therefore the law of God takes on a new and eschatologically-determined, kingdom-shaped form for New Testament Christians.7 The law of God still binds the people of God, but only as refracted through the ministry of Christ.”

“The best way I know to describe this is that Jesus obligates his followers to obey the Mosaic law as refracted through his redemptive mission.

My final comment on 5:19–20 is that since Jesus has fulfilled the Mosaic law, the righteousness of his kingdom’s citizens must surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees, who pursue righteousness as if that law remains unful- filled.79 Part of this statement is straightforward: 5:20 calls for a righteousness greater than that of the scribes and Pharisees.My claim is that the chief de- ficiency of the scribes’ and Pharisees’ righteousness is that they sought it through the law as if Jesus had not come to fulfill it. That is, their main problem was not with respect to the law per se, but in failing to acknowledge the identity and work of Jesus and its implications for their relation to the law.”

Matthew 23 Highlights a few woes to the pharisees and religious who find themselves be lorded over by the law rather than the Lord of the Law !! And so back to my question as to how to balance law and grace in our world today ?

1. Torah – law – teaching Genesis to Deuteronomy – the point of it all –

And what is that basic storyline? Humanity strayed from God and His good purposes. Yet God is determined to fulfill his good purposes for humanity. So God called Abraham into covenant relationship with himself, for Abraham and his descendants to be a blessing and testimony to the world. God is so determined to fulfill his promises to Abraham that he brings Abraham’s descendants out of slavery in Egypt (under Moses’ leadership) to become a nation in covenant relationship with God. Their subsequent history as a nation teaches us what it means to be faithful and unfaithful to God. 

Remember and don’t underestimate the power and the authority of the law.

With this in mind then let’s explore what Jesus does and says in Matthew 12:1-14.

Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath

2. Picking grain on the Sabbath

Matthew 12:1 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.”

He is clearly getting rebuked by the sabbath police but he’s also very aware of the law as the maker of the law ( I love this 🙂 )

When you go through your neighbor’s grainfield, you may pluck some of the ears with your hand, but do not put a sickle to your neighbor’s grain. (Deuteronomy 23:25)

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 something 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. 

The argument that Jesus gives “on the sabbath the priests serving in the temple violate the sabbath and are innocent?”is that the law itself requires work in the temple that breaks the sabbath rest, because of the higher duty of temple service. In other words, even the law recognized that Temple duty was more important than observance of the Sabbath rest.  If temple duties outweigh the sabbath law, how much more does the presence of Jesus, with his proclamation of the kingdom (something greater than the temple), justify the conduct of his disciples.

Matthew adds the prophetic statement of Hosea

For it is loyalty that I desire, not sacrifice, and knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. (Hosea 6:6)

Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’* I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13)

If mercy is superior to the temple sacrifices, how much more to the laws of ritual impurity.

It’s often our challenge in life that we will frown at people who don’t keep to the law, but will quite happily not offer grace and mercy to another soul when they clearly need it.

3. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.

It’s very clear in the narrative of the Sermon on the Mount and in many other places that He had come to bring an understanding of the powerful balance between grace and law.

The ultimate justification for the disciples’ violation of the sabbath rest is that Jesus, the Son of Man, has supreme authority over the law.

“For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.” (Matthew 12:8″)

Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28)

Then he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.” (Luke 6:5)

Therefore, the Jews began to persecute Jesus because he did this on a sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.” (John 5:16–17)

The captital letters are so profound to me and speak of a balance between grace and law. The Son of man who takes away the sins of the world and the Lord of the sabbath who gives us boundaries and laws to keep us in safe spaces.

4. The man with the shriveled hand -paralysis.

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 bring charges against 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 person 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. 

The lamb in the ditch and Psalm 23:4 Your rod and staff they comfort me.

Besides elsewhere, as in (Isa. 44:24; 45:12; Ps. 104:2. From all this it can now be seen why Moses was commanded to stretch out his hand and rod, and that then miracles were done; and that thus by stretching out the hand is signified the rule of power, and in the supreme sense omnipotence.

14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.

Ongoing adventures in missing the point !!!

Jesus comes into the synagogue, finds a man with a withered hand, and again the Pharisees watch him to accuse him. Jesus doesn’t care- Tells the guy to step forward, tells the Pharisees that doing good is best. Jesus gets worked up about these Pharisees who can’t see it- Doing good is good! Jesus heals the guy and then  the Pharisees go out and start to plot against him to destroy him. In the Chosen movie the Rabbi is going on so religiously about who can and cannot be in the synagogue and Jesus is standing listening with his disciples and Mary Magdalene, and Jesus sees a man with a withered hand and is not so worried about the fact that it is the Sabbath but rather that this man need to healed. He says to him “stretch out your hand”.

I also felt that there was so much more to this in the words that Jesus uses – “stretch out your hand” – As we look through scripture we see so many other times when God calls people to stretch out their hands – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Ruth, Naomi and so we can go in. Not so much in a physical way but rather in a physical way. What holds us back, and what is restricting us from stretching out our hands – to care, to be healed, to restore, to be the hands and feet of Jesus? 

5. Our response

We maybe need to reflect today on our response to what we have heard?

What are we doing about resting or taking a sabbath and do we do this religiously or for the sake of understand all the benefits of taking a real rest ? Do we understand that Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath and that the sabbath is made for humanity not the other way around?

How do we need to stretch out our hands today? What has been restricting us?

Jesus knew that healing on the Sabbath was acceptable- because he was God, but also because he knew that doing good on the Sabbath is better than doing evil regardless of what the Pharisees may have said.

Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed.”


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