Lord of the Sabbath

November 21, 2020

But if you had known what this means, “I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,” you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:7-8).

As a child my mother taught me to memorize passages from the Bible - many passages from the Bible. As a teenager I had no problem winning contests in the church for citing verse after verse. It wasn’t until I got to college that I realized knowing (ginosko: to know) Scripture and knowing (epiginosko: to understand) Scripture were two different things.

Twice now Jesus had embarrassed the Pharisees for not knowing the Scriptures (see v. 5). From the construction of the Greek words, Jesus did not rebuke them for not knowing the Law and the Prophets, for they knew the Scriptures very well. His criticism was they did not understand what the Scriptures meant. They were Doctors of the Law - experts in what the Mosaic Law said. Jesus proved to them they didn’t know what the Mosaic Law meant.  

The underlying principle of the Law is love. I desire compassion, God said through the prophet (Hosea 6:6). Compassion is love in action. It is addressing and answering the needs of others. It is ministry from the heart, not just the head. All through the Old Testament you will read of those who did what the Law required, but their heart was not in it. That was the complaint of the Lord in the Latter Prophets. 

“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?” says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests who despise My name. But you say, “How have we despised Your name?” “You are presenting defiled food upon My altar.” But you say, “How have we defiled You?” In that you say, “The table of the Lord is to be despised.” “But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly?” says the Lord of hosts (Malachi 1:6-8).

The Law was never meant to replace one’s love for the Lord, but in the days of Jesus it was very evident that it had. That was the point of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. That was the point Jesus was making with those who criticized the disciples for plucking and eating grains of corn on the Sabbath. To the Pharisees, the Law was more important than man’s needs, in this case hunger. But to the Lord, man’s needs were more important than the Law. As Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus could reveal the false authority of the Pharisees for what it truly was - hypocrisy.

“Father, Jesus taught us the underlying truth to the Law and the Prophets when He said both hang on the principle of loving You with all we are and have, and loving our neighbor as ourselves. And yet quite often our religion is void of such love. It is almost routine with some people; there’s no heart in it. May that never be the case in my worship and service to You. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”


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