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 on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent? 6 I tell you that one 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.”

Matt 12:1-8 (NIV)

Inner spiritual vitality and not simply fleshing out mere external formality is what Jesus seeks from His people. Even dogs and dolphins can be trained to act. A broken repentant heart seeking to do what is right trumps legal obedience any day – one is seen by God’s eyes only, the other praised by man. It is not enough for one to simply know the Scriptures but labor to know the meaning of them as well. This is particularly true if one is in the position of teaching others. Our Lord here lays down the works of necessity and mercy as being lawful on the Sabbath.

17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Psalms 51:17 (NIV)

8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 (NIV)

This is a common theme throughout Scripture. God is not quiet in stating His desires for us. We are also told in Zechariah:

8 And the word of the LORD came again to Zechariah: 9 “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.’” Zech 7:8-10 (NIV)

Indeed, Jesus had stated this same thing earlier in Matthew – repetition in Scripture should always be a red flag for us:

13 “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matt 9:13 (NIV)

In our verses for today, Jesus’ guys were getting blasted by the Pharisees because - in their “humble” opinion - the disciples were breaking the Sabbath. The religious elite police strangely figured picking some heads of grain to satisfy hunger fell into the category of unlawful. They considered the plucking and rubbing of the heads of grain as a kind of reaping not as merely satiating hunger pains. The disciples remained quiet to the accusations but Jesus spoke up for His guys justifying their actions – how like our Savior!

Christ responds to the cavil by citing past judgments given on similar cases and the Pharisees taunts do not fare well in our Lords summation. In fact, they appear at best ignorant of the Truth and at worst as foolish blind guides. Labors which are necessary on the Sabbath are lawful not only for the support of life but for the service of the day as well. Sabbath rest was given to promote – not hinder – Sabbath worship. Interestingly, the invitation to come to Him for rest had just issued forth from Jesus’ mouth one verse prior.

“To every toiling, heavy-laden sinner, Jesus says, ‘Come to me and rest’. But there are many toiling, heavy-laden believers, too. For them this same invitation is meant. Note well the words of Jesus, if you are heavy-laden with your service, and do not mistake it. It is not, ‘Go, labor on,’ as perhaps you imagine. On the contrary, it is stop, turn back, ‘Come to me and rest.’ Never, never did Christ send a heavy laden one to work; never, never did He send a hungry one,
a weary one, a sick or sorrowing one, away on any service. For such the Bible only says, ‘Come, come, come.’” Hudson Taylor

Mercy - greatly desired by all yet not often greatly bestowed by all. Considering our state of doom prior to Jesus’ merciful work on the cross how is it that we choose to withhold mercy from others? To those which much has been given, much is expected. We view others’ lives with eyes of scrutiny and far too quickly give a quick glance over our own. We are the losers when we do this. Not one of us is perfect and all of us are to be in the process of conforming ourselves to Jesus. So how are we doing in this?

“It is easier to denounce a thousand sins in others than to slay one of our own.” John Flavel

What I Glean

  • God desires for me to be just, merciful and humble.
  • Christ always intercedes for me.
  • I am not to scrutinize others but scrutinize self – that should keep me busy enough!