MUSINGS – February 20, 2019

Matthew 12:1-13
Then on a day of worship Jesus walked through the grainfields. His disciples were hungry and began to pick the heads of grain to eat. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing something that is not right to do on the day of worship.” Jesus asked them, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his men were hungry? Haven’t you read how he went into the house of God and ate the bread of the presence? He and his men had no right to eat those loaves. Only the priests have that right. Or haven’t you read in Moses’ Teachings that on the day of worship the priests in the temple do things they shouldn’t on the day of worship yet remain innocent? I can guarantee that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what ‘I want mercy, not sacrifices’ means, you would not have condemned innocent people. “The Son of Man has authority over the day of worship.”

Jesus moved on from there and went into a synagogue. A man with a paralyzed hand was there. The people asked Jesus whether it was right to heal on a day of worship so that they could accuse him of doing something wrong. Jesus said to them, “Suppose one of you has a sheep. If it falls into a pit on a day of worship, wouldn’t you take hold of it and lift it out? Certainly, a human is more valuable than a sheep! So it is right to do good on the day of worship.” Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” The man held it out, and it became normal again, as healthy as the other.

To help with understanding why the religious leaders were upset with Jesus and his disciples you need to know that, historically, there are thirty nine categories of work that are forbidden on the Sabbath. These regulations of labor have something in common – they prohibit any activity that is creative or that exercises control or dominion over one’s environment. I had a rabbi explain it by giving an example. If I were to move a chair around within the room in which it is located, I would not have worked, because I created nothing new. However, if I were to move the chair to another room, I would have changed the environment of both rooms, creating something new and that would be considered work.

By removing the grain from the plant the disciples had “created something new.” And when Jesus healed on the Sabbath he had broken the rabbinical law, which was punishable by death.

And when he proclaimed, “The Son of Man has authority over the day of worship.” He was claiming a divine right, that it’s to do what only God can do. In essence he was saying that It always right to do that which is merciful, even if it goes against the Law.

Many centuries before, the prophet Micah declared, “You mortals, the LORD has told you what is good. This is what the LORD requires from you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to live humbly with your God.” This it’s exactly what Jesus was doing, showing mercy.

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All content (except quotations) ©2019 Thomas E. Williams

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