Reflection from my reading in Matthew 12:1-23 in the One Year Bible New Testament.
Jesus was a perfect example of what it looks like to show mercy and love to people instead of being chained down by legalism.
Legalism is basically the belief that a strict adherence to rules is required for entrance into Heaven and to gain favor with God.
Lord of the Sabbath
The Pharisees were the religious leaders of the day who were known for their legalism. Not only were they vigalent with the Scriptural commands, but they developed extra rules on top of that and looked down on those who didn’t follow them.
They gave Jesus and his disciples a hard time for picking grain on the Sabbath. The Sabbath was and is a big deal for the Jewish people. God has commanded us to rest one day out of the week, but the Jewish people have taken that rule and added many extra rules surrounding it.
When I was visiting Jerusalem, I encountered one way they are still trying to keep this law that demonstrates legalism. We were in a hotel and one of the elevators stopped at every floor, because pushing a button on the Sabbath would be considered working! The Jews of the day didn’t have elevators, but they had many similar laws about the Sabbath so they were anxious to see what Jesus would do.
Basically, Jesus tells them that they are missing the point of the law!
“And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” Matthew 12:7–8
God values mercy over sacrifice. Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath and set an example to not be chained by man’s extra rules while still obeying the clear commands of the Bible.
Love is Greater Than Legalism
Jesus then had a chance to demonstrate how love was better than legalism. There was a man with a deformed hand in the synagogue and the Pharisees tried to set Jesus up by asking if it was permitted to heal on the Sabbath. I love his response!
“He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Matthew 12:11–12
Jesus then healed the man’s hand! This made the legalistic Pharisees mad. To Jesus, people were the priority over following man-made rules! PEOPLE ARE THE PRIORITY!
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