Jesus Was Loving Not Legalistic – Matthew 12:1-23

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.

Sabbath Elevator 

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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About David Worcester

I am the founder and director of a campus ministry at San Diego State called Challenge. I am also serving as an ordained elder at Mission Trails Church. I love speaking and writing about college ministry, gospel appointments, and practical ways to live out God’s Word! I am also passionate about: leadership training, learning, missions, church planting, surfing, hiking, sports, photography and traveling (So far I’ve visited 23 countries & all 50 states). I’m married to Jessica Worcester who I fell in love with while doing college ministry together and we have a two year old son named Samuel. I graduated from from the University of Oklahoma (OU) with a degree in Film & Video Studies. And I received my Masters in Theological Studies from Gateway Seminary. I am an ordained minister who loves speaking and writing about practical ways to live out God’s Word in life and ministry.

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