Good morning, Calvary.
Today we are continuing our study in the book of Matthew. We are invited to the Kingdom of God and today we’ll explore more of what it means to live as Kingdom people.
Find a Bible and turn to Matthew 12. Read verses 1-14.
What’s happening here?
The disciples are hungry.
They grab a few heads of grain on the edge of the field to eat.
The Pharisees get mad.
A man has a crippled hand.
Jesus heals the man with the crippled hand.
The Pharisees get mad.
Why are the Pharisees so mad?
Well, because the disciples are picking grain on the Sabbath. Jesus is healing a man on the Sabbath.
What is the Sabbath? Why does it matter so much to the Pharisees?
In Exodus 20:8-11 God gives this command as part of the Ten Commandments:
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
God gave one command to the Israelite people surrounding the Sabbath. It was to be a day of rest, not just for the Israelites, but for all the people in their employ. It was to provide rest and restoration to the entire household. God gave one command.
The Pharisees take the commands of God very seriously and so in order to ensure that they never break one of God’s commands, they created 39 categories for this one command related to the Sabbath. Essentially, they interpreted God’s one command into 39 practical rules. Part of these 39 practical rules were rules on not healing unless someone was critically ill and not harvesting grain. Therefore, Jesus and His disciples had broken two of the 39 practical Sabbath rules.
These 39 categories set up a framework, a fence if you will, to help every Jew to be mindful of the Sabbath so they didn’t even come near to breaking God’s one command, “remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.”
Before we scoff at the Pharisees and their crazy rules, let’s remember that these rules came out of an honest reverence for the law of God and their desire to interpret it faithfully. But in the agonizingly careful examination and application of those practical rules, the Pharisees had forgotten the intent of God’s one command. That’s what Jesus is challenging them on.
Is Jesus speaking out against the Sabbath?
No. He’s speaking out against the man-made rules that distract from the Father’s intent in giving the command for the Sabbath. These rules have not only become a distraction but, perhaps, a heavy burden. If you go back to Matthew 11:28 what do you read? Go ahead, read it out loud.
“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Jesus is speaking to those who labor under a heavy law, not the law of God but the law of man set up as a protection so no one comes close to breaking the law of God.
But in this stringent law of man, the point of God’s law is completely forgotten. “I desire mercy, not sacrifice,” Jesus says.
So focused on following the rules, the Pharisees lost focus on why God gave them the command for the Sabbath in the first place. The Sabbath is for rest and restoration for every person. It was an opportunity to show kindness and mercy to every member of your household, every servant, every creature in your barns by offering rest on this one day in the week. The Sabbath was given to remember that the world does not hinge on my productivity but rather on the faithfulness of God. Sabbath says, “Even if I stop working, God will still accomplish His purposes, for He is Lord over creation.” He is Lord over all of it, and that’s really the crux of all of this. Who is Lord? Jesus strongly reminds the Pharisees that He is Lord over the Sabbath, not them.
That’s the question before us today: Who is Lord?
Are the rules that help us feel in control of every situation, Lord? Or is Jesus truly Lord of the Sabbath, Lord of all creation, Lord over my rules? Are we willing even to give our religious, well-intentioned rules over to the Lordship and authority of Jesus? Are we willing—am I willing—to let Him sift through those rules and expectations I’ve brought to Him and be corrected? Am I willing to come to Jesus so that I can see clearly and understand the intent of the Father? Am I willing to live in the realm of active engagement with Jesus every day?
Let’s be honest, rules are easier, right? They’re clear. They offer predictable boundaries. They offer stability. They offer me a sense of control as I navigate a situation. If I know the rules, then I know what to do. But isn’t it just like Jesus to foil our attempts to control at every turn? Isn’t it just like Jesus to invite us once again into active relationship with the Father through the Holy Spirit? If Jesus keeps breaking down my man-made rules I have no choice but to keep coming to Him so I can know the next step.
In the New Bible Commentary, it says this on the Matthew 12 passage: “There is no suggestion that He (Jesus) is opposed to the Sabbath principle as such. The issue was how it should be interpreted and who had the right to interpret it.” (p.919) That’s it. Because Jesus is one with the Father, He is the only one who can truly interpret the law of God with the true heart of the Father. Jesus is Lord. We are not. Because He is the only one who has the authority to interpret the intent of the Father, we have to keep looking to Him. There is no other way. There is no easy way out with rules and predictable, controllable scenarios.
So, what does this mean for us? Well, it means that there is no cruise control. There is no set it and forget it in God’s Kingdom. Jesus is not letting us off the relational hook with Him. There is only an invitation to active engagement with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as we continue to discern and understand the intentions of the Father. This means intentional engagement with Scripture. The Bible is God’s revelation to us and it requires our active participation regularly. When I come to Scripture desiring to know God’s heart in a truer way, engaging with Scripture takes on new meaning. So keep reading, keep studying, keep meditating on the Word of God. Keep bringing yourself to honest prayer and declarative worship, keep allowing the body of Christ, the church, to shape us as we confess to one another and are transformed.
Walking as Kingdom people means giving yourself up to the way of Christ. Although His burden is easy, the cost for discipleship is still a cost. It requires something of you. It requires all of you. Giving yourself up to Christ and doing the relational work with Him to keep gaining understanding of His ways and the Father’s intent. There is no cruise control. There is no set it and forget it. There is only “Come to me.” We can trust the voice of Jesus when He says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
How are you going to come to Jesus this week? When are you going to open the Bible and ask, “God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—who are You? What is the intent of Your heart?”
May you know true, abundant life as you continue to walk in active engagement with God.
Join us after the service for fellowship on Zoom!
Meeting ID: 845 6328 7623