Key verse: “But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless." Matthew 12:7
Big Idea: The Kingdom of Jesus demands obedience that goes beyond the superficial.
Walking with Jesus on the Sabbath, the disciples reached out to pick some grain to eat. Although this was not a violation of the Sabbath law, it was a violation of the elaborate oral law built up around it. The Pharisees came to Jesus and protested. Jesus could have simply quoted Deuteronomy 23:25, which permitted picking grain with your hands on the Sabbath. Instead, He took a much broader route by making three comparisons. (1) King David broke the letter of the law by taking the sacred loaves of bread when he was on the run from King Saul, (2) the priests worked on the Sabbath because the service of the temple outweighed the restriction against working on Saturday, and (3) God has announced in Hosea that He wanted mercy more than sacrifice.
What do these have to do with the disciples picking grain while they served Jesus? The only way these points would make sense is if Jesus were greater than King David, the sacrificial system, and the temple itself. Priests could offer animals on the Sabbath – but the disciples were serving the perfect Lamb. From dawn to dusk, the temple was busy with work, but the disciples walked with God tabernacled in human flesh. King David’s reign was more important than the ceremonial bread, but the dominion of Jesus would never end. If the Sabbath law was inferior to the shadows that Jesus cast through the years, how much more now? Jesus made the point explicit. The Pharisees should not attack the disciples, “For the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!”
Imagine criticizing obedience to signs and symbols while the Lawgiver Himself stood there. They were precise in their compliance with specific instructions and never understood the heart of God. Our heavenly Father wants more from us than rote obedience, thinking we can earn a relationship with Him. Our righteousness cannot be about what we force up in ourselves. The only holiness that you and I have is the righteousness given to us by faith when we recognize who Jesus is. The Lamb, the Temple, and our Perfect Rest provided the sacrifice and overwhelms us with His mercy.
Discussion Idea: Why is it easier to seek obedience to hundreds of elaborate written and unwritten rules than the simplicity of a transformed heart?
Prayer Focus: Ask God to open your eyes to the heart of the matter: His Son.