2018-05-30 / Religion

Justice and Sabbath laws

Sunday School Lesson
Rev. James Temples

Matthew 12:1-14

Mere humans have a way of making simple thoughts and principles into extremely complex issues. Some individuals seem to think that, “If I can make something simple into something complicated, I have improved the situation.” There is no real basis for this approach to life. When one looks into the word of God, this thought is useless. Yes, there are many passages of scripture that are difficult to understand. Yet, why should we attempt to cloud a simple truth?

The religious leaders — at the time of the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ of Nazareth — had become masters of “creating complications.” This fact might not have been their first objective. Their “fence laws” were developed to “help” the common man keep the Law. However, as time progressed, their system became more complicated. One area of their “prevention of error” was in the keeping of the Sabbath.

The command, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy,” (Exodus 20:8) was the basis for many of the man-developed “fence laws” — obeying these “little laws” would keep one from breaking the “big law.” Commandment Four based on the fact that — at the time of the creation--“the Lord…rested on the sabbath day.” Exodus 20:11.

There is no evidence that the descendants of Abraham had practiced the concept of the sabbath until the Law was given at Mount Sinai. The fact of “rest” was interwoven into many areas of the Law — this fact involved the person, the slaves, the animals, the land, etc.

One of the major groups, that was critical of the ministry of our Lord, was the Pharisees. These men were the “fundamentalists” of that day. They knew the Law, but they had their own system of “how” the Law was obeyed. As many in our day, they had their own definition of the term, “work,” but did not share their insight with “others.” Matthew recorded, “At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn (grain); and his disciples were an hungered, and began to pluck the ears (heads) of grain, and did eat.” Matthew 12:1. These critics — with their ever-present specialized system — made their complaint. “But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath day.” Matthew 12:2.

These men used the same tactic that is used by critics, today. They took only the portion of scripture that would uphold their prejudice. The Law stated, “When thou comest into the standing corn (grain) of thy neighbor, then thou mayest pluck the ears with thine hand; but thou shalt not move a sickle into thy neighbor’s standing corn.” Deuteronomy 23:25.

It is interesting to note that Jesus did not, directly, address the complaint of these critics. His answer was based upon the same divine record that these hypocrites used. “But he said unto them, have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungered, and they that were with him; how he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only the priests?” Matthew 12:3, 4.

Our Lord used another example that would have caused these men “blink,” as they heard his words — “Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days, the priests in the temple profane (desecrate) the sabbath, and are blameless?” Matthew 12:5. These men did not understand that the priestly activities were the “occupation” of these men? Their argument centered around the fact of harvesting, etc. as “work,” while religious activity did not fit their definition.

The Master began to teach these people — and those who were near — the true meaning of his, personal coming into the world. “But I say unto you, that in this place is one greater than the temple. But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned (pronounce guilty, and carry out the sentence on) the guiltless.” Matthew 12:6, 7.

Divine order is more important than manmade systems. Jesus declared, “For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.” Matthew 12:8. This statement was not the answer that these men had expected. Their system of thought had no room for the presence of the Promised Messiah to appear in their day. In their thinking, even if he had come, they pictured him as one who would strip the power of Rome from their land, and restore Israel to its former glory in the political world. The Suffering Lamb did not fit their theology.

Matthew recorded, “And When he had departed thence, he went into their synagogue…” Matthew 12:9. In the group that was gathered, “there was a man which had his hand withered….” Matthew 12:10a. These ever-present critics saw this situation as a good “test case.” “And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him.” Matthew 12:10b. These men saw the “occupation” of Jesus as that of a Healer.

Our Lord answered their question with a word picture that would have been familiar to all of his hearers. “And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will not lay hold on it, and lift it out?” Matthew 12:11. He, then, turned their thoughts to their personal positive reaction to the word picture. He asked, “How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on sabbath days.” Matthew 12:12. Matthew recorded, “Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other.” Matthew 12:13.

The action of our Lord did not “sit well” with his critics — “Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.” Matthew 12:14.

The attitude of the Pharisees is alive and well in our day. However, the power of God has not diminished. Miracles continue to occur in our day. Mark 16:15-18.

Rev. James C. Temples’ Sunday School Lesson has appeared in the Early County News each week since 1967. A native of Early County, Rev. Temples taught in public schools 32 years and 10 years at Southeastern College of Assemblies of God, in Lakeland, Fla. He also served as pastor and evangelist during those years. He can be contacted at P. O. Box 1484, Swainsboro, GA 30401; 478- 299- 2068. Email: temples_ james@ yahoo. c om

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