Formations Lesson for July 11- Do Justice
June 29 2010 by Don Gordon, senior pastor, Yates Baptist Church, Durham

Focal Passage: Matthew 12:1-14

In the first 14 verses of Matthew 12 we see a conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees over the interpretation of Sabbath laws.

There are two incidents that highlight this conflict. The first is a conflict derived from his disciples picking grain on the Sabbath.

There was common agreement in those days that a religious leader’s disciples should be under his control. Their breaking the Sabbath law demonstrated that Jesus condoned breaking the law. The Mishnah, a Jewish commentary on the law, interpreted the 4th Commandment with the phrase “You shall not harvest grain on the Sabbath.” While the original Sabbath commandment was a call for rest, the Mishnah had moved it to a call for no work whatsoever.

Jesus offered the Pharisees a different method of interpreting the Law. He recalled a story about David and his soldiers being given bread that was supposed to be holy and reserved exclusively for the priests (1 Sam 21:1-6).

An exception to the law was made to meet the needs of these hungry soldiers. Jesus then brought up another exception when priests “worked” on the Sabbath by sacrificing some lambs (Num 28:9). Jesus was utilizing stories and exceptions in Scripture to demonstrate a more flexible use of the law. 

A second incident is then recorded centering on a man who had a withered hand.

The Pharisees didn’t really care anything about this man and his shriveled hand nor did they doubt Jesus could heal the guy. They were trying to trap Jesus and reveal his willingness to break the Mosaic law, thereby proving he was not a man of God. There was no immediate danger to this man. Jesus could easily wait one day to heal the man.

Jesus responded to their test by offering a revolutionary interpretation of the Sabbath laws. He said, “It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Sabbath laws had increasingly become mired in petty details. Don’t do this, don’t do that. Jesus wanted to liberate the Sabbath laws from this impossible straitjacket and free men to do good on the Sabbath.

Jesus still wants to rest and keep Sabbath holy, but he doesn’t want to do this at the expense of avoiding doing good. Sabbath was made for man, not man for Sabbath. So Jesus healing this man’s withered hand was not merely an exception to the law, it was the fulfillment of it.

The Pharisees were consumed with being correct and oblivious to doing good. When doing good is the result of our biblical interpretation, then we will know we are correct.  
6/29/2010 6:29:00 AM by Don Gordon, senior pastor, Yates Baptist Church, Durham | with 0 comments

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