February 10, 2020 – Matthew 12:1-8

He Fought the Law!

Doc Ator was a mythical figure in the town where I grew up.  He was a real, interesting person, but that’s a story for another day.  According to legend, we kids could explore and play on his land if we respected his property.  The rule was that we could harvest any of the produce on his spread, but ONLY for immediate, personal use. In other words, if we were hungry we could pick a pear or some ripe persimmons or, best of all, wild blackberries, and enjoy them down by the creek.  (I should probably include wild onions, crawdads, and Sheepshire on that list.  We tried to eat the inside of a cactus once but the results were unsatisfactory.) However, we were NOT allowed to bring baskets and harvest his fruit.  The Old Testament law had a similar, common-sense provision.

So, technically, Jesus and his disciples are NOT breaking the law of God.  The law of God allowed for hungry people to take a handful of grain and eat the kernels, while on the Sabbath.  However, the act of rubbing the grain between the hands was considered work. Yes, rubbing the hands together to remove the chaff and hard outer husk from the kernels of grain was considered WORK.  By the Pharisees, anyway. GOD NEVER SAID THAT.

Jesus isn’t breaking any law.  Certainly not any of God’s laws.  And, to the immense displeasure of the Pharisees, Jesus does not recognize THEIR laws.

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Jesus is well into his habit of  making remarkable claims for himself.  Claims that are utterly outrageous, if untrue.  But if his claims are true, they are signaling The Revolution.

In verse 6 of our daily text, Jesus makes dual claims:

  1. “One greater than the temple is here.”
  2. “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

Bible scholar Craig Blomberg asserts that “At the very least, Jesus shows that he felt free to disregard the oral laws that had grown up around the Sabbath. But his words suggest more than this, namely, that the Fourth Commandment itself is fulfilled in him and therefore need no longer be observed literally.  The Apostle Paul will make these conclusions more explicit in Colossians 2:16-17 and Romans 14:5-6.”

We are very close in our reading to the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus will plainly state…

“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.”   (Matthew 5:17)

Consider the sheer enormity of Jesus’ claims.  We know the whole story and we probably miss most of the impact of Jesus’ ministry.  Today, take a few minutes and try to put yourself in the place of the original hearer of the words of Jesus.  His message was like nothing that had ever been heard before. Jarring stuff.