TODAY’S READING: MATTHEW 12-13
“But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, ‘Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.'” – Matthew 12:2
“And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?’ – so that they might accuse him.” – Matthew 12:10
“But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.” – Matthew 12:14
The Sabbath was a day to rest. Work was forbidden. This was very important to the Jews as keeping the Sabbath was enshrined in the fourth commandment. So, the Jews created very elaborate rules on what could and could not be done on the Sabbath.
But, Jesus broke their rules.
For the Pharisees, even picking up sticks to build a fire on the Sabbath was against the law. So, when Jesus and disciples picked grain in the field on the Sabbath the Jews were incensed.
The Pharisees even went so far as to believe that helping another person, healing them, on the Sabbath was against the law. So, they hoped to trap Jesus in breaking the law by healing on the Sabbath.
But, the Sabbath was just a symbol. It was just a type or a shadow of a true reality. The Sabbath was only a picture of the true rest we have in Jesus.
By meeting the needs of others on the Sabbath and breaking the rules of the Pharisees, Jesus showed that the true rest in Him, the truth behind the Sabbath, placed the welfare of people ahead of respect for symbols. Unhealthy respect for symbols will demand that people sacrifice to them. That sacrifice will come at the expense of people. But, Jesus said mercy was more important than sacrifice. God desires us to be merciful to others and meet their needs instead of sacrificing for symbols.
In other words, Jesus prefers people to symbols.
Meeting the needs of others is always more important than respecting a symbol.
However, when our hearts are beholden to symbols, we become hard hearted and care not for showing mercy to others. The Pharisees were so beholden to their symbols that they wanted to destroy Jesus. So, we could say that holding symbols as more important than showing mercy to others, to understanding others, is antichrist.
Jesus’ lesson of preferring people over symbols is greatly needed in the American church at this moment. For there are many demanding respect for symbols – a flag, an anthem – at the expense of showing mercy to others. If we take the gospel of Matthew seriously, to do is to conspire against Jesus and attempt to destroy him all over again.
To demand respect for a flag or an anthem while ignoring the needs of others is nothing short of antichrist.
To those that think respect for a symbol is more important than hearing and meeting the needs of others, Jesus says, “Go learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.'”