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Matthew 12:1-8: Jesus Lord of the Harvest

Posted by adventbiblestudy on November 29, 2011


Matthew 12:1-8 MKJV At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath day. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck the heads of grain and to eat. (2) But when the Pharisees saw, they said to Him, Behold, your disciples do that which it is not lawful to do on the Sabbath day. (3) But He said to them, Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him, (4) how he entered into the house of God and ate the showbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? (5) Or have you not read in the Law that on the Sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are blameless? (6) But I say to you that One greater than the temple is in this place. (7) But if you had known what this is, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice,” you would not have condemned those who are not guilty. (8) For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.

It was impossible to hide along the narrow road with waist high fields of maturing golden wheat growing on both sides. Along the flat road, each group could easily see exactly what the other was doing. The Pharisees watched Jesus and His disciples as some of them strayed to the side now and again to pluck a hand full of grain to eat as a quick snack on their journey.

Joseph counted it as a blessing the moment he was informed his turn had come to follow Jesus, watch, listen, and report back all of His actions. He counted it a double blessing when he realized he was going to observe Jesus during the Sabbath.

Joseph had heard Jesus speak before, but now he had the opportunity to discuss His sermons with some of his counter parts of his faith. He looked forward to hearing and learning from their comments at the moment they heard Jesus speak. He had hoped their comments would not be the same as the rehearsed reports he had been listening to over the past months.

It was difficult for Joseph to find others who shared his view of the scriptures. He believed they contained a much deeper meaning and could lead to a much closer relationship with God than what he had been taught. He was fascinated when he heard Jesus speak. His words opened up new meaning to many of the scriptures Joseph had been studying. It seemed whenever he heard Jesus speak, a flood of scripture flowed through his mind supporting the subject discussed. He wondered if the same would happen today.

Some of the Pharisees began commenting about Jesus’ disciples plucking wheat. One questioned, “couldn’t that be considered working on the Sabbath?” Another answered, “they are separating the wheat from the chaff. No one in their right mind would perform such a task, on an great, or small scale on the Sabbath.”

Joseph listened to a number of comments, and considered each. Once it appeared they were finished, he spoke up. “There are a number of instructions concerning gleaning in the books of Moses, but I do not remember one putting a restriction on the Sabbath. Don’t the poor also hunger on the Sabbath?” One of the Pharisees spoke up, “this is not a matter of eating, it is a matter of working on the Sabbath. It is so plain to understand. Well, if you don’t understand, I am sure even Jesus can explain it to you.” The Pharisee shouted at Jesus, “your disciples do that which it is not lawful to do on the Sabbath day.” With a big smile on His face Jesus turned to face them and shouted back, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him, how he entered into the house of God and ate the showbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?”

The group of Pharisees were just as surprised as confused at Jesus’ answer. The first Pharisee commented, “what type of answer is that? That’s not an answer at all. He is avoiding the subject again.” Another questioned, “why was David allowed to eat the showbread? Maybe this is a test to see if we can answer the question.” The Pharisees agreed, Jesus was looking for an answer and they had to admit, they had no idea.

After the Pharisees gave the question some thought, and a few half hearted suggestions to find the answer, Joseph offered a suggestion. “There is a message in the book of the law which may answer this question. It says, “Those born in the priest’s house and a soul a priest buys is allowed to eat of it.”” (Leviticus 22:11) The others asked Joseph how that answered the question. The first question presented was, “how could you suggest a priest, any priest ever purchased David, king of Israel?”

Before Joseph could answer, Jesus shouted back another question to them. “Or have you not read in the Law that on the Sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are blameless?” The Pharisees began to take this personally, even though they did not see eye to eye with the priests, they found it difficult to support any attack on them by Jesus.

Before getting too excited one Pharisee agreed. “The priests do perform work on the Sabbath. As a matter of fact, it may be the only day they actually work.” This brought a chuckle from the group. The Pharisee continued, “I think Jesus is actually referring to a circumcision. By law it is done when the child is eight days old no matter what the day.”

Joseph’s eyes lit up. It seems he had not put these two verses together until this day. His excitement was so overwhelming, he didn’t stop to consider the other Pharisees had their minds set on proving Jesus wrong, and not answering His question. He spoke up, “In the book of Leviticus, Moses recorded instructions for preparing and baking the showbread for the table on the Sabbath.” (Leviticus 24:5-8)

One of the Pharisees questioned, “how does that profane the Sabbath?” Joseph asked, “don’t you see? The showbread is baked on the Sabbath. You shall kindle no fire throughout your living places upon the Sabbath day.” (Exodus 35:3 MKJV) The priests are lighting a fire on the Sabbath.

Looking at Jesus walking down the road, Joseph thought to himself how He had presented a number of questions, and how they turned out to be related in a way he had never considered. The question about David eating, and the priests profaning the Sabbath both pointed to the bread prepared for God. He knew there must be a deeper meaning to the bread he still did not understand.

As the Pharisees continued speculating on the answer, they did not notice Jesus had stopped and they were almost upon Him. At the proper moment Jesus added, “But I say to you that One greater than the temple is in this place. But if you had known what this is, I desire mercy and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned those who are not guilty. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” As soon as He finished, Jesus turned and continued on His way. Joseph repeated and continued the texts, “For I desired mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” Hosea 6:6. There was something in Jesus’ eyes that caught their attention and touched their heart. Something that made them think.

The Pharisees stood on the road watching Jesus walk away as each one contemplated the matter in his own mind, how each had taken mercy for granted. How they had known about and participated in the marketing of sacrificial animals. For some of them, it was the first time they had considered any of these matters in relationship to mercy, but there the message was in the texts, “I desired mercy and not sacrifice.” The words which really cut to the bone were, “the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” Since this was written such a long time ago they questioned if God knew about this system before it was introduced?

When Jesus said, “One greater than the temple is in this place. But if you had known what this is, I desire mercy and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned those who are not guilty,” He was not referring to the past, but the future. Jesus was referring to prophecies recorded in Ezekiel.

Ezekiel 22:26 MKJV Her priests have broken My Law and have defiled My holy things. They have put no difference between the holy and the common, and have not taught between the unclean and the clean, and havehidden their eyes from My Sabbaths, and I am defiled among them.

Ezekiel 23:38 MKJV And yet they have done this to Me: They have defiled My sanctuary in that day, and have profaned My Sabbaths.

The temple Jesus referred to was Himself. “But He spoke of the temple of His body. Therefore when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them, and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.” (John 2:21-22 MKJV)

The Sabbath Jesus referred to was the Sabbath after His death when the priest defiled the Sabbath, not by their customs, forbidding contact with a gentile before the Sabbath, but by requiring the Roman guard to work on the Sabbath.

And on the next day, which was after the Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered to Pilate, saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while He was living, After three days I will rise again. Then command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night and steal him away and say to the people, He has risen from the dead. So the last error will be worse than the first. Pilate said to them, You have a watch. Go and make it as secure as you can. And going they made the tomb secure, sealing the stone along with the guard.  (Matthew 27:62-66 MKJV)

Jesus used a simple question as an opportunity to teach a number of lessons. Because the answer to their question was still in the future, Jesus had to explain it in a manner that encouraged the Pharisees to study the proper scriptures. Jesus was the priest who purchased David, and all His followers with His blood. Because David was purchased by a priest, Jesus the High Priest, he was allowed to eat the showbread.

Jesus wanted the Pharisees to study all of the services performed by the priests according to the books of Moses. He wanted them to see and understand the services the priests were supposed to live by and the lessons they taught including, washing of the feet and hands at the laver, the importance of the sacrifice without blemish, and the significance of the blood. Each of these pointed to Christ’s sacrifice. Jesus knew there was hope for the Pharisees if they willing sought the truth in the scriptures.

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