Gospel Reading: Mt 12:1-8
Jesus was going through a field of grain on the sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry, how he went into the house of God and ate the bread of offering, which neither he nor his companions but only the priests could lawfully eat? Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath the priests serving in the temple violate the sabbath and are innocent? I say to you, something greater than the temple is here. If you knew what this meant, I desire mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned these innocent men. For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.”
YOU WOULD NOT HAVE CONDEMNED
Jesus and his disciples are on a mission of mercy, and the religious authorities are attempting to rein them in with rules and regulations. Jesus and the disciples are in an ambulance (to use a more contemporary image) rushing to rescue a stricken world, and the religious leaders want to ticket them with speeding. They have missed the point and have declared “guilty” the very ones who are at work doing God’s will. Indeed, Jesus’ ministry of mercy is the essence of what the Sabbath is all about. Therefore, it can be said that “the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath” (v 8).
This whole episode demonstrates that it is sometimes God’s greatest admirers who become God’s bitterest enemies.
Loving God can easily become loving our own understanding of God, and the eagerness to serve God can slide into an overconfidence about what does and does not count as authentic service.
In sum, the point is made that mercy and urgency supersede the Sabbath law, as in the case of a poor person’s sheep (read further 12:11-14); who could challenge it, then, in the case of a human being? To attest this, Jesus says to the afflicted man, “Stretch out your hand.” When he does, the withered hand is restored to soundness (cf 12:13).
“You saved my life, O Lord; I shall not die” (cf Is 38:17b).
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