Saturday, January 12, 2013

Matthew 12 - Sabbath Controversies

LINK: Matthew 12 

BACKGROUND

45. The disciples pick wheat on the Sabbath: Matthew 12:1-8, Mark 2:23-38, Luke 6:1-5

According to Deuteronomy 23:25, people were allowed to pick grain from a neighbor's field, orchard, or vineyard as they passed by, but the Pharisees, with their legalistic rabbinic tradition, said that this was the same as reaping, threshing, winnowing, and preparing food which were all forbidden on the Sabbath.  When Jesus' disciples picked grain, this led to their questioning, and Jesus took the Pharisees to the Word of God when "God's anointed" (David) and his men had eaten the loaves of bread in the tabernacle. Jesus was saying He was God's new Anointed One and Lord of the Sabbath with authority over all matters related to the Law. 

For his Jewish audience, Matthew quotes Hosea 6:6 again (Matthew 9:13). According to Warren Wiersbe:
The Sabbath law was given to Israel as a mark of her relationship to God (Exodus 20:9-11; 31:13-17; Nehemiah 9:12-15). But it was also an act of mercy for both man and beast, to give them needed rest each week. Any religious law that is contrary to mercy and the care of nature should be looked on with suspicion. (The Bible Exposition Commentary, Matthew 12:1)
Jesus was getting to the heart of the matter. It is not what we do on the outside that matters but on the inside. 

46. Jesus heals a man's hand on the Sabbath: Matthew 12:9-14, Mark 3:1-6, Luke 6:6-11


Healing on the Sabbath was only allowed if a person's life was in danger. If Jesus did it, the religious leaders could accuse Him. In the Mark account, Jesus looked at the Pharisees in anger (only reference to Jesus' anger in the New Testament) because they would follow their laws versus exhibiting God's mercy toward the suffering. Mark also said that He was "grieved at their hardness of heart." Again, it was all about "compassion rather than sacrifice" (Hosea 6:6), and the religious leaders did not get that. They had already accused Him of blasphemy when He healed the paralytic (Matthew 9:1-8), and associating with sinners when He ate with Matthew's friends (Matthew 9:11-13), but now He had gone too far by violating the Law of God. They responded to this by plotting to kill Him. The Pharisees and Herodians were united because His authority overwhelmed their authority. 

This is the first time the Herodians are mentioned in our narrative.
HERODIANS -- a Jewish political party who sympathized with (Mark 3:612:13; Matt, 22:16Luke 20:20) the Herodian rulers in their general policy of government, and in the social customs which they introduced from Rome. They were at one with the Sadducees in holding the duty of submission to Rome, and of supporting the Herods on the throne. (Comp. Mark 8:15Matt. 16:6.)  
(Easton's Bible Dictionary)
47. Large Crowds Follow Jesus: Matthew 12:15-21, Mark 3:7-12 

We see how in the midst of opposition and unbelief, Jesus withdrew with His disciples but the crowds followed. The "great multitudes" included people from distant as well as nearby regions. The fact that He wanted a boat ready to escape is only reported in Mark. In this time, He delivered others of evil spirits who knew who He was. He did not want others to tell because the time had not yet come for more opposition. He had more to teach His disciples and the people that followed Him.

Matthew says this withdrawal fulfills Isaiah 42:1-4. Some commentators believe the enemies were "bruised reeds" and "dimly burning wicks," and He would not wrangle with them. Others see the reeds and wicks as the people the loving King would compassionately and lovingly serve.  Note the Godhead of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in Matthew 12:18 and Isaiah 42:1.

74. Religious leaders accuse Jesus of getting his power from Satan: Matthew 12:22-37, Mark 3:20-30

This section starts a new round of accusations from the religious elite. 

The crowds were beginning to see Him as the Messiah, but the religious leaders thought He was of Beelzebub (name of a devil that means "master of the house"). In order to make the connection, He gave us a picture of a strong man guarding His house! He pointed out the absurdity of assuming that Satan acts against himself. The charge that Jesus' exorcisms were due to Satan's power were ludicrous. No one can overtake this strong "master of the house" unless he shows he is more powerful, and that is exactly what Jesus had done! The part about blaspheming the Holy Spirit reflects an open and defiant hostility toward God. 

75. Religious leaders ask Jesus for a miracle: Matthew 12:38-45
Asking for a sign was an indication of unbelief (1 Corinthians 1:22). I would think that they would have had enough proof by now after all the miracles, healing, and deliverance that Jesus had performed. 

Jesus responded to their challenge by talking about Jonah, who was a Jewish prophet sent to Gentiles, and the Queen of Sheba who was a Gentile who came to visit Solomon, a Jew (2 Chronicles 9:1-12). Jonah was to preach repentance to the people of Nineveh. Just as Jonah experienced death, burial, and resurrection in the belly of a whale on his way to delivering that message, Jesus was predicting that He would experience death, burial, and resurrection also. Jesus was saying that His kingdom would be greater than Solomon's. Gentile Nineveh repented and the Queen of Sheba traveled a long way to hear the wisdom of Solomon, but they could not even see that someone great was right there under their noses!

Then, Jesus revealed the hearts of the religious leaders by connecting the story about the unclean spirit going out of a man with their accusation that His power was from Satan (12:24-29). Israel no longer had the sin of idolatry that plagued them throughout the Old Testament, but they were still not filled with a true spiritual life that only Jesus could give. Rejecting Him meant certain spiritual destruction. 

76. Jesus describes his true family: Matthew 12:46-50, Mark 3:31-35, Luke 8:19-21

Jesus asserts the importance of spiritual family. Even Jesus' own family (John 7:1-5) and hometown friends (Mark 3:21) did not understand His ministry. He emphasized the importance of the family of God. As one who comes from a family where God was not the center, my spiritual family has meant so much to me!

REFLECTION/APPLICATION

In regards to Matthew 12:43-45:

There is a personal application. It is not enough to clean house; we must also invite in the right tenant. The Pharisees were proud of their “clean houses,” but their hearts were empty! Mere religion, or reformation, will not save. There must be regeneration, the receiving of Christ into the heart (see Rev. 3:20). We cannot be neutral about Jesus Christ.

(The Bible Exposition Commentary: "An exposition of the New Testament comprising the entire 'BE' series"--Jkt. Mt 12:38)

Have you invited in the right tenant? Here is an excellent classic essay that relates to this subject and every believer must read: 


PRAYER


Jesus, make Yourself at home in our hearts. Amen. 
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