Matthew 12:1-14: “Work” on the Sabbath

Read: Matthew 12:1-14

Right after Jesus gives the great invitation to those who are weary, he illustrates his point by “working” on the Sabbath, an act that would be considered unlawful by the Pharisees. They say that his disciples are doing something unlawful because they picked grain on the Sabbath. There was no explicit command in the law that forbade anyone from doing this. Rather, what the Pharisees were doing is layer on additional burdens on top of what was commanded concerning the Sabbath, which was a general command not to work (Exodus 35:2-3, Deuteronomy 5:13-15), so the question here is whether or not what Jesus and his disciples were doing actually constituted work.

In his defense, Jesus gives two objections. The first is an illustration from the Old Testament wherein David eats the showbread at the temple (1 Samuel 21:1-6). The law required however that the bread be eaten by Aaron and his sons who were the priestly line (Leviticus 24:5–9). What the priests points out here though is interesting in 1 Samuel. He allows them to eat it if they had “kept themselves from women”. In other words, he was asking if they were ceremonial clean. Jesus is nuancing here why the showbread was for the priest based on the text – it had to with the bread being consecrated bread to be consumed in a holy way. The letter of the law does this by making it available to the priest who should have been that way while serving God. The second illustration Jesus gives more context to the actual alleged offense though. He says that the priests themselves who offer sacrifices on the Sabbath, thereby profaning the Sabbath because of their “work” on the day. In other words, Jesus is saying that what the Pharisees consider “work” is not what the law considered “work”, because if it was even the priests in the temple would be guilty which they clearly weren’t.

The next episode that the Pharisees attempt to trap Jesus on is another accusation of “working” on the Sabbath by posing a question, asking if it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath. This time, Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath. Jesus in his defense on this one makes an argument to the stronger alluding to a law found in Deuteronomy 22:4. Here, the law says that if a bother’s donkey or ox is fallen on the road, you should help lift the ox or donkey rather than ignore it. Naturally, if such an incident was to happen on the Sabbath it would seem that there would be a conflict there. But Jesus says argues that it is even more imperative when it’s a person in need, not merely an animal, and such an action is not “work”.

Jesus says that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27). In other words, the Sabbath was never intended to be a burden for man as the Pharisees had made it, but rather a day of rest from burdens. When Jesus declares that the “Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” in a way drives this point home. Jesus often used this phrase to appeal to his humanity. As Lord, he is the one who instituted the Sabbath, and as a man he is the one who benefits from the Sabbath. In both respects, any regulations or otherwise are to make the Sabbath serve man’s need for rest, not add unnecessary laws on top it.

Christians today do well to take a Sabbath day of rest, but at the same time should not become so legalistic about it. The purpose is to set aside time to worship God and rest for one’s job day to day tasks.

Lord, you are Lord of the Sabbath

Help me to find my much-needed rest!

Matthew 1:1-17: Destined for Greatness

Read: Matthew 1:1-17

Matthew launches right into Jesus’ genealogy without as much as an introduction or purpose in writing the book of Matthew. Matthew’s purpose in writing his gospel was to show that Jesus was indeed the messiah that was promised to the Jewish people. In order to do so, Matthew needed to show that Jesus was indeed a descendant of David and ultimately Abraham.

Jewish genealogies would generally follow the lineage from the father to the son. Matthew follows this tradition, but also inserts the names of women in the text as well. This is no mere coincidence either. Each one of the women presented in the genealogy as some thing about her that makes

  • Tamar was actually Judah’s daughter-in-law who posed as a prostitute and seduced Judah. She became pregnant and presented his staff and cloak to incriminate the father (Genesis 38:13-26).
  • Rahab is mentioned here as being the mother of Boaz. She can’t be the Rahab from Joshua 2 because Boaz lived much later. She was probably a foreign woman like Rahab from Joshua 2 though .
  • Ruth was a Moabite woman who married Boaz and has an entire book in the Bible written about her virtuous deeds (Ruth 1:4, Ruth 4:13-22).
  • Bathsheba was the mother of Solomon. She committed adultery with David, who tried to conceal by having her husband killed in battle (2 Samuel 11:1-5, 2 Samuel 11:26-27).
  • Mary is mentioned as the mother of Jesus, who conceived him while she was till a virgin (Luke 1:26-38).

Another remarkable feature contained in Matthew’s genealogy are the remarks concerning the number of generations between various events in Jewish history: 14 from Abraham to David, then 14 from David to the exile, then another 14 from the exile to Jesus. Apparently, Matthew omitted a number of names from his genealogy that are found elsewhere (Ezra 7:1-5, 1 Chronicles 6:3-15). Scholars have offered explanations as to why this is the case – and some see this not as 14 biological generations, rather 14 divisions of history to mark time, similar to how the contemporary culture has “The Greatest Generation”, “Boomer”, “Gen X” and so on. The ebb and flow of this from Abraham to David is a rise, from David to Babylon is a fall, then from Babylon to Christ is another rise. Jesus in a manner of speaking is at the zenith of this rise and thereby “destined” in a manner of speaking to be great.

The entire story of Jesus’ coming is remarkable even from the beginning of time. God in his providence knew this and was able to redeem even sin and even used non-Jewish people to bring about his purposes. The women in the genealogy work as markers to remind his readers of many of these occasions. Likewise, Jesus numbers mentioned show that Jesus was the culmination of that history, standing with David . This sets the stage for the rest of the book – a story of how the Jewish Messiah comes into the world to redeem it!

Lord, you redeemed history to bring about salvation! Truly, you are amazing!