PART 1 – MATTHEW 12:1-3 – JESUS BROKE THE LAW! WHY CAN’T I?
Not long ago I witnessed an ACCIDENT. A car ahead of me pulled out of it’s lane into a bus lane and collected the car that had been coming up from behind him in that lane. It left a sizeable dent in each car. Each morning as I travel to the Shalom Centre I see many people use Sydney bus lanes ILLEGALLY. It’s so easy and CONVENIENT to do. The temptation to save time and zip into a bus lane obviously overrides the possibility that a policeman will pull them over at the corner. Living on the EDGE! Is it worth the risk of 3 licence demerit points and $253 fine and progressive $50 fines until it is paid? It’s not! And I should know. But doesn’t Jesus break the law when it’s convenient?
In Matthew 12:1-2 isn’t Jesus just IGNORING parts of the law that He doesn’t like? Is He walking to the EDGE of the law to explore where the BOUNDARIES really are? Is He the kind of person who would drive past a policeman just over the SPEED LIMIT or leave it until the last second to get through the AMBER TRAFFIC LIGHT instead of stopping? Or drive in a bus lane?
Matthew 12:1-2 speaks about a time when “…Jesus was walking through some grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were HUNGRY, so they began breaking off some heads of grain and eating them. But some Pharisees saw them do it and protested, “Look, Your disciples are BREAKING THE LAW by harvesting grain on the Sabbath.”
If it was me I would have said something like “What is your problem? Mind your own business! Who made you the Sabbath police?” Besides, the Law of Deuteronomy 23:25 (NLT) says “…when you enter your neighbour’s field of grain, you may pluck the heads of grain with your hand, but you must not harvest it with a sickle.” So they weren’t STEALING.
The problem is that the disciples are plucking grain on a SATURDAY. Saturday is the SABBATH, a rest day. Picking grain is viewed as work by the Pharisees even though technically the law only prohibited harvesting grain for PROFIT on the Sabbath. It’s not as if they were driving a Massey Fergusen tractor with a COMBINE HARVESTER on the back and setting up a CUT PRICE SILO SALE for the grain.
Jesus always seems to confront me with my LEGALISM and calls me to think carefully about my responses to God. There’s a difference between obeying God’s law and legalism.
“Jesus said to them, “Haven’t you read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He went into the house of God, and they broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests are allowed to eat.” (Matthew 12:3 NLT)
So can I break the law everytime it suits me? What about speeding because I’m late to work? I could try explaining to a policeman “Haven’t you heard that when it didn’t suit David to keep the law, he broke it? I have a genuine need, officer. Learn the meaning of the word ‘mercy'” I don’t think that this will go down well and even though it might be a genuine need, it wouldn’t stop me from getting a ticket and perhaps even a psychiatric evaluation.
So what is Jesus saying here? Where does it stop? What’s the point where I am no longer on the boundary but well and truly OVER THE EDGE? Sometimes we view the law as UNNECESSARY simply because in our sinfulness, we don’t want to obey it. That’s NOT what Jesus is advocating!
I don’t believe Jesus is saying that it is OK to DISOBEY THE LAW if you have a genuine need or if others have a genuine need, but I keep reading commentaries that say that genuine need makes it OK for Jesus to break the law!
An AMBULANCE DRIVER will speed legally in order to get someone to hospital, but he is breaking the law if he does it any other time. Same ambulance. Same driver. Same speed. Different purpose. Obeying the law depends on fulfilling the PURPOSE OF THE LAW.
Jesus is saying “The real PURPOSE or SPIRIT OF THE SABBATH LAW allows for MEETING GENUINE NEEDS without disobedience being an issue. You DISOBEY the Sabbath Law when you merely go through a ritual, perform a ceremony and adhere to a regulation. That is not the PURPOSE or spirit of the Sabbath law.”
Did Jesus break the Sabbath or did He show what keeping the Sabbath law was really all about? Matthew 5:17-20 (NLT) “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to ACCOMPLISH THEIR PURPOSE. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the SMALLEST DETAIL of God’s law will disappear until its PURPOSE is achieved. …”But I warn you-unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!”
1 John 5:3 (NLT) says “Loving God means KEEPING HIS COMMANDMENTS, and His commandments are NOT BURDENSOME.”
Jesus didn’t BREAK THE LAW! He invented it! He lived by it, and fulfilled it perfectly. The Pharisees broke it by not understanding the purpose of the law and by applying it wrongly.
God bless you Church as you “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby FULFILL the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2 NASB95)