At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means,‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”
(Matthew 12:1-8 ESV)
Yesterday Jesus pointed out that errant thinking of the Jewish leaders with regard to the Sabbath. Today He will make the bold claim that He knows more about the Sabbath than they do and He will explain why that is so.
As noted yesterday, the priests who ran the temple had to work on the Sabbath according to Old Testament law [Numbers 28:9-10]. Therefore, the priests were not in violation of the Sabbath. Jesus exposed the Pharisees’ ignorance by comparing their beliefs with Scripture (the Old Testament), which they should have known but didn’t. This would have angered and embarrassed the Pharisees.
But Jesus was never concerned about angering the proud and He pushes the envelope even further by claiming that “something greater than the temple is here“. The temple was the most sacred thing in all of Israel. It was revered by Jews as God’s dwelling place among the people. The only thing greater than the temple was God Himself.
Jesus had just schooled the Pharisees about the Sabbath so they would have known that by “something greater than the temple” Jesus was referring to Himself, putting Himself on-par with God. But Jesus doesn’t let up.
Jesus goes on to say that He is the one who gets to decide what violates the Sabbath law – not the Pharisees – by calling Himself “lord of the Sabbath“. The Sabbath was established by God when He spoke to Moses [Exodus 20:1-20]. The Sabbath is clearly God’s domain so Jesus again is equating Himself with God by claiming that He has the same authority as God.
Muslims, atheists, and other Bible critics are quick to point out that nowhere in the Bible does Jesus ever utter the specific words “I am God”. That is true. But that does not mean that Jesus never claimed to be God and here in today’s passage we see Him make that claim not once but twice. Just the other day He made the same claim [Matthew 11:25-27].
Jesus’ claims to be God are seen more in what He did such as forgiving sins and receiving worship [Matthew 9:2-6] and claiming the same authority as God on certain issues as He does in today’s passage. The people of His day knew exactly what He was saying [John 10:31-33].
The Bible requires us to think things through and ponder the meaning of people, places, words, and events. God isn’t interested in spoon-feeding us His truth. He wants us to roll up our sleeves and get down into the details. This requires in-depth examination, not superficial browsing.
For example, note that Jesus uses the term “Son of Man“. This was the term the prophet Daniel used for the coming Messiah. [Daniel 7:13-14]. Jesus was declaring that He was that Messiah. God was the Messiah. God is the only one who is capable of saving us from hell [Psalm 65:5, 68:19; Isaiah 17:10].
When we approach the Bible this way we see the astounding truth it contains about our sin, God’s grace and mercy, Jesus’ deity, and the fact that God Himself came to earth from heaven to take on the penalty of our sin so we could take on His righteousness and therefore go to heaven [Romans 6:23; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 2:5-8].
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