This blog offers a meditation on te common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
New English Translation (NET)
Lord of the Sabbath
12 At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on a Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pick heads of wheat and eat them. 2 But when the Pharisees saw this they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is against the law to do on the Sabbath.” 3 He said to them, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry— 4 how he entered the house of God and they ate the sacred bread, which was against the law for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests? 5 Or have you not read in the law that the priests in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are not guilty? 6 I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what this means: ‘I want mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. 8 For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”
9 Then Jesus left that place and entered their synagogue. 10 A man was there who had a withered hand. And they asked Jesus, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” so that they could accuse him. 11 He said to them, “Would not any one of you, if he had one sheep that fell into a pit on the Sabbath, take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out and it was restored, as healthy as the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted against him, as to how they could assassinate him.
Jesus gives two kinds of reply to the complaints of the Pharisees.
1. The humane rule of the world (The Son of Man) which he, Jesus, represents has God’s authority (is “Lord”) over the Sabbath Law. That commandment and indeed all Torah is to be interpreted as the demand for kindness rather than ritual perfection. If the Pharisees were inclined to argue that the disciples’ hunger was scarcely worth breaking the Law for, Jesus would have replied that eating a few ears of corn scarcely merited their condemnation. Jesus is really saying “Let’s get serious here and forget mere religion.”
2. Works of mercy and necessity were authorised by Sabbath practice, so Jesus asks his critics to see that this healing is such a case. His critics might well have pointed out that the man’s arm could have waited until the next day. Jesus undermines this argument by pointing out that nobody hesitated to save a valuable sheep on the Sabbath-is a man less valuable?
As always in Matthew’s account Jesus shows respect for the Torah while insisting that it must be interpreted according to the character of God, expressed in the words, “I want kindness, not sacrifice.”
This week in the UK a woman has gone to court to argue that her employer should not be able to sack her for refusing Sunday work. She interprets the Sabbath Law as being transferred from Saturday to Sunday, which is arguable to say the least, but it could be said that she is withstanding the desire of powerful employers to make people work at their command, and therefore upholding the intention of the Law that even an animal should not be made to work on the Sabbath. This restraint on power could be seen as “mercy not sacrifice” and would have had the approval of Jesus. He was not negligent about the day of rest; he wanted it to honour the character of God.