Lesson 31: The Clash with Religious Leaders Intensified
Matthew 12:1-14, Mark 2:23-3:6, Luke 6:1-11
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A Blending of The Four Gospel Records.
Welcome to lesson # 31. We're trying to follow Luke's outline. But, we're going to skip over a few verses at the end of Luke ch. 5, temporarily. So, our reading will begin in v.1 of Luke ch. 6. This is still part of that tour over Galilee. Let's read five verses. Ready? "And it came to pass on the second sabbath after the first, that he went through the corn fields; and his disciples plucked the ears of corn, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands. And certain of the Pharisees said unto them, Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath day? And Jesus answering them said, Have ye not read so much as this, what David did, when himself was ahungered, and they which were with him; how he went into the house of God, and did take and eat the showbread, and gave also to them that were with him; which it is not lawful to eat but for the priests alone? And he said unto them, that the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath." O.K., most of the roads in Palestine were what we would call a cow-path; just wide enough for people to walk and possibly ride a donkey. You see, they had no vehicles as we know them. These paths were usually called very simply, "the way." But, these foot-paths were usually pretty straight from point "A" to point "B", passing through grain fields, forests, around mountains, etc. On this occasion the clash came with the Pharisees as they passed through grain fields. Luke says corn fields. But, this was NOT Zea Maze, that crop we know as "corn" in America today. If you remember your American History, the American Indians taught the white man to grow maze. In ancient times the word "corn" was used to mean what we would call "grain", i.e. it didn't refer to any specific crop until it took on that meaning in America. Now, put this on your easel; the disciples of Jesus were picking that cereal grain, rubbing it out in their hands and eating it raw as they passed through the grain fields on that sabbath day. I love to do that. You can't do that today because farmers use too many sprays and pesticides. But, we get a calendar tip here, also. I'm told that barley begins to ripen in Palestine about April on our calendar. So, this would have been early in AD 31, after the rainy season and the weather was more conducive to being outside. And, it was undoubtedly getting close to passover time when all the Jews took a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and the temple. If I understand v.1 correctly, this incident involved two consecutive Saturdays. But, the clash came on the second Saturday, i.e. on a sabbath day. In other words, the Pharisees observed this on one Saturday, but they didn't bring the accusation until the next Saturday. But, before we discuss Jesus' clash with the Pharisees; let's read another account. Mark first! Chapter two, beginning in v.23. Are you ready? "And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn. And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful? And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was ahungered, he, and they that were with him? How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the showbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and give also to them which were with him? And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath."
And while you've got your "specks" on, back up to Matthew ch. 12. Have you got that? The first eight verses, let's read. "At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were ahungered, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day. But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was ahungered, and they that were with him; how he entered into the house of God and did eat the showbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless? But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day."
O.K. someplace in Galilee. Jesus and his disciples were probably hustling from one synagogue to another; and the Pharisees were looking on. Now, sabbath keeping was very definitely a part of the Law of Moses. It was the fourth commandment, "Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy" (Ex. 20:8). But, the Pharisees had gone beyond the O.T. and made a few legislative amendments of their own. Here was the technicality; they considered picking grain, as these disciples were doing, as WORKING on the sabbath day. The writers undoubtedly (here) wanted us to get a feel for the picky extremes and technicalities to which this sect had evolved and strayed in adding their traditions to the ten commandments. It's true that, Jesus emphasized the spirit of the law over and above the letter of the law. But, that does not mean: do your own thing. Notice that the Pharisees said, "it is not lawful." You see, the Pharisees considered their traditions just as lawful and just as binding as the ten commandments. Jesus wanted them to see: THAT was simply NOT SO. There's a great principle and a great lesson in this for us. The illustration that Jesus USED came from the beginning of 1stSam. ch. 21. Notice that Mark quoted Jesus as saying, "The sabbath was made FOR man, and not man for the sabbath." Another great lesson! You see, there's a great temptation for us to protest with that three letter word, "WHY?" Lord WHY be baptized? Lord, WHY sing? Lord, WHY pray? Lord, WHY give as we've been prospered? Lord why, why, why? We talked about this in our last lesson. The Lord requires these things for OUR benefit, NOT as a hindrance. The tendency is, you see, for us to look upon these things as a sacrifice on our part. That's not true! When you are obeying Jesus; you are doing the thing that is best for you in the long-run. If you look at v.5 in Matthew's account, the Pharisees were concerned about profaning the sabbath and desecrating the temple. But, you see, these things came from God! And God's instruction does not contradict itself. So, Jesus said (v.5) "in this place is one greater than the temple." In v.8, Jesus said: "the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day." You see, when they determined that Jesus was the Messiah; they WERE TO obey him, NOT question him. Moses had warned in the Law (Deut. 18:15) "The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me: [now listen!] unto him ye shall hearken..." You see, either Jesus was the Messiah, or he wasn't. If he WAS they were to follow him! If he WASN'T they were to reject him. They were not to correct him and teach him and program him and direct him. And, that was what they were TRYING to do. And as long as they did THAT, they didn't accept Jesus. It's just that simple. Notice also, that when Jesus said he was Lord of the sabbath day, also (a reference to the 4th commandment), it implied his Lordship was greater than the 10 commandments. Now, we've already talked about the statement Jesus made in v.7 before. I trust you recognize it is the same statement that Jesus used in Matthew's house. And that being the case; this could be some of the same Pharisees, I don't know.
Now, after the grain field incident, all three writers tell of another incident that took place on another Saturday, some place in a synagogue. It's interesting that all three writer arrange these two incidents topically, i.e. both incidents are a clash over the doctrine of sabbath keeping.
Matthew's book in general isarranged more topically. For example, Matthew ch. 8-9 is primarily a listing of several miracles that Jesus did; not necessarily in chronological order. While Luke apparently tried to stick closer to the order of events. But, right now, let's read the second incident, and since you've got your finger in Matthew's account; we'll start there and work our way back to Luke, O.K.?? Are you ready? Matt. 12:9, let's read. "And when he was departed thence, he went into their synagogue: and, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him. And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other. Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him." O.K. as we said, this was on a sabbath day, it was in a synagogue, and it was some place in Galilee. That's about all we know. But, before we talk about the miracle, let's read Mark and Luke. Mark's account begins in ch. 3. Are you ready? "And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth. And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. And when he had looked around about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other. And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him." Look close at v.2, "they watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath day..." Why? "that they might find an accusation against him." Thus, Mark, wants us to see that jealousies were building in the scribes and Pharisees and that these Jewish religious leaders did not accept. Jesus and were turning against him. The end result was (v.6) they "took council...how they might destroy him." Luke says, "they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might DO TO Jesus."
So, let's read Luke's account, Luke 6:6 beginning. We're going to read through v.11. Are you ready? "And it came to pass also on another sabbath, that he entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man whose right hand was withered. And the scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against him. But he knew their thoughts, and said to the man which had the withered hand, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth. Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it? And looking around about upon them all, he said unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored whole as the other. And they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus."
O.K. do you get the picture? The whole thing came down simply to this: the religious leaders, i.e. the scribes and Pharisees DID NOT want to accept Jesus. His miracles proved conclusively, he was from God. And the O.T. said, "unto him ye shall hearken." But, they liked the rules as they were on sabbath keeping for example, i.e. with THEIR interpretations and THEIR amendments. But, Jesus insisted that HIS interpretations, and HIS lordship was greater that even the 10 commandments themselves. Thus, if they followed Jesus, they must give up their traditions. And that's where the rub came. They were expecting and looking for a messiah. But, they wanted a messiah that fit their preconceived ideas. They were ready to listen, if HE agreed with them. But, they didn't want to change their traditions, and they must have it their way. So, ultimately, they rejected Jesus and their people are still looking for a messiah today. And, that same attitude has infiltrated our world today. Most people think that religion is what YOU want to make it; what YOU conceive it should be; and what WE would choose. Sound familiar? GO to the church of your choice! JOIN the church of your choice! -OR- Skip it all together if that suits you better. In other words, MAKE YOUR OWN religion, and adjust your religion to fit you. But, that's NOT what the Bible teaches. Now, I'm not trying to turn anyone off; check it out for. yourself. How, do the principles that Jesus taught apply to us today? Give it some thought!
Why did they ask (Matt. 12:10), "Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?" They really wanted to know, right? FALSE! It says, "that they might accuse him." Do you see the preconceived element in it? It's the whole point of the story. Don't miss it! Then, something else here. Did you notice? Jesus tried to appeal to their knowledge of the scriptures and REASON. He said, "Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days?" Implying of course that the O.T. taught that it was. But, notice at the end of v.4 in Mark ch. 3, "they held their peace." In other words, they wouldn't answer. V.5 describes Jesus' countenance or facial expression. He was grieved for their hardness of heart. It seems that most of Jesus' healing was done in a very quiet and matter of fact way. But, on this occasion, Jesus needed to make a point. He was Lord of the sabbath day, also. Can you separate one from the other? Of course not! So, Jesus commanded the man to put forth his hand, and BOOM! The man had a new hand. This really infuriated those leaders. Take a close look at the last verse in Mark's account, "the Pharisees...straightway took council with the Heroidans against him, how they might destroy him." So, you can see, the clash was beginning to intensify. These Pharisees were not going to be out done; regardless of the evidence. Did these people really think they could out-do the Lord of Glory? Do people today really think they can out-do the Lord of Glory?
The "Herodians" are mentioned here for the first time. They were another sect of the Jews; somewhat like the Pharisees, the Sadducees, etc. They were probably more political than religious and these groups probably over-lapped somewhat. The Herodians supported the Herods and this is where they got the name, of course. They were a small group, mentioned only twice more in the N.T. They were a group of public spirited Jewish citizens that supported the Roman cause. And, naturally, they considered themselves very influential in destroying Jesus and his influence. Until our next lesson, God bless you in your study, AND have a good day!