Matthew 12-13
(Lord of the Sabbath)
October 6th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

"I say to you, something greater than the temple is here. If you knew what this meant, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned these innocent men. For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.”

- Matthew 12:6-8 (NAB)

Summary of Chapters

In these two chapters Jesus provides additional insight into his identity and God’s plans. Chapter 12 begins with a record of the escalation of tension between the prevailing religious leaders and Jesus. For instance, these leaders attempted to chastise him for allowing his disciples to pick grain on the Sabbath and accused him of being a prince of the demons because he can drive out demons.

Jesus reminds these experts in the law of the occasion when their ancestor David ate the consecrated bread in desperate circumstances, as recorded in 1 Samuel 21:1-9:

    He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests.”

    - Matthew 12:3-4 (NIV)

Jesus then tells them the truth about the Lord of the Sabbath, the source of his ability to heal, and the consequence for those who slander him. In verse 40, he explains to his audience that the proof of who he is will be demonstrated by what seems to be the lack of proof - an empty tomb. Jesus informs his audience that he will spend three days “in the heart of the earth” similar to the way Jonah spent three days in the belly of the fish (Jonah 1-4).

Later in the chapter Jesus explains that his followers are now his earthly family.

In chapter 13 Jesus returns to teaching, but this time in the form of parables. Matthew records five of these and concludes the chapter by observing the skepticism of Jesus expressed by the people from his home town: “And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith (Matt 13:58 - NIV).”

These parables include the topics of seeds that take root and thrive and a parable about accepting God’s word in one’s life as if it was treasure. Those who do accept the Word will be saved – those who don’t will be cast aside like bad fish caught in a wide net.

Reflection and Application

Why were the religious leaders so resistant to everything that Jesus did? The reason is that they were more concerned about their power and prestige than about the message that they were supposed to be teaching. The Messiah that they had learned about in the scrolls from the prophets was finally here, in flesh and blood, but they were so focused on themselves that they could not hear what he was truly saying and did not recognize who he was.

Jesus understood their limitations so he explained to them who he was and what was going to happen, but they still did not listen. His descriptions were chock full of references to scriptures that these experts knew by heart, but they did not connect the dots.

For example, in Matthew 12:7, Jesus quoted Hosea, when he said, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice (Hosea 6:6 -NIV)." He quoted Isaiah in Matthew 13:15 when he said “For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears and they have closed their eyes. (Isaiah 6:9-10 - NIV)." In reference to these encounters, the Biblical commentator Barclay notes that “It is a law of life that we only hear what we are listening for and only what we have fitted ourselves to hear (1)."

The religious leaders chastised him and his hometown rejected him. What does Jesus need to do in order for us to accept him, truly listen to him, and follow him with sincerity? He is ready to welcome us into his family, if we accept his offer. If we do not, then he will not stick around and perform miracles.

What are some of our most cherished possessions? Our home, our car, a family heirloom, an autograph from a famous person, a favorite book, a collection of rare musical recordings, a piece of jewelry, or something else? If we cherish God’s word more than our most valued possession, then we will be welcomed into the family and will hear and understand his word.

If we cherish God’s word, then we want to study it further. The parables that begin in this group of chapters are an excellent area to study. A Bible Study group that I attend spent several months in 2010 just exploring the parables of Jesus. Jesus used these parables as a vehicle to help people understand what he was talking about. He used stories about agriculture, families, and other scenarios that his audience could relate to, and then used those scenarios to illustrate his points.

Most of us are not involved in large-scale agriculture, but even the casual gardener can relate to the conflict between nurturing good seeds and fighting back the weeds. We plant seeds but we get weeds. We pull out the weeds and they come back. We ignore the weeds and they flourish. Our flowers grow and the deer eat them. It's the same with evil and temptation in our lives. We plan for goodness, but evil intercedes. We ignore weak areas in our spiritual lives and those weak areas flourish like a cancer. We build good habits and lead meaningful lives, but then something evil bites off the beautiful blooms. How do we prevent these disasters? If we ground ourselves in the word, surround ourselves with fellow believers, and allow ourselves to be watered by God's mercy, then we are more able to become like the good wheat that is harvested and safely stored in the barn.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What is one of your most cherished earthly possessions?

    2. Which of the parables in today’s study can you relate most strongly to? Was it the Sower and the Seeds, the Weeds, the Mustard Seed, the Hidden Treasure, or the Net?

    3. Barclay said that we are sometimes blocked from hearing things because we only hear what we are fitted to hear. What are the potential blocks that might prevent you from listening for God?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father, we know you are Lord of the Sabbath and that you want flexible hearts not inflexible rituals. Helps us to be the good seed and spread your good word to others.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns


    (1) Barclay, William, The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 2, John Knox Press, Louisville, London, 2001 p52

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Matthew 14-17(Removing All Doubt)

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