Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 12:11a (Holman) But He said to them,. . .
In our last lesson, we noted the religious leaders’ unwitting compliment of Jesus’ soft heart for hurting people. In this lesson we focus on two more of their unintentional compliments of our Master. First, they admitted they knew He had power to heal. Second, they knew Jesus wanted to make Sabbath a kind day.
The religious leaders took His power for granted. They assumed Jesus was not only willing, but also able, to heal the man’s paralyzed hand.
J. Vernon McGee, one of Christianity’s boldest, most unique sounding voices, wrote, “The enemies of Jesus never questioned His ability to perform miracles. You have to be two thousand years away from it and working in a musty library on a master’s or doctor’s degree before you can question His miracles.”
Skeptics and cynics of later generations, including our own, accusingly say Jesus’ so-called miracles were merely hocus-pocus, sleight of hand tricks, crowd manipulation, psychological brainwashing, or myths concocted by His followers.
Such reasoning is hard to swallow, because the ones who hated Jesus most, who despised Him enough to have Him assassinated, never tried to deny any of His miracles. If anyone ever had motivation to investigate and discount Jesus’ miracles, it was these religious leaders. But they were totally nonplused by it all.
Jesus’ miracles came too many too fast too often to be deniable. The leaders could muster only a lame explanation, His power is from the devil (12:24).
Christ’s loving, gentle, perfect, sinless life proved He was not under any evil influence. Jesus was too kind and righteous to be one of Satan’s lieutenant.
The very fact the religious leaders could not refute Jesus’ power explains why they felt they had to get rid of Him. They had no other way to accomplish damage control. Jesus’ miracles were a loose cannon they had to silence.
Never in the history of the world were more miracles performed so openly and obviously in one lifetime as were done by Jesus. I recently heard a song perfectly describe a scene that could have happened solely during the life of Jesus.
The song’s precise words escape me, but it says in essence, “Asked why I was running, I said I was chasing a crippled man whose healing was told of by the mute man, heard about by the deaf man, and seen by the blind man.” Only one moment in history matches this description. Jesus undeniably had power to heal.
The religious leaders’ last unintentional compliment was, they knew Jesus wanted to make Sabbath a kind day. Jesus performed a disproportionate number of miracles on the Sabbath. He thereby showed the day was meant to be a time for showing kindness. For the religious leaders, this was evil; for us, it is wonderful.
The leaders profaned Sabbath by taking what was meant to be a blessing, and turning it into a curse, a legalistic nightmare. Jesus set the record straight. “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).
We were not created to be Sabbath slaves. Humans came first, on day six of creation. Sabbath was instituted later, on day seven, to accommodate people, to promote happiness, not misery; to relieve, not burden; to enrich, not enslave. Our kind Savior returned God’s kind weekly gift to its original position of kindness.
Matt. 12:11b “What man among you, if he had a sheep . . .”
In Matthew’s Gospel, this is the third time Jesus has compared humans with animals. He spoke of birds and sparrows (6:26; 10:31), and now discussed sheep.
In all His comparisons between people and animals, Jesus taught the highest value belongs to humans. We are a special creation, made in the image of God.
Jesus’ point in our text was obvious. People are worth more than animals, and should be treated accordingly. It is wrong to do more for pets than for people Jesus died for, yet many show more affection for dogs and cats than for humans.
I do not debunk the vital role pets play in our lives. “A righteous man cares about his animal’s health” (PR 12:10a). Animals can be kinder than people are. We know the wisecrack, “My girlfriend left me, and took my dog. I miss him.”
When a boy, I loved dogs and cats, but as they kept dying or disappearing, I grew tired of the repeated pain. The final blow was the death of my favorite dog of all time. I found him on a roadway in the woods behind our house. He had been run over. When I saw his body, I gave up. That was the end of pets for me.
Ruth’s pet involvement ended when she graciously consented to enter my life. To marry me, she gave up her dog. Some think she made the wrong choice.
My appreciation of pets has grown significantly in recent years. I often see people who live alone finding much needed companionship from animals.
My biggest change in attitude has resulted from my grandson Caleb’s love for his two dogs. They are his friends, and any friend to Caleb is a friend of mine.
Our text does not ask us to love pets less, but rather encourages us to love people more. It is wrong to give more to animals than we do to needy people.
Our text confronts us with the specific danger of valuing animals above humans. Jesus could have as easily spoken of a hobby, possession, sport, or job.
We are always in danger of slipping into life patterns where we slide into valuing things too highly. If we are not vigilant to keep our priorities straight, we coast the wrong direction. A drifting boat always drifts downstream (Parkhurst).
As we determine our own list of priorities, God must always be first, people always second. Never allow anything to knock these two off the top of our list. Jesus placed enormous value on individuals. He singlehandedly gave us dignity.
God and humans are within intelligent reach of each other. A way He made us like Himself was by giving us will and reason; we can make intelligent choices.
God and humans are within emotional reach of each other. He loves us. We can love Him. Jesus condescended to shed His blood for us. If the value of something is determined by the price paid for it, what can be more valuable than a human life? The cross proves God’s measure of every person on our planet.
God and humans are within spiritual reach of each other. God is spirit. People have a spirit and thus can know God. One reason humans are precious is because we can host the living God. Our essence was created to be His sanctuary.
Don’t desecrate a temple. Believers, don’t desecrate His temple by defiling it. Unbelievers, don’t desecrate His temple by forbidding Him His right to enter it.