Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 12:8 (Holman) For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.
As if claiming to be “greater than the temple” (12:6) was not enough to inflame the Pharisees, Jesus made in our text an even bolder claim to deity.
Here’s the main reason for the disciples’ innocence. They had done what Jesus allowed. As God, He is Master of Sabbath, and can govern its requirements.
“Son of Man” was Jesus’ favorite self-designation. As if we would be surprised He was human, He stressed He was One of us, a sharer of our situation.
Jesus was Son of Man, fully human, yet also Son of God, fully divine, the One who gave us the Sabbath in the first place. Since a king retains authority over all his edicts, Jesus had every right to do with the Sabbath whatever He wanted.
As Lord of the Sabbath Day, Jesus owns it, restores it, rescues it, interprets it, and presides over it, determining in every detail how it should be observed.
By plucking and eating grain on Sabbath, the disciples defied Pharisaical legalism and proved they deemed Jesus of higher rank than the religious leaders.
Don’t miss the beauty in their acknowledgment of Christ’s superiority. The Twelve knew He was exalted, but were not afraid of Him. They knew His heart.
The Twelve had found the key to true joy. Much inner turmoil and many interpersonal controversies would never exist if we accepted Jesus’ Lordship in everything. Discontentment and sadness dog us because we want our own way.
Christ’s claim to be God brings us to the crux of Christianity. Its vital issue is the Person of Jesus, what and who He was (and is) in His essential Being.
Our tolerant culture often asks, “Is Jesus the only way to Heaven?” This is the wrong question. The real issue is, “Is He who He claimed to be? In His death, burial, and resurrection, do we have a historical reality-event in which our sins were paid for and overcome? Is He divine?” If the answer to these questions is yes, the “only way to Heaven” issue becomes inane, and wilts into a moot point.
Matthew 12:9 Moving on from there, He entered their Synagogue.
Having made astounding claims in a grainfield about His own deity, Jesus moved on. As He walks away, we can sense Jesus and His disciples, at the center of a storm, hearing a taunting, albeit silent, voice howling, “Prove it! Prove it!”
Jesus faced and overcame the taunt in a synagogue, where a man with a shriveled, paralyzed hand is worshiping, unmindful He will testify to Jesus’ claim.
Jesus did not fear the Pharisees. He boldly faced them on their own turf. The religious leaders were the chief influences in the synagogues, where believers gathered to pray, fellowship, hear the Bible taught, and discuss spiritual matters.
Learn a vital lesson from our Master. Religious leaders were maliciously maligning Jesus, but He attended public worship in the synagogue anyway.
He set the standard for public worship attendance. Jesus’ example leads us to God’s house every week. “He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. As usual, He entered the Synagogue on the Sabbath Day” (Luke 4:16).
Many Christ-followers try to create excuses not to attend public worship, but to follow His example, we need to be in church habitually. We have no better way to regularly publicize to family, friends, and neighbors our faith in God.
In the assembly we pray for others, they pray for us, we minister to fellow believers, they minister to us. At church we corporately praise the One worthy of our praise, and hear a lesson from His Word, teaching us how to be more like Him.
Don’t let feuds keep us from church. Jesus was not like those who quit going to church due to having hurt feelings or disagreements with the preacher. Nor did Jesus absent Himself from synagogues due to the hypocrisy of the leaders.
A church building is a house of God, not of people. It exists because He is worthy, not because its worship leaders are. This is not meant to make light of hypocrisy and meanness. Hypocrites and the unkind will face a day of reckoning.
Our emphasis here is for us to limit the amount of influence we let others have on our spiritual lives. The actions and words of others should not control us.
Fellow believers should be allowed to encourage and influence us, but we should never let them determine the level of our spiritual involvement.
Due to a disagreement over John Mark’s involvement in missions, Paul and Barnabas split and went separate ways, but both stayed faithful to the Lord’s work (AC 15:39). Peter, though rebuked by Paul, refused to quit (GL 2:11).
In church we repeatedly say, do not offend someone. This is appropriate. May we never minimize the importance of being sensitive to the feelings of others.
At the same time, let us say often, don’t be offended easily. Too many carry a chip on their shoulder. Learn from our Master. On a cross, dying in humiliation, He prayed, “Father, forgive them” (LK 23:34). May we offer the same prayer.
Let’s not exasperate ourselves over the actions of others. There will be a Judgment Day. All accounts will be settled fairly. Verdicts and vengeance belong to God, not us. We have enough sins of our own to keep our thoughts occupied.
We admit, people often are wrong in their behavior and beliefs, but if we exclude ourselves from God’s house due to their error, we become wrong too.
One of the twentieth century’s best Christian writers became disillusioned with believers, moved to an island off Scotland, and lived his last years isolated and alone. He decided no church was good enough for him. He was wrong.
Few issues are important enough to cause us to cut off fellowship with other believers: inerrancy of Scripture, deity of Jesus, His virgin birth, sinless life, blood atonement, bodily resurrection, and literal return to Earth someday to rule as King of kings and Lord of lords. Except for bedrock beliefs, try not to break fellowship.
This is not to say other doctrines are unimportant. Truth matters. We just have to be careful in deciding what counts enough to cut ties with other believers. Beware intellectual pride. Humility is a cardinal virtue for us in all situations.
Peter, told of the persecution he would face, looked at John the Beloved and asked Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” “If I want Him to remain until I come,” Jesus answered, “what is that to you? As for you, follow Me” (JN 21:20-22).
Many believers rightly are offended, having been hurt by others. But before we quit due to them, we need to hear our Master say, “What is that to you? Follow Me.” Jesus will settle accounts. What matters for us is our own life before Jesus.
In a song about our walk with Jesus, Donald McCrossan well said, “On the Jericho Road, there’s room for just two, no more and no less, just Jesus and you.” Elvis’ bass singer, J. D. Sumner, often sang “You’ve got to walk that lonesome valley, oh nobody else can walk it for you, you’ve got to walk it by yourself.”
Imagine Jesus walking to the synagogue, His disciples trying to deter Him, “How can you go to a synagogue today? The leaders are hypocrites and mean.” Hear and apply His response, ”What is that to you? Let us go to Father’s house.”