Matthew 12: Abandon legalism

October 12th, 2006

There is something unpleasant about human nature. We like the security of routine, rather than the uncertainty of having to think for ourselves or having to trust God to act, and so when left to our own devices we make up behavioural rules which eventually limit our growth and kill our joy. If the good news of Jesus is supposed to be about God’s free gift to people, healing for the sick, relief for the poor and freedom for captives, why do so many churches and Christians seem to be preaching a message that Christianity is about obeying strict moral rules, maintaining a politically conservative viewpoint, and speaking out against a long list of moral evils? Jesus faced the same problem with the Pharisees. It’s time to abandon legalism and embrace the freedom of the good news.

Matthew’s Account of the Good News — Chapter 12

12:1 Once, Jesus went walking through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His hungry disciples began to pluck heads of grain and to eat, 12:2 but this was noticed by the Pharisees, who complained, “Your disciples are breaking the law of the Sabbath.” 12:3 He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 12:4 He went into the house of God and ate the sacred bread, although it was unlawful for anyone but the priests to eat it. 12:5 And haven’t you read in the law that on the Sabbath day, the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath yet are guiltless? 12:6 I tell you something more important than the temple is at stake here. 12:7 If you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. 12:8 The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

12:9 He left, and went into their synagogue. 12:10 A man with a deformed hand was there. They asked Jesus, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath day?” so that they could bring charges against him. 12:11 He responded, “If you have one sheep and it falls into a ditch on the Sabbath, who among you wouldn’t grab it and lift it out? 12:12 A person is way more important than a sheep! It is perfectly lawful to do good deeds on the Sabbath.” 12:13 Then he instructed the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and it was completely restored, just like the other. 12:14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted about how they might get rid of him. 12:15 Aware of this, Jesus went away. He was followed by crowds of people, and healed them all, 12:16 but instructed them not to say who he was. 12:17 This fulfilled the prediction of Isaiah the prophet:

12:18 “See my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my Spirit on him. He will proclaim justice to the nations. 12:19 He will not strive or shout. No one will hear his raised voice in the streets. 12:20 He will not break a bruised reed. He will not quench a smoking flax, until he leads justice to victory. 12:21 In his name, the nations will hope.”

12:22 A blind and mute demon-possessed man was brought to him and he healed him, so that the man both spoke and saw. 12:23 The crowds were amazed and said, “Can this be the son of David?” 12:24 But when the Pharisees heard it they said, “This man does not cast out demons, except by the dark arts of Beelzebul, the prince of the demons.”

12:25 Reading their thoughts, Jesus said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself crumbles, and every city or house divided against itself falls. 12:26 If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 12:27 If I cast out demons by the dark arts of the prince of demons, by whom do your people cast them out? They will judge you for what you have said. 12:28 But if I am casting out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you. 12:29 How can someone enter the house of a strong man and steal his goods unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can loot the house.

12:30 “Anyone who is not with me is against me, and anyone who doesn’t gather with me scatters. 12:31 Every sin and blasphemy is forgiveable except blasphemy against the Spirit. 12:32 Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or the age to come.

12:33 “A tree is recognisable by its fruit. Make the tree good and its fruit will be good; make the tree bad and its fruit will be bad. 12:34 You are the spawn of snakes. How can you evil people speak good things? The mouth says whatever flows out from the heart. 12:35 Good people bring good things out of their good treasure, and evil people bring evil things out of their evil treasure. 12:36 On the day of judgement people will have to give account of every idle word that they have spoken. 12:37 By your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

12:38 Some of the religious lawyers and Pharisees answered, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” 12:39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given except the sign of Jonah the prophet. 12:40 Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights, the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. 12:41 Citizens of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment to condemn this generation, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; yet someone greater than Jonah is here. 12:42 The queen of the south will rise up at the judgment to condemn this generation, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; yet someone greater than Solomon is here.

12:43 “When an unclean spirit comes out of a person, it wanders through waterless places seeking rest but doesn’t find it. 12:44 Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came out.’ When it comes back, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. 12:45 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all come in to live. The final condition of that person becomes worse than the first. This will happen to this evil generation.”

12:46 While he was speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers stood outside asking to speak with him. 12:47 Someone said, “Your mother and your brothers are waiting outside to speak to you.” 12:48 But he answered, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” 12:49 He stretched out his hand towards his disciples and said, “See my mother and my brothers! 12:50 Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

Entry Filed under: Legalism

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. » The&hellip  |  March 29th, 2008 at 7:13 am

    […] was often accused of being a rule-breaker. When accused of breaking the rules of the Sabbath, he said, “If you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have […]

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