In the last couple of weeks, I’ve been looking at the words of Jesus within the context of whatever was happening around those words, whether it was the death of a family member or faith in a storm. Some biblical experts have said that it might be highly likely that these events may not have exactly followed one another, however, the author of each gospel put these stories in this order for a reason. I was reading another section of Matthew when I found something pretty fascinating.
At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”
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. Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”Matthew 12: 1-8
The Pharisees valued following the rules, so much so that they added extra rules to clarify how to follow the original rule. Their faith was very outward and works-centric. I can relate to a certain extent. I’m a rule follower. And I know that I can easily fall into the idol of rules. Of being right. The Pharisees made rules so they could be right, and anyone who did not meet these expectations was sinning.
In this back and forth, Jesus references Hosea 6 which has some interesting foreshadowing. In verse 2 it says:
After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence.Hosea 6:2
Three days? That verse must have been on Jesus’s heart a lot, though in this conversation, he uses verse 6:
“I desire mercy, not sacrifice and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings.”Hosea 6:6
The Pharisees were missing the point. Love creates relationships, not rules. Grace extended strengthens bonds. Jesus was telling that God longs to know them and he longs for them to know him, to tear down the walls of outward perfection and embrace the perfect love in humility that is offered to them.
And Matthew prefaces this whole interaction with these verses at the end of chapter 11:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”Matthew 11: 28-30
People were obsessing about the wrong things, following rules to earn God’s love and favor. Even I still do this. I get worried about doing things the right way instead of slowing down, listening, and loving my neighbor. I’m learning how to let go of being right and allow Jesus to show me true righteousness relationship through faith, grace, and love.