Ten Day 5 A Time For Sabbath: Digging Deeper

Digging Deeper Days

Finding the original intent of Scripture and making good application to our everyday lives as we become equipped to correctly handle the Word of Truth!

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The Questions

1) What is evidenced in the exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees in verses 1-8?

2) Why were the Pharisees so vengeful against Jesus? (verses 2, 9, and 14)

3) What should we learn about the Sabbath from this scene in Jesus’ life?

Matthew 12:1-14

At that time Jesus passed through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick and eat some heads of grain. 2 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “See, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.”

3 He said to them, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and those who were with him were hungry: 4 how he entered the house of God, and they ate the bread of the Presence—which is not lawful for him or for those with him to eat, but only for the priests? 5 Or haven’t you read in the law that on Sabbath days the priests in the temple violate the Sabbath and are innocent? 6 I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what this means, I desire mercy and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the innocent. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

9 Moving on from there, he entered their synagogue. 10 There he saw a man who had a shriveled hand, and in order to accuse him they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”

11 He replied to them, “Who among you, if he had a sheep that fell into a pit on the Sabbath, wouldn’t take hold of it and lift it out? 12 A person is worth far more than a sheep; so it is lawful to do what is good on the Sabbath.”

13 Then he told the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out, and it was restored, as good as the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted against him, how they might kill him.

Original Intent

1) What is evidenced in the exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees in verses 1-8?
Thanks to the separation of church and state in the western hemisphere, it is clumsy for us to put on glasses to consider a culture where this isn’t the case. Pharisees not only held authority, power, and monetary control for all Jews, they also carried significant weight in the political system. For Israel, Judaism was the national religion, and Pharisees had elevated themselves to the most powerful position within it. To be a Jew meant adherence to societal, political, and religious laws; to a Jew, these were one and the same. When Jesus began His public ministry, He began a radical movement within an otherwise stable and controlled environment. Jesus pushed against the boundaries and limitations the Pharisees had enforced upon the people, many of which didn’t even originate from God. Jesus didn’t come to break the Law, rather, He came to make it abundantly clear to every Jew how hopelessly lost they were because they could never fulfill the Law. The Law was powerless to save them, every single Jew was guilty of breaking the Law, which resulted in their un-holiness. Jesus came to fulfill the Law perfectly for them so they could be saved from their sin and made righteous before a Holy God. The Pharisees, however, missed this point entirely. They focused on the Law as being their ground to protect. They loved their power, and didn’t want anyone to tear it away from them. Jesus threatened that power. With His amassing followers, and the miracles He performed, His popularity with the people grew while the Pharisees fear and anger mounted. As a result, the Pharisees were adamantly opposed to anything and everything Jesus said or did. An epic battle was waging, and the Pharisees were determined they would not lose ground to the radical Jesus who claimed to be God.

2) Why were the Pharisees so vengeful against Jesus? (verses 2, 9, and 14)
These specific interactions between Jesus and the Pharisees center around the Sabbath laws. The original Old Testament laws from God concerning Sabbath were to “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8), which meant a cessation from work or laboring. “You must not do any work…. For the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything in them in six days; then he rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and declared it holy.” (Exodus 20:10-11) The Pharisees moved right past the heart of the Law, which was intended as a reminder that God had woven a rhythm of rest and labor into the DNA fabric of humanity, and added on additional nuanced laws to God’s Sabbath. Where God had said, “you must not do any work”, the Pharisees said that plucking grain heads to snack on as you walked through a field (verse 2), and healing a handicapped hand (verses 9-10) were against the Law of the Sabbath because they were considered “work”. These human-made laws butted up sharply against God’s original law because it focused only on what man could “do”, or not do, on the Sabbath, rather than God’s desire for man to simply “be” with the Lord God in ceasing from work. Jesus also emphasized Himself as being “greater than the Sabbath” (verse 6) as well as “Lord of the Sabbath” (verse 8). This meant His actions surpassed whatever laws the Pharisees had placed onto God’s laws, because He was in fact the original author of the Sabbath Law. In one move, Jesus claimed to be God while pointing out how the Pharisees had mismanaged God’s instructive law of remembering the Sabbath. God had intended rest and life to flow from the rhythm of Sabbath, but the Pharisees had established decrees that brought suffering and dryness. This direct, and very public, “drawing back of the curtains” on the Pharisees hearts angered them intensely! They rejected being convicted by Jesus and being drawn into repentance, instead they allowed their anger to consume them to the point of plotting against Jesus’ very life. (verse 14)

3) What should we learn about the Sabbath from this scene in Jesus’ life?
God first gave this 4th commandment centuries before this interaction between Jesus, His disciples, and the Pharisees. Yet, He knew, even then, that this exchange would take place one Sabbath afternoon. What He had first given as a command, He would now live out before His people in their own human flesh. He delighted in the opportunity to show them His heart, and surprisingly to Jesus’ audience, God actually didn’t care about their ability to perform. He wanted their hearts to rest in Him. Jesus wanted His people to love God and others more than worrying about their own aptitude to achieve. Jesus pleaded with them to see how the Sabbath wasn’t about snacking on grain, or the “work” of the hand to reach out and grasp it. Rather, Sabbath was created for our hearts to walk alongside the Savior and feed on Him and His Word. True satisfaction is bound up in living in rhythm with the Lord of Lords. It’s a rhythm that hums with delight in both kingdom work and holy rest. Jesus wanted His disciples to see that love for God and learning His heart (walking with Jesus through the fields) fleshed itself out by loving others (healing the handicapped in the synagogue). The law of the Sabbath is a command to return to deep relationship with the Lord, to rekindle the flames of love for Him, to sit with His Word and hear His voice, and then love others well because we have been so lavishly loved!

Everyday Application

1) What is evidenced in the exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees in verses 1-8?
Just like the first century Pharisees, we are prone to love the “law” because it offers the allure of self-made salvation. If we work hard enough, we can earn God’s favor. If we manage, somehow, to attain this height of perfection to the Law, the spotlight is on us alone, and oh we love that, don’t we?! This also permits us leverage the relationship between us and God because we have not only contributed to our salvation, we have won it! Now, we are in a business-type contract with the God of the universe, and feel we carry weight to dictate what God should or should not do for us. It’s a similar thought to contributing a large sum of money to a charitable organization. We can imagine a donor stating, “I will gift you 1 million dollars, but these stipulations are in place as to how the money will be spent.” To be abundantly clear, this is not how the Lord operates! We cannot earn our salvation, because we are utterly incapable of doing so. (Romans 3:10) God’s holiness is so completely, wholly flawless all it takes is one small white lie, or one glance of lust, or one momentary instance of loving self over loving God for us to fall from God’s standard of holiness. (James 2:10) We can never, ever, ever attain to God’s righteousness! (Romans 3:20, 23) We are doomed to eternal separation from God because of this state. (Romans 6:23) So, in radical love, Jesus came to fulfill every requirement of the Law for us. (Matthew 5:17) What love!!! He lived in our human flesh, felt our emotions and temptations. Being human, He fully knew what it was like to long to lust for another. He knew what it felt like to be tempted to lie to protect Himself or someone else. He was familiar with the deep desire to serve His human flesh over the heart of God. Yet, He walked away from each temptation and honored the law of God perfectly. Then, in excruciating agony, suffered the consequence we rightly deserved for our sinfulness. He took on our sin, was crucified in our place, and was separated from God the Father because of sin that was not His to own. We are saved by this radical grace that Jesus offers to each of us if we will trust HIS work, not ours. (Ephesians 2:8) There is no business contract to uphold. No threshold of righteousness to maintain. (Ephesians 2:9) Only sweet, sweet grace of a God who loved us enough to die for us. This Sabbath invitation is a rhythmic reminder to rely on Christ alone, not ourselves! See the fullness of the gospel wrapped up in the fabric of this Old Testament law!

2) Why were the Pharisees so vengeful against Jesus? (verses 2, 9, and 14)
Let me be clear, I have often been a Pharisee. I have been the one shaking a tight-fist towards Heaven. I have been angry when the Almighty God did not fit inside the much-too-small box I designed so I could maintain a (false) sense of control. I dare not look in a mirror and pretend I cannot see Pharisee smugly written across the reflection. The temptation to deceive myself into thinking I have Yahweh figured out is strong. I want to trust my gut, my experience, my fear, or even just keep my own rules. I can control this. In this arena, I decide who wins, and the odds are always in my favor. But in this arena, something tragic happens, I’ve already died. I live in shadows, often hiding truth even from myself, keeping it shallow to others in some spots and giving room to dig where I decide I’m plenty good enough. In truth, I need the curtains pulled back. I need Jesus to walk in and blind my dim eyes with His light and truth. What about you? Plead to the Lord with me for Him to help us see where we are guilty of making ourselves higher than God in our own eyes simply because we want the illusion of control. It’s not worth it, Sister, it never will be.

3) What should we learn about the Sabbath from this scene in Jesus’ life?
Practicing Sabbath can feel overwhelming and daunting, but consider it as an invitation to deep, rich life that we all desperately crave, but will never find by pursuing hurry over rest with God. If you held an invitation in your hand to come away and find deep, renewing rest and solace with the God who created and loves your heart, has counted every strand of your hair, and has gathered every tear you’ve cried, wouldn’t your insides ache to respond with a “Yes!”?! This is Sabbath! Maybe the idea of arranging 24 hours of intentional pause on life doesn’t even begin to feel practical right now in your season, take courage! Remember, the Lord does not give heavy burdens of performance like the Pharisees! Consider setting aside a few hours of Sabbath this weekend, and watch how the Lord will bless your obedience as you “remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy”. Check out this great podcast as a jumpstart to practicing Sabbath! (Sabbath, Fight Hustle, End Hurry)

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Digging Deeper is for Everyone!

1) Take this passage (or any other passage).
2) Read it, and the verses around it,
several times
3) Write down your questions
as you think of them.
4) Ask specific culture related questions and be ready to dig around for your answers. Google them, use www.studylight.org, or look them up in a study Bible and read the footnotes (click on the little letters next to a word and it will show you
other related verses!). (www.esvbible.org)
5) Check your applications with other trusted Christians that you are in community with and embrace the fullness of God
in your everyday!

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Why Dig Deeper?

Finding the original meaning is a huge deal when we study Scripture and can make all the difference in our understanding as we apply God’s truths to our everyday lives.

In our modern-day relationships, we want people to understand our original intention as we communicate; how much more so between God and humanity?!

Here’s a little bit more on why we take Digging Deeper so seriously.

Study Tools

We love getting help while we study and www.studylight.org is one of many excellent resources, providing the original Hebrew (Old Testament) or Greek (New Testament) with an English translation.

Want to know more about a specific word in a verse? Click on “Strong’s Interlinear Bible” then click the word you’d like to study. Discover “origin”, “definition” and hear the original pronunciation – That Is Awesome!

Want more background? Click “Study Tools”, then pick a few commentaries to read their scholarly approach, keeping in mind that just because a commentary says it, doesn’t mean it’s true. (just like the internet :-))

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