June 19, 2022 | Jess Rainer
Passage: Matthew 12:1-14
Let Jesus take over. In the book of Matthew in your Bibles, chapter 12 is a major turning point. It’s at this point that we see overt opposition begin against Jesus. What Jesus is about to do is disrupt the standard of righteousness. In Matthew 12, Jesus ends religion as it was known. It amazes me that the idea that we can earn our way into heaven—into relationship with Jesus—still exists. At its core, it’s about control. We don’t want to give up. We don’t want to give up ourselves, our family, our addiction, our pain. We want to hold on to what we can. So we “work” in order to earn God’s favor. We become consumed with being religious, but we fail to enter a relationship with Jesus. It’s a tactic that Satan has used for years.
1) It’s exhausting trying to follow religion’s rules. (vs. 1-2, 14) Look at this scene with Jesus and the disciples starting in verse 1. “At about that time Jesus was walking through some grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, so they began breaking off some heads of grain and eating them.” The key word in this verse is “Sabbath”. I mentioned briefly last week that there are over 600 OT laws that the Pharisees tried to obey. They even made up some additional rules so they wouldn’t come close to breaking an Old Testament law. There were a lot rules around the Sabbath. When I talk about “Sabbath,” I’m referring to the day of the week set aside by Jews where they were only to rest—nothing else. It comes from the 10 commandments: “Keep the Sabbath day holy”. To avoid work, there were rules set up for the Sabbath day. There were so many Sabbath laws!
For some reason in verse 2, I get this image that the Pharisees are spying on Jesus. “But some Pharisees saw them do it and protested, “Look, your disciples are breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath.” “Aha! We got you!” Why did the Pharisees care so much about the laws? It was their way to earn God’s favor. They believed they could become right before God by following rules and regulations. They put their laws above any relationship with Jesus. Jesus told us last week that we need to find rest in Him. The Pharisees needed that rest so badly. It’s exhausting trying to follow all the religious rules. It’s exhausting trying to earn your way into favor with God. You can’t earn your way into favor with God.
2) Let Jesus take over your life. (vs. 3-8). I love Jesus’ response when the Pharisees coming running from their spy shacks. He asks them if they have read their Bibles! Jesus first asks them if they know the Scripture where David and his men eat the ceremonial bread in the tabernacle (verses 3-4) – which was breaking Old Testament law. Jesus then asked why the priests are allowed to work on the Sabbath without dishonoring God. Jesus is intellectually setting them up. He’s showing them that their legalism has caused them to miss God altogether. Sabbath was made for man. Sabbath was made for creation. Sabbath was created for us to stop and spend time with God. Sabbath was meant to be a blessing, not a burden. Something we should do today.
The Pharisees made it burdensome and legalistic. When we put the commands of Christ before Christ Himself, that’s legalism – and that opposite of the gospel – the good news of Jesus. The world’s religions are all forms of “I obey, therefore I am accepted.” But Christianity is about “I am accepted, therefore I obey.” We are called to follow the Bible, but it comes as an outflow of our heart. We joyously obey God and follow His commands because we love Him.
“Only Jesus can give us the grace to enter into the joy of obedience to God’s commands.“ – Alistair Begg
Jesus spells out the truth for the Pharisees in verses 6 through 8. Jesus is telling them that He is God. That He is Lord over Sabbath. That is He is Lord over all. Jesus is calling them to make Him Lord over their lives. The Pharisees wanted to fit Jesus into their lives instead of making Jesus their life. Jesus will never fit into your life. Jesus must become your life. If you want rest, if you want Sabbath, then let Jesus take over your life. Let Jesus become your life. Give up religion and let the relationship take over.
3) Let Jesus restore you. (vs. 9-13) Jesus wastes no time and heads over the Pharisees temple. They thought they were being sneaky in their little spy shacks. But Jesus walks right on over to their camp (synagogue). They, again, are going to try to get Jesus to mess up. The Old Testament religious law allows for healing only if the person was dying. That is quite the subjective law. “I think he can hold on until tomorrow morning, so I can’t heal him right now…” But in this case, a shriveled hand is not life or death. Jesus isn’t playing games this time. He answers their question with a question. The Pharisees just kept missing Jesus. They were so consumed with their religious duty that they couldn’t see the Messiah standing in front of them. Jesus wants them to open their eyes so he can restore their hearts.
Mark’s gospel gives us a little more insight into Jesus at this moment in Mark 3. Can you imagine the scene? Jesus boldly in front of everyone. The man standing next to Jesus. Jesus may have put his arm around the man. The man was probably hiding his hand from being seen. Then Jesus asks a question – this time He’s asking - Verse 4 – “It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath or to do evil?” Jesus has the power and authority to heal this man. But should Jesus simply not heal Him because it is not “religiously lawful?!” And then Jesus goes one more step – he questions the hearts of the Pharisees by asking if it is lawful to save a life or kill on the Sabbath. Jesus knew their plan. He knew their hearts. He knew that wanted to get rid of Him. So He asks if their laws would allow them to save Jesus or kill Him! But they were silent! Can you imagine the tension in the room?! Jesus knew their hearts and now they know that Jesus knows their hearts. And they have no response. They have no words. Jesus had righteous anger followed by sadness by the condition of their hearts and their unwillingness to change. It broke Jesus that they were so tied up in their religion that they failed to see the grace Jesus was offering.
In the moments that passed – which probably felt like hours – Jesus told the man to stretch out his hand. The man probably was so taken back about the whole situation. But he stretched it out. And in the moment, Jesus healed the man. The man had a shriveled hand, but the Pharisees had a shriveled heart! What Jesus offers freely is incomparable to what religion says you must earn. Jesus is telling you to come to Him. Come over here and you will find water where you will never thirst again. There’s enough fish in here that you will never hunger again. Jesus satisfies all the spiritual longings you have. Let Jesus take over. You can be like the Pharisees and worry about all the rules. Or you can be like the man in the temple and let Jesus restore you.
This sermon series will a year long journey through the book of Matthew in 2022. These messages will examine the broader themes in Matthew like God’s character, Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament’s promises for a Messiah, and the importance of internal integrity over external behavior. It lays out practical application points like the need for salvation, baptism, and repentance. It also provides answers to the question “Who is Jesus?”. It invites you to recognize Jesus as God’s Son and to receive him as Lord of your lives. This sermon series provides the groundwork for a clear explanation of the Gospel.