December 16, 2018

Action, Accusation, and Answer

Action, Accusation, and Answer

By Mark Mayberry


Examining various negative encounters that certain individuals had with Jesus, let us reflect upon the recurring charge by the Pharisees that Jesus violated the Sabbath (Matt. 12:1-21; Luke 6:1-11). If this charge had been true, He could not have been the perfect sacrifice for sins. However, the Bible repeatedly affirms that Jesus lived a sinless life and that He manifested perfect obedience to the Father (2 Cor. 5:20-21; 1 Pet. 1:17-21; 2:21-25; 1 John 3:5).

Therefore, we conclude that the charge was false. This is a reminder not to accept baseless accusations, or the modern mantra, “perception equals reality,” which is rooted in relativism (1 Tim. 5:19-20). The Lord’s admonition, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment,” was offered in response to this very accusation, i.e., “He violated the Sabbath” (John 7:19-24).


Note the actions of Jesus (or His disciples) that provoked a negative response: “At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat” (Matt. 12:1).


Consider the accusation: “But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, ‘Look, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath’” (Matt. 12:2).


The Example of David

Jesus said, reflect upon the example of David, who in fleeing from the wrath of King Saul, committed numerous infractions of the law. Jesus’ implication is this: You revere him, despite his wrongs, but criticize Me, despite my innocence (Matt. 12:3-4; cf. 1 Sam. 21:1ff).

The Example of the Priests

Next, Jesus said, ponder the example of the priests, who (technically) break the Sabbath in performing their various duties, but are innocent (Matt. 12:5-6).

The Need for Compassion

Finally, the Lord reminded His audience of the need for compassion (heartfelt devotion): “But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent’” (Matt. 12:7). To better understand the original statement, compare and contrast various translations of the Old Testament passage quoted by Jesus (Hos. 6:4-6).

The Hebrew word chesed, used twice in this passage, often translated “goodness, kindness, faithfulness,” etc. actually refers to covenantal love and loyalty. The NASB reads, “your loyalty is like a morning cloud… I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice.” The KJV reads, “your goodness is as a morning cloud… I desired mercy, and not sacrifice. The NKJV reads, “your faithfulness is like a morning cloud… I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” The ESV reads, “Your love is like a morning cloud… I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice.”

Jesus also cited this passage on an earlier occasion, when the Pharisees reproached Him for eating with tax collectors and sinners, saying, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matt. 9:10-13).


Offering the ultimate defense for His actions, Jesus said, “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” (Matt. 12:8). As a member of the Godhead, and as One on whom absolute authority is bestowed, Jesus is the Christ/Messiah, and also our Lord and Master (Matt. 28:18-20).


A careful study of these passages leads to several inescapable conclusions.  Despite accusations to the contrary, Jesus did no wrong and committed no sin (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:21-25). He did not pursue a path of situational ethics, but through His perfect life, and sacrificial death, fulfilled the demands of the Law (Matt. 5:17-18; Heb. 10:5-14). Therefore, we reject the accusation that Jesus violated the Sabbath, recognizing His actions were consistent with divine revelation, divine compassion, and His position as “Lord of the Sabbath.”