I DESIRE MERCY, NOT SACRIFICE
Key Verse: 12:7
"If you had known what these words mean, `I desire mercy, not
sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent."
1. Read verses 1-2. What did Jesus' disciples do one day when they
were hungry? According to the Pharisees, why was this unlawful?
2. Read verses 3-8. How did Jesus defend his disciples? Why did he
talk about the David incident? How did the priests desecrate the
Sabbath? What does Jesus teach about God's heart? What does it
mean? What did Jesus teach about himself?
3. Read verses 9-10. Who was in the synagogue? Put yourself in the
place of the man with the shriveled hand. What was the attitude of
the Pharisees toward this man? Toward Jesus?
4. Read verses 11-14. What did Jesus teach about the mercy of God in
answer to the Pharisees legalism? What did he do? What was the
result? How does this man show his faith? Why did the Pharisees
want to kill Jesus?
5. Read verses 15-21. What did Jesus do after withdrawing? How did his
actions fulfill Isaiah's prophecy? What does a bruised reed and
a smoldering wick mean? What great hope can we find in verses
In the last passage we studied the true meaning of repentance.
Repentance is the first step in becoming the children of God. Mark 1:15
says, "The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and
believe the good news!" Repentance is the way to the kingdom of God.
Repentance is to live for the glory of God. Repentance is to stop
living a selfish life in this limited world. Repentance is to live to
please God whatever we do, whether we eat or drink. Repentance is not
to live for ones sinful nature. True repentance must produce the fruit
of repentance. For example, a person who lived a pleasure-seeking and
immoral life in the past must stop living for fleeting pleasures on
earth and work hard for the glory of God and become great and wealthy,
as Abraham did when he obeyed God's word.
Jesus also taught us true rest. The people of the world want true
rest, even for one weekend. One servant of God drove a fellow woman
missionary's car to Florida and enjoyed one weekend. It was to rest on
the weekend. But when he came back, he remembered the rudeness of the
motel manager and the poor meals and tiredness from the long drive, and
how this had caused him not to sleep. When he drove back to North
Carolina, where his apartment is, he was so upset he didn't say
anything to his wife. Then his wife was upset and they did not speak to
each other for ten days. Worldly rest is like driving to Florida,
sleeping in a motel, and coming back by driving. But rest in God is
overflowing happiness and joy and peace in our souls. Most people think
rest or happiness is for their physical bodies. But that is not true.
True rest or happiness is in our soul. Therefore, we must please God.
We must take the yoke of Jesus and learn of him. Then we can have true
rest. Today we are going to learn the character of the Messiah and what
God really wants us to do. God does not want us to become legalistic or
self-righteous. God wants us to be merciful and sacrificial.
First, Jesus defends his unlawful disciples (1-8). Let's read verses
1-2. "At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath.
His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat
them." One of the characteristics of Jesus' disciples was that they were
always hungry. Other than that, they were always sleepy. And they were
champions of snoring, because they were tired enough after hanging
around Jesus. One day Jesus was going somewhere with his disciples. But
they didn't carry a lunch box. Already 1:00 p.m. was about to pass and
the disciples' stomachs began to growl. Peter's stomach growled loudly.
Next, Philip's stomach growled quietly and sharply. Then Matthew's
stomach growled noisily, while Bartholomew's stomach growled quietly.
When they began to suffer from a hungry feeling, sudden fortune
appeared before their eyes: there were many grainfields. The disciples
unintentionally began to pick some heads of grain and eat them at one
grainfield. Soon the grainfield looked as if it had been raided by
mountain animals. Passing through the grainfields, they busily picked
heads of grain, rubbed them with their hands and put them in their
mouths. After they passed through several grainfields quite a few acres
looked haggard. The Pharisees were watching over Jesus and his
disciples and said, "Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on
From the Pharisees' point of view, Jesus' disciples were unlawful in
three ways. First, they violated the Sabbath. On the Sabbath they
should not work. But they worked. The Pharisees thought the disciples
worked by picking heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands and
putting them in their mouths. They regarded this as work on the
Sabbath. Second, the disciples picked heads of grain that belonged to
others and devastated a few acres of grainfields. Third, they were
disciples of Jesus but their deed seemed to be that of mischievous
youngsters. Usually the Pharisees did not rebuke Jesus to his face. But
this time, pointing their fingers right at Jesus' face they rebuked
him: "Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath."
At that time, working on the Sabbath was a great crime. And to the
Jews, eating pork was also unlawful. Sometimes Jewish young people
wanted to eat pig meat. Later they made sausages with pig meat and ate
them behind their parents' backs. Not only Jesus disciples, but most
young people cannot endure suffering from hungry feelings. They want
to eat a lot and play a lot, enjoying many games.
Jesus knew his disciples had violated the Sabbath law at that time
of legalism. Jesus knew he had nothing to say to defend them. Jesus
should have said, "I'm sorry, you teachers, my disciples are young and
hungry and they made a mistake." But he did not apologize for his
disciples' mistake. Rather, he rebuked the Pharisees with the story
about David and the priest Ahimelech. One time David was running for
his life from King Saul. He had nothing in hand and he was very hungry.
So he went to the priest Ahimelech at Nob. Ahimelech sensed David was
in trouble when David asked for some food to eat. At the moment, he did
not have food in his kitchen. But he gave him consecrated food from the
altar which only the priest could eat. Ahimelech could not give him
ordinary food, because David seemed to have been in a hurry. So he gave
him consecrated bread. David also asked for a spear or a sword, saying,
"I haven t brought my sword or any other weapon, because the king's
business was urgent." Then the priest Ahimelech gave him Goliath's
sword, which David had taken from him during their duel, surrounded by
the army of Israel and the army of the Philistines (1Sa 21:2-9). At
that time, as a priest it was absolutely impossible to give consecrated
bread to an ordinary man. It was the traditional law of the
Israelites, and they thought of it as the way of keeping the law of
God. But Ahimelech violated the traditional law of the Israelites and
satisfied the hungry stomach of David, and for his safety he gave David
Goliath's sword. It was indeed a terrible violation. But the priest
Ahimelech was merciful rather than legalistic toward David. The priest
Ahimelech loved David and honored him as a servant of God and commander
in chief of the army of King Saul. If Ahimelech had thought he was
violating the law of God, he would not have done this. But he thought
that loving is better than demanding legality. So Ahimelech gave David
consecrated bread unlawfully and the sword which should have been kept
in the house of God.
With this story Jesus well defended his disciples by developing his
case logically. Jesus defended his disciples knowing the mind of God
deeply, that God desires mercy, not sacrifice. Let's read verse 7. "If
you had known what these words mean, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,'
you would not have condemned the innocent."
Here we learn from Jesus that we must defend our disciples with the
love of God. We must embrace their mistakes with the love of God. We
must understand their hungry situation and their difficulty in doing
homework. We must understand their family backgrounds, and sorrowful
situations. We must shepherd them, understanding the despaired hearts
of our disciples. There are two ways to look at people: One is to
legalistically condemn them; the other is to defend and embrace them
with the grace of God. In the world the most ugly people are those who
criticize others, looking at their mistakes and weaknesses with
legality. Beautiful people are those who understand broken and helpless
people and defend them with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
How funny it is to see that Jesus defended his disciples' act of
picking grain in others' grainfields, though the fields looked like a
harvest that had been poorly done. But Jesus quoted the Old Testament
and defended their mistakes so perfectly and sweetly. The world is full
of evils. And the world is full of evil people. We are living among
evil people. But we are chosen servants of God. We must defend and
embrace others with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, as Jesus did
for his disciples.
Second, Jesus helps a man with a shriveled hand (9-14). Look at verses
9-10. "Going on from that place Jesus went into their synagogue. A man
with a shriveled hand was there." Let's think for a minute about a man
with a shriveled hand. Hands are the symbol of hard work. God gave us
two hands so that we might work hard with two hands. When we go to
Russia, we see so many thorn bushes in the places where lawnmowers
should have been used. Russia is a big country with many people. So
they must work hard with their hands and make a beautiful country. But
it is indeed a wild country to our sight. On the other hand, Alaska was
Russian territory. But Secretary of State William H. Seward bought
Alaska from the Russian government for $7,200,000. The land price was
two cents for each acre. The Secretary of State was badly criticized
for buying such a wasteland. But the American people began to cultivate
the land. Now it has become a most beautiful land which is called an
animal's paradise. It was the same Russia. But the hands of Russians
and the hands of Americans were so different. So mainland Russia is
full of thorn bushes, but Alaska has become a most beautiful land and
an animal's paradise. With his hands a man can play piano beautifully,
even Beethoven's concerto number five. With hands one can play the
violin and flute. Our second-generation missionaries had an orchestra
performance in Korea and in Deutschland. I don t know if young people
today write love letters with their hands, but in the past with their
hands they wrote love letters, poems and many great works. Indeed,
hands are the symbols of hard work. Suppose God did not give us hands?
How ugly it would be to look at any person! He would be like a bus
without a steering wheel. At night this man with a shriveled hand
worked hard and won boxing matches and played basketball better than
anybody else--but only in his dream. During the daytime, with his
shriveled hand he was the object of ridicule. When a mischievous boy
hit him two times with a one-two punch, he only hit back one time.
Because of his shriveled hand, he did not have even a beautiful dream
The Pharisees knew that Jesus wanted to heal his shriveled hand. And
it was a Sabbath day. So, looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, they
asked him, "Is it lawful to heal this man on the Sabbath or not?" How
nice it would have been for the Pharisees, because they were called to
be the chosen servants of God, to ask Jesus, "Lord, please heal this
shriveled hand so that he can get married October 9." But they had no
love. Their hearts were dried up with legalism. So they wanted to use
this man with a shriveled hand as bait in accusing Jesus. Jesus was
sorry that the chosen servants of God were so cold-hearted and filled
with condemnation. In addition, they were political tools of the devil.
What did Jesus do for them? Jesus loved them and told them a beautiful
Look at verses 11-12. He said to them, "If any of you has a sheep
and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it
and lift it out? How much more valuable is a man than a sheep!
Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath." Jesus' statement
provoked the Pharisees, who were the rulers of the time. Jesus didn't
mind doing so, for he wanted to teach them the mercy of God. And
regardless of the risk, he wanted to heal the man's shriveled. Look at
verses 13. Then he said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." So he
stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the
other. What was the Pharisees response? Look at verse 14. "But the
Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus." Here we
learn that Jesus risked his life in order to restore the man's
shriveled hand. Shepherding is life-giving. Shepherding is loving
helpless sheep. What a beautiful thing to do. One Congressman became
the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee recently. But he had had an
illicit affair and nobody knew it. Recently his double life was
revealed. Even though he is a Congressman, he is nothing but a
double-minded man and an evil man. He should not be the Chairman of the
Judiciary Committee. We cannot say that his life and job are beautiful,
but very ugly, uglier than an ugly duckling. But Jesus restoring the
man with the shriveled hand before the eyes of the Pharisees, risking
his life, is indeed beautiful and life-giving. In this way Jesus showed
them God's heart--that he desires mercy, not sacrifice.
Third, God's chosen servant (15-21). In this part, Jesus explains more
in detail how God's chosen servant should take care of the flock of
God's sheep. Look at verses 18-19. "Here is my servant whom I have
chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations." God's chosen servant must
have a deep vine and branch love relationship with God. God's chosen
servant must have the Spirit of God in him. And God's chosen servant
must proclaim justice to the nations. Wow! The mission of God's chosen
servant is so beautiful and great. The mission of God's chosen servant
cannot be traded for anything. God's chosen servant's job cannot be
traded with that of a policeman or a talk show host or even with the
man in the oval office.
Verse 19 says, "He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his
voice in the streets." God's chosen servant is so gentle and quiet and
lovely that he never wants to quarrel. Look at verse 20. "A bruised
reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out..."
God's chosen servant has great compassion on the broken-hearted and
helpless and despaired and poor and sick, as if they were his own
children. God's chosen servant does everything with the grace of God so
that he may lead all men to justice, to victory and so that all people
of all nations may have hope in his name. In brief, God's chosen
servant must be like Jesus.
Today we studied mainly about Jesus' life-giving shepherding of the
helpless and brokenhearted. Most of us are judgmental like the
Pharisees. May God help us repent and learn Jesus' broken shepherd