by Dr. Samuel Lee   04/23/2000     0 reads



Matthew 12:1-21

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





Matthew 12:1-21

Key Verse: 12:7

  "If you had known what these words mean, `I desire mercy, not

sacrifice,'  you would not have condemned the innocent."

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

the Sabbath."

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

of marriage.

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