Read Matt 12:1–21
Mat 12:7-8 And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. (8) For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”
Mat 12:11-12 He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? (12) Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
Mat 12:18 “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount he said he come to do away with the Law but to fulfill it. He then makes the Law seem impossible to do as he explains the Law such as, even if you look lustfully upon someone you have committed adultery or being angry is murder.
But now it seems like Jesus is going in the opposite direction with the Sabbath. He seems to be making it easier than the way it had been taught or was being taught, particularly by the Pharisees. On the one hand, the Pharisees and those before them seemed to have placed restrictions on the Sabbath that God never gave. It became burdensome. Jesus here is showing the true meaning of the Sabbath.
But Jesus also goes above the Sabbath as well. He was teaching that the Sabbath was for man and not man for the Sabbath. It was day of mercy worked into Creation. It was a day to cease from our works and look to see how we may serve our neighbor with good. As we read what Jesus said, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” and “it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” we should remember that while the Sabbath no longer applies to us under the New Covenant, it doesn’t apply because Jesus has become our Sabbath. We have rested from all our works knowing we are pleasing to God because of our faith in Jesus.
As we go about our day, as we have opportunity to do good, let us be about doing good knowing we are free to do so. Whenever we may think we have to obey a law of God yet an opportunity is there to do good to someone else, we should take the opportunity to do good for our neighbor. God does not need our sacrifices but our neighbor does.
And on top of that, we are children of God. Jesus has told us to be holy as our Father in heaven in holy and to be merciful as our Father in heaven has been merciful. In other words, we have been saved by and in mercy so we may be like our Father to others. Being merciful to others is more important to God than our making sacrifices to him.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for being merciful to us by sacrificing your son Jesus Christ so we may enter into his rest. Give us your Holy Spirit that we may be merciful to our fellow man even as you have been merciful to us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.