MERCY OR SACRIFICE? OVERCOMING OBSTACLES TO INTIMACY WITH JESUS
Richard Whitaker- Discipleship and Connections Pastor LHBC
At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” (ESV) Matthew 12:1-8
Intimacy with God and unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ starts with a posture of unconditional love. God loves us unconditionally and we choose to offer the same kind of love to everyone around us. This kind of brotherly and sisterly love stands in sharp contrast to the church folk that followed Jesus around from a distance.
While Jesus and his disciples are satisfying their very real need for food, the Pharisees judged their life giving actions as a violation of Jewish regulations concerning the Sabbath day. Instead of unconditional love, the Pharisees offered self righteous judgement, elevating their program in importance over people. Jesus responds by providing three counter arguments that expose their dangerous hypocrisy and help us overcome obstacles to life giving intimacy with Jesus.
Jesus calls to their attention the fact that David and his warriors did something similar to what Jesus and his disciples were doing by eating the raw grain. Exhausted due to his constant fleeing from King Saul, David asked Ahimelech the priest for food. God’s priest responded by offering David bread to satisfy their bodily hunger that had been consecrated (set aside) as an offering to God. David accepted, believing that saving his life and that of his friends was more important to God than observing a legal technicality. (1 Samuel 21:1-6)
Jesus reminds the Pharisees that the priests worked in the temple every Sabbath day, but they weren’t being charged with breaking the law. Jesus is pointing out that the heart behind how we keep the Sabbath is what God cares about. God gives us the Sabbath to rest from our labor and to renew our minds in worship. This doesn’t mean that we are to miss the opportunity to bless others on the Sabbath under the pretense of avoiding labor.
Jesus explains to the Pharisees that he, not them, is Lord of the Sabbath. Jesus has the authority from God to establish ways of observing the Sabbath that are based in an attitude of mercy and love for others, not legalistic tradition. In other words, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.” (ESV) Mark 2:27
Living together in unity under the authority of Christ finds life giving expression through people who pattern their lives after the Jesus-way instead of religious tradition, personal preferences, or legalistic requirements. Patterning after Jesus begins with a posture of love and mercy toward everyone, the same posture that Jesus modeled with his disciples and for the Pharisees who were bound up in regulations rather than regard for their fellow man.
When we approach everyone with an attitude of demonstrated love and mercy, inviting them into our family of faith with full acceptance, we’ll find ourselves removing obstacles for people who are far away from God. People who the Holy Spirit is leading to cross over from the kingdom of Satan to the Kingdom of God. Then, we will tangibly know by experience the true meaning and joy of Jesus’ words, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”
PRAYER FOR TODAY:
Dear Lord, thank you for removing the obstacles that prevented me from finding you. Please forgive me for ways that I make worship a part of my task list instead of a moment by moment posture of surrender to your authority. Lord, teach me how to abide in you so that your presence is more tangible in my life, keeping me from drifting into selfishness and becoming an obstacle to my brothers and sisters in Christ. Instead, make me an instrument of mercy to all people so that they can see your life in me. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
MEMORY VERSE OF THE WEEK:
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.