The Gospel of Matthew

This devotional is written by Fiona English. This year Fiona ran a 100 mile ultramarathon to see if it was possible or impossible. Turns out it was pretty hard. In her day job she is a theatremaker. 

Matthew 12:1-21

Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath

12 At that time Jesus went through the cornfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some ears of corn and eat them. 2 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, 'Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.'

3 He answered, 'Haven't you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread - which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. 5 Or haven't you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? 6 I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these words mean, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice,"[a] you would not have condemned the innocent. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.'

9 Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, 10 and a man with a shrivelled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, 'Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?'

11 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? 12 How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.'

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. 14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.

God's chosen servant 15 Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill. 16 He warned them not to tell others about him. 17 This was to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

18 '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. 19 He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets. 20 A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory. 21 In his name the nations will put their hope.'

Reflection

I love rules. My day job essentially involves helping creativity happen more freely through instituting and implementing rules. Outside of the working day I love spending time in the mountains. Here rules keep you alive and safe.

Life would be so much easier if it was black and white. Sabbath means rest therefore we do nothing right? This is the challenge the Pharisees present to Jesus in the passage today. 2020 has been a year when we as a nation have yearned for clarity and understanding. I've careered between screaming for more rules from our leaders to crying my eyes out about the rules that are put in place. In all this searching for definition and understanding I have repeatedly found myself forgetting to look to God.

"I tell you that something greater than the temple is here" says Jesus in verse 6. He challenges the Pharisees to take a step back and reset their hearts with God at the centre. Our justice loving, peace filled, healing God asks us to take a breath to "stretch out your hand" (verse 13) and sit in his presence. In this space, it's easy for the human need for black and white, for rules, for the anxiety that can come without these, to melt away. When we sit at Jesus' feet, we are able to find greater peace than anything this world can offer us.

Today, let us take time to pause at the feet of God. Stretch out your hands to God and let him renew you with his hope.

God I pray that today you would help us to set our anxieties aside and be restored by you. Re-centre us on you and bring us ever deeper in to your presence. Amen.

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