Mt 12 Plucking Grain on the Sabbath and Healing a Man with a Withered Hand
If the laws are not man-oriented, the spirit of the law will lose its potency. The Jewish Laws were not man-oriented, but rather, for the protection and maintenance of the laws themselves. They were enforced on the people. The laws are to be written in the heart, to be obeyed.
Jesus was arrested and condemned to death mainly for two reasons: (i) he was “breaking the Sabbath laws” and (ii) “claiming himself to be God”, i.e., blasphemy. In today’s gospel passage we find two incidents where the Jews could accuse Jesus of breaking the Sabbath Laws. When the disciples plucked heads of grain and ate them, the Pharisees accused Jesus saying: “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath”. They did not tell Jesus that look your disciples are hungry, give them something to eat, nor did they say that your disciples are filling their stomach with the heads of grain. Pharisees saw everything from the point of view of law. They had protected the laws amidst severe persecution, during the time of King Antiochus.
Jesus revealed to them of the need to feed the hungry irrespective of the strict laws. He said that when David and his companions were hungry, he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests. Jesus who has chosen the twelve disciples is greater than the temple. He taught them significance of mercy and compassion. He asks the Pharisees to learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice’. The disciples were not to be criticized for what they did. Jesus, who is the Lord of the Sabbath has every right to what is good for man. There should be no law which stops a person from doing good.
Jesus had been asked again and again regarding healings on the Sabbath: whether it is lawful or not? Jesus gives them a beautiful metaphor to explain the significance of doing good on a Sabbath. He said that it is important to save the sheep that has fallen into a pit on a Sabbath. It cannot be left in the pit throughout the day. If our sheep is important to us, every human being deserves much more respect and love from God. Jesus, who is God’s Son reveals that human being is of much more value than sheep. Saying this, he heals a man with a withered hand. The Pharisees could not digest the teaching of Jesus which promote breaking of the Sabbath by performing healings.
The Pharisees went out to conspire against him, how to destroy him. This conspiracy later led to the betrayal, arrest and consequent crucifixion of Jesus. He did good on the Sabbath and taught others to ignore the traditions which are not helpful to man.
Jesus reveals that he is greater than the temple, the place built to worship God or to offer sacrifice. He, as son of God, wants mercy instead of sacrifice. He is now going to be sacrificed to show mercy to humanity and to save it from eternal damnation. He is the author of life. He cannot let the people suffer in his presence. Sabbath is a day for man to take rest. But God does not need rest. He continues to work, and Jesus too does work on Sabbath. John 5: 17 says: “My Father is still working, and I also am working”. For this reason, the Jews were seeking even more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the Sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God”. These are the two reasons why Jesus was handed over to be crucified. It may be easier to keep the law and be pleasing to the authorities than to break the laws and be pleasing to God. Jesus tried to please his Father, not men. Let us be illumined by the wisdom of Christ to give priority to man than to the man-made laws. Amen!