Though God intended the Sabbath to be a day of rest, keeping the Sabbath became difficult work by New Testament times. The oral traditions of the Pharisees had become weighty burdens-burdens the Lord did not mean for His people to bear. In this passage, Jesus demonstrates mercy and the true intent of the Sabbath as He and His disciples meet physical needs in the face of strong opposition.
From its opening genealogy through its careful record of Old Testament prophecies fulfilled, Matthew's gospel forms a bridge between the Old Testament and the New Testament. In this in-depth study by Pastor Skip Heitzig we'll consider Jesus' ancestry, birth, public ministry, death, and resurrection, and we'll gain a clearer understanding of Jesus as both Messiah and King.
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Hebrew terms: שַׁבַּת־; shabbath - Sabbath עירוב ; eruv - domicile exchange; allows them to go farther on the Sabbath
Figures referenced: David Grey Barnhouse
Cross references: Genesis 2:2-3; Exodus 16:5; Deuteronomy 23:25; 1 Samuel 21; Proverbs 12:10; Isaiah 42:1-4; Daniel 9:24-26; Hosea 6:6; Matthew 10:5-6; Matthew 23:4; Romans 11:17-19; Romans 11:25
Topic: Jesus and the Sabbath
Keywords: Sabbath, healing, Pharisees
Turn in your Bible to the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 12. Father, we're hungry. We bow before You. We pause before You and we submit the next, well almost hour in Your presence -- the presence of Your word spoken, expounded, so that our knowledge of You might be expanded. And I pray, Lord, more than gaining knowledge of facts and figures, historical truths, and facts of language that we would know You, the author of the book, the one who superintended the Gospel of Matthew. And that we would see Jesus Christ as our King, our Lord, the one who reigns supreme in our lives. You are the Lord of all. You are the Lord of this fellowship. And I pray Lord that over our decisions and directions, plans that You would be in-charge of every single one. We commit. We submit to You, in Jesus' name. Amen.
Down in South America, in between the countries of Argentina and Chile, there's an impressive statue that was placed there years ago called Christ of the Andes. It's on the border. And when it was erected, it was placed there as a symbol of piece and friendship between those two nations, that as long as Christ was standing there, there would be an understanding of piece, security, love, of one country toward the other.
However, as soon as the statue was erected, there was a problem. There was an anxiety, a beef that was simmering among both peoples. It really started in Chile as the Chileans recognized that the back of Christ was facing their country, while the front of Jesus, with his arm outstretched in site, was facing Argentina. So the Chileans got up in arms, very angry about it, very vociferous about it. And as the argument was not only brewing but escalating, a brilliant newspaper journalist had a great solution.
He decided to write in the editorial column, his editorial column, the reason for the placement of the statue. The journalist was Chilean and what he wrote both made the people laugh and made them at ease. He said, "Well, it's placed that way because the people of Argentina need more looking after by Jesus than the people of Chile." So, everybody sighed -- a sigh of relief and the argument was quelled.
Interesting that people would dispute about Jesus, in this case only a statue. In the actual case, there were many disputes over the person of Jesus Christ. Fears, opinions, anger and love, all of those emotions were simmering and escalating while Jesus was on the earth during his ministry. Some were wondering, "Could this be the Messiah?" While the enemies sensing that the rope of control was slipping out of their hands, wanted to clamp down upon the people and upon their excitement over Jesus, because they realized so many are following him, running after him, amazed at him. He's a miracle worker. His messages are amazingly clear, intense, challenging.
They'd never heard authority like this ever before. They'd never heard teaching and preaching like this ever before. And so Jesus was garnering the crowds. Meanwhile, the religious leaders were becoming enemies because that rope was slipping from their hands. They weren't in the spotlight anymore. So they are looking for ways, means and reasons to accuse Jesus.
In Chapter 12, all of the controversy is centered around one issue -- the keeping of the seventh day of the week, what we call Saturday, what Jews called the Sabbath, the Shabbat -- all centered around the keeping or in their view, the breaking of the Sabbath. And so we read in Verse 1, "At that time, Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath and his disciples were hungry and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat." It sounds like a lot of fun -- hanging out with Jesus, going through the fields, finding food on the stem, taking it off, eating it, fellowshipping, talking sounds awesome.
And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, "Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath." First off, my question would be, what are the Pharisees doing in the grain fields on the Sabbath to begin with? It just strikes me as odd -- that Jesus and his disciples would be there. That, I understand. That was reserved for the poor. Anybody could go into the fields and glean, but why the Pharisees? What, were they following them around? Were they hiding behind the stalks of grain, and as soon as the disciple would pluck it, they lift their little heads up and go, "I saw that!"? It seems like they were, but it was a question I've always had and then one of the commentaries I've ever read addressed it.
Okay, what's going on? What's going on is what the disciples were doing was permitted and it was permitted according to Jewish law. That is biblical Jewish law. And you have to understand there was a difference between biblical Jewish law and what became known as the oral law, the traditional law, added rules and regulations not specified in scripture, but added by the experts later on.
So in Deuteronomy 23, "As an act of mercy, God caring for the poor," and I love how the laws of God always keep the underprivileged and the poor in mind, so that they would always be taken care of. If you were poor, you were allowed to walk through any of your neighbor's fields at any time and if there was -- well, if there were grapes in the vineyard you could pluck the grapes. If there was grain standing on the stalk, you could pluck the grain and you could eat it. It was permissible. What was not permissible is you couldn't take a sickle, a knife. You couldn't thresh. You couldn't like take a big basket and load it down with grapes and load it down with grain because, "I'm hungry." No, because obviously you're not just eating. You're storing it up.
So it wasn't permitted to harvest, but it was permitted to take and eat, and you could even do it on the Sabbath day. It wasn't a big deal. If you're not far from your house, you can just go out into the fields and you can take the grain and you can eat it.
Now for the pharisees, this would have been fine any other day. The fact that it was the Sabbath day was a problem, not because of biblical law but because of oral law, traditional law, added rules and regulations. According to the Mishnah, and they have several chapters on keeping the Sabbath. There were 39 outlined actions that were not permissible to do on the Sabbath day, that's what they wrote, that's not what God wrote.
God just said, "Don't do ordinary work on the Sabbath day." Now, most people can figure that out. It's not brain science. But, these guys decided, "No, no, no. We have to tell people what that means. They can't figure it out on their own. We need to figure it out for them." So technically, according to Jewish oral law, the disciples had broken four laws written about in the Mishnah. Number one, they were ripping, that's work. Number two, they were threshing. Number three, they were winnowing and number four, all of that constituted the preparation of a meal. Those four activities were prohibited on the Sabbath day.
Here's what they meant: As soon as you pluck some grain to them, that's reaping.
As soon as you rub it in your hands, you're threshing. As soon as you go -- so that the chaff blows away, now you're winnowing. And because you would eat that, you must have been preparing a meal. All of that constituted the preparation of a meal. So they said, "It's not lawful, not according to God's law," according to their law. They had added. They had made the Sabbath. Now, just listen to how oxymoronic this sounds. They made the Sabbath, the day of rest, hard work to keep. It was hard to keep the Sabbath. You would remember all those things and check yourself and worry about this and worry about that. So they bring it up, "Why are your disciples doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath day?"
But he said to them, "Have you not read?" I love this. I love this. In a comeback, underscored with sarcasm and bite to get their attention, this really would get their attention. It was in the front(ph) to a Pharisee and a scribe who were scholars of the law to say to them, "Don't you guys ever read the book? Don't you ever read your Bibles? You're the experts on the Bible, don't you ever read them? Have you never read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him, how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who are with him but only for the priest?"
Nine different verses in the Gospels record Jesus asking this question to the legal experts, the religious leaders, "Don't you guys ever read your Bibles?" Now he is referring back to an incident that you will remember. It's in 1 Samuel Chapter 21 and certainly they would remember. When David, in fleeing from Saul, had to go to a place called Nob, not Nab Hill, Nob around Jerusalem where Ahimelech, the priest, was hanging out. And in those days as in all days of Judaism when there was a temple or a tabernacle, in this case the tabernacle, on every Sabbath day, the bread that was in the holy place. Do you remember what it was called? Showbread, The Table of Showbread, 12 loaves that were of wheat and flour that were taken through a sieve and sifted no less than 11 times, it was carefully prescribed bread.
They were baked every Sabbath and replaced, so that the old bread was eaten by only the priest. It was holy consecrated bread. The new bread was put in its place, et cetera. That happened every single week. This happened to be, we figure, if you go back and look the Sabbath day, because David goes to Ahimelech, fleeing from King Saul in hiding and Ahimelech sees him and says, "What are you doing here?" He got really afraid, why is David here. And David said, "Well, I'm a secret agent man. I'm on a secret mission from Saul. I can't really tell you what it is. You don't want me to tell you what it is." So David isn't being honest. He comes up with a story. But he says, "My men and I are hungry. I need five loaves of bread." And the priest says, "We don't have like regular bread. We only have this holy bread." And it's only lawful for the priest.
David says, "Well, we're hungry and we need it." And the priest agreed with David. He said, "Well, if you and your men have kept yourselves from women, at least," that's the very least, "Since this bread has been baked and dedicated but it hasn't been placed yet, we'll give it to you." So they did that. They took it and they ate it and that's the incident that he is referring to. "Have you never read that? How David ate the showbread which is not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him?" That is David's men, his soldiers also running from Saul, but only for the priest.
Now, there's a point to be made and I believe Jesus is making it. In Israel's history, the king at this point was Saul, but the rightful king of Israel was David because by now, in 1 Samuel 21, "David has already been anointed as the king in Bethlehem as the Prophet Samuel came and a cruse of oil was extended and David was anointed as the next king." However, at this point, David is not enjoying his rightful place as the King of Israel. He has been rejected nationally with the government of King Saul.
So David is in exile, hiding. It's not David's fault that he's in exile. It's not David's fault that he is physically deprived and needs to eat bread. It's Saul's fault. David has been rejected. If David would have his rightful place as the King of Israel, none of this would've happened. The showbread incident wouldn't have even been a historical record.
Here's the analogy: Jesus Christ also was the rightful King of Israel. He was nationally rejected by the Jewish leaders. If he could've taken his rightful place as king, if they would've allowed that, which they didn't, then Jesus nor his disciples would have to be reduced to being the poorest of the poor going through the fields on the Sabbath or any other day. But because of the rejection, like that of David, they find themselves in this position. So Jesus brings that up to draw that analogy.
Now, I'm going to make a confession to you. The first time I read this, and the first book that I read was the Gospel of Matthew. I told you. When I was first a brand new believer, I read the Gospel of Matthew. It's the first book in the New Testament. I had a New Testament, so I'm reading the book. When I got to this passage, I put my Bible down. I got so excited and I went with a sigh of relief, "Oh, Lord. Thank you."
Here's why: For years, I had been carrying around a load of guilt because of my upbringing. I was raised a Catholic in Catholic schools. And years before in a Catholic school, I didn't know the Bible, but I did know that during Lent, when there was mass said everyday at our Catholic school in the auditorium that the priest would keep the sacred bread, the host, and they had it in a plastic bag. And one day during Lent, I didn't bring my lunch, a true story.
I couldn't really call my parents. They weren't home to get the call. They wouldn't have dropped the lunch off and I don't think anyway. It was too far away. None of my friends were willing to share their lunch. But I remember that there was bread, which if you had the same background that I had, you know it's like, "Oh man, that is so bad. You will go to hell for that."
So at lunchtime, I snuck it and I grab like several handfuls of the host and that was my lunch. I felt really bad about that for a long time. I could not get over that. At age 18, I gave my life to Christ. During that next month, reading the Gospel of Matthew, I came to this passage and I said, "No, David did it too? Awesome," especially that Jesus endorsed what David did and said, "You know, God really wasn't bummed out of David because meeting the physical need was more important in God's thinking than keeping a ritual even for the priest in Ahimelech, the priest signed off on it."
So I read this. I went back and read 1 Samuel and I just thought, "Amazing, tailor-made for my experience," so true confessions. Jesus continues, "Or have you not read in the law?" This is the Law of Moses. Now, the Pentateuch, the first five books in your Old Testament. "Have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath, the priest in the temple profane the Sabbath and are blameless? Yes, and I say to you that in this place, there is one greater than the temple."
In Israel, in general, every Saturday, actually Friday night at sundown all through Saturday is Shabbat, Sabbath. It's still kept. It's still observed. I have a tour guide who is an Orthodox Jew. He's been a good friend for years. He has guided many of our tours, but he will not work on the Sabbath. He'll be in his hotel room or he will be at home. You try to get a hold of him on the phone, he won't answer the phone. You can email him. He won't answer his emails. He won't drive his car because if you drive a car, you're kindling a fire on the Sabbath. The spark is sent to the head. The cylinder fire is your -- he can't do it. In the temple, on the Sabbath, the priest had to work.
There's the point Jesus is making. You have the Sabbath off, you do no work. It's illegal according to the Law of Moses for people to do ordinary work, yet, the priest need to work. So there in the temple, on Shabbat, they have to light a fire. They have to lift an animal. They have to kill an animal, prepare the animal for sacrifice and sacrifice the animal, et cetera, et cetera. On Sabbath, they would do this everyday in the temple. On the Sabbath, they did double the work. All of the sacrifices were times two.
So, if anybody else in Israel tried to lift an animal or light a fire or prepare an animal for sacrifice or a meal, it'd be constituted as unlawful -- illegal profaning the Sabbath, yet Jesus says, "Because they're doing this for the worship of God which supersedes the commandment not to work, they're blameless. So you're getting all bend out of shape that my disciples are doing what you say in your oral law is wrong and illegal. Go back and read your Bibles. Read the Sabbath laws -- how the priests in the temple have to work, therefore, they would be profaning the Sabbath by doing that work on the Sabbath Day."
What I love about Jesus is he goes back to the book. He didn't say, "Well, you know my opinion is..." or, "I've always thought of God as..." He goes, "This is what the books says. This is what the Bible says." Now, the Pharisees knew the Bible. They studied the book. You know, it's possible to read the Bible and yet misunderstand the intention of it? They misread the heart, the intention of the law and the heart of God. It's possible to read the Bible with a blind eye, with a presupposition. A lot of people approach the Bible, looking for texts to support their position. That's called bringing your theology to the Bible. That's different than receiving your theology from the Bible.
One is exegesis, one is eisegesis. Really, it has nothing to do with the person of Jesus. Exegesis means, "I am taking what the Bible says revealed in the text, out of the text, that forms what I believe." Eisegesis is, "This is what I believe and I'm going to find the scriptural text to prove what I believe." And they look for a proof text, that's eisegesis, that's reading something into the text. That's what they had been doing by adding to the Bible all of these rules and regulations in the oral laws.
So Jesus nailed them. "You guys should go back and read your Bible. Read what David did and read what the law said. Yet I say to you," Verse 6, "That in this place there is one greater than the temple." "But if you had known what this means," now according to Prophet Hosea Chapter 6 Verse 6, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice. You would not have condemned the guiltless, for the Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath". That's quite a statement. Do you know what that statement means?
Here is Jesus interpreting the Sabbath based upon his rendering of the Old Testament and in effect saying, "I'm the only one worthy of doing that since I invented it. I am the Lord of the Sabbath, therefore, since it's my invention because I am deity, I am Lord, I am God, the way I make application regarding the Sabbath is really the only right way to look at it." It's an unmistakable claim to deity. Jesus is saying, "My authority is greater than the Sabbath's authority over the people of Israel." Wow! The Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath.
Now, when he had departed from there, he went into their synagogue. And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand and they asked him saying, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, that they might accuse him?" I have an interesting question to ask. The Pharisees had studied Jesus by now long enough. They knew his style. They knew his habits. They knew that he was an observant Jew that he went to church or he went to synagogue on Shabbat, on Sabbath. Wherever he's at, there's a synagogue. He'll be there with God's people.
They also knew that Jesus was restless in the face of human suffering. Do you think that these Pharisees knew that in the synagogue that day, there was that man? Here's the question: Could it be that they actually planted him there? Let's get this guy in the synagogue and watch with Jesus. I bet Jesus is going to heal him. He can't stand it. When in the presence of God, there is human suffering. He is going to do something about it. Mark our words. It could be that they planted him, simply in observing the way he ministered around Galilee, but he was there. And it says he had a withered hand.
The word withered is "xiros" in Greek. We get our word xiros or like we have xeriscaping. Xiros means dry -- dry landscape, xeriscaping. The word dry or xiros in Greek, speaks in anatomical fashion. When a limb or a portion of the human body is drained of its fluids, it's sapped (ph)of its strength, drained of its fluid. It's dried up. It's shriveled up. Withered is the word that is used here in English.
And so they asked him a question, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?" Let's just stop and analyze that question. What a stupid question, really. To me, it's just stupid. I can't think of a better term. I'm being nice actually in saying that word. It's lame. What kind of question is that? You mean it's like not lawful to heal on the Sabbath? Actually in their opinion, in their mind, there were occasions when it was illegal to heal on the Sabbath. Okay, wait. When was the last time any of these nincompoops healed anybody on the Sabbath or any other day, right, ever? It hadn't happened.
There was provision in the law for it, but they never did it. They had no power. But here they are just being very academic and very scholarly and not like dealing with the obvious fact. This dude like heals people. Let's figure out why. It's unlawful to heal on the Sabbath. Again, according to their oral law, they said that you could only give medical attention to a person on Shabbat, on the Sabbath, if their life was in danger. You couldn't actually make it better. You couldn't put a poultice on a sore. Only if the person was going to die, could you stop the death. But you could not make anyone better on the Sabbath that was their belief system.
So they asked him the question and then he said to them, "What man is there among you who has one sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? How much more value then is a man than a sheep?" Therefore, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath. And then he said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretches it out and was restored as whole as the other.
To lift a sheep out of a pit was to bear a burden on the Sabbath. You break the law. However, they got out of it by saying, "Yes, but certain acts of mercy for the purpose of keeping ones life intact -- this is my life sustenance, the sheep as an active mercy -- I'm going to lift it out. I don't want to see that poor animal suffer." Fair enough. They had their oral law but they had their oral caveat to get out of their oral law. But Jesus makes a valid point. You call that an act of mercy but here's a man who is suffering. Which is more valuable, a sheep or a man?
Now, you have to answer that question in your own mind because we live in a day and age. When if you ask certain people, they would say, "Well actually, sheep are people too, you know. And they have rights -- sheep rights, and they'll try to pull the wool over your eyes, seriously." And they'll be talking about animal rights and the soul of animals and the commercials on television with, "Look at those dogs and the music playing -- behind them."
Fair enough. I'm not advocating cruelty to animals. In fact, the Book of Proverb says, "A righteous man will treat his animal kindly." But if you're going to treat animals kindly and have commercials about suffering little puppies, what about humans?
I was in New York City awhile back and there were protesters, picketers in front of one of the buildings that they thought perfume building saying that they are cruel to animals by their testing and there were all of these up in arms picketers. It's like this is the cool new cause to have a signed form. Most of them didn't spell it right but they were picketing back and forth. So I watched it and I was going to go on. I just thought, "Wait a minute. Let me just ask them a question."
So I walked up and I asked a simple question. I said, "What do you believe -- what is your stance on the abortion of babies in the womb?" And after all the rigmarole about their cause they said, "Look, it's a woman's right to choose". I just thought, "Okay, it's all I wanted to know." Interesting that you would say the rights of these animals are far more important than the right of an unborn human being, who has no ability to help himself or herself in the womb. That's out of whack.
So Jesus asked them, "You answer this: Which is more valuable, a sheep or a man?" Now, they would have known, "Well, let me think about that." They would say, "Of course a human being made in the image of God, unique among all creation of all creatures on the earth. Mankind is more valuable than any animal." They would believe that. Of how much more valuable as a man than a sheep, therefore, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath. And then he said to the man, "Stretch out your hand."
Okay, picture yourself. You're sitting there in the synagogue, there's a man like this: His hand is withered. And Jesus says, publicly turns to him, "Hey you, stretch that hand out." You would immediately think, "How cruel." Don't you think that if he could stretch his hand out, he would've done it long ago and here you are saying to a man who can't stretch out his hand? "Hey dude, stretch your hand out." That's so heartless -- to ask a man to do the impossible, but we keep breathing. He stretched it out. How could he stretch it out?
Here's how: With God's commandment comes God's enablement. If God gives you a command, He'll give you the power to do it. So if he gives you a command to do something, then you can ask, "I don't know if I can do this. It's just impossible." You can't go there. He wouldn't give you a command unless He gives you the power to carry out the command. That's utterly impossible for a man to do that. But with the command came the infused power, the enablement. With the commandment comes the enablement.
I wonder if some here tonight have thought, "My life may never really amount too much. Oh, I live and oh, maybe have a family and make a little dent here or there." But what if God were to say to you, "I'm going to use your life to radically change the world -- a nation, a people group, a city."? You might immediately think, "Oh, not me. Impossible." You can't go there. If He calls you, if He commands you, you go, "Okay, let's go for it." So he gave a command. He gave the enablement and it was restored as whole as the other. Then the first, he went out and plotted against him how they might destroy him.
Consider for a moment the importance of the Jewish Sabbath, 90 times as mentioned in the Old Testament, fewer times in the New -- 55 times as mentioned in the New Testament. The word Sabbath, in Hebrew Shabbat, means simply to stop, to seize, to desist, to end a thing, to end an activity. So the Sabbath Day is the end of the week, the week has ended. Where does the Sabbath come from? Not from the law. It comes from creation.
In Genesis 2 it says, "The God created the heavens and the earth and on the seventh day God finished the work which He did and He rested on the seventh day. And so God blessed and sanctified the seventh day. So it predates the law. It goes all the way back to creation. The six and one pattern comes from God himself. He rested, not because he was tired, just because he was done. The Sabbath Day gets resurrected as a ritual in the Law of Moses under the economy of the Old Covenant, the Old Commandments, in the Book of Exodus around I think Chapter 16, I believe. "They're out in the wilderness and manna falls from heaven, this bread from heaven." We've told what it's like. It's like a donut. It's Krispy Kreme doughnuts in small fashion. It tasted, from what I can read, amazing like hot now, fresh out of the oven Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Coriander seed mixed with honey, wow! That's just my idea. "Let me look in the concordance. Krispy Kreme -- maybe you used a different version or translation."
For six days, manna was on the ground. It did not fall on the seventh day. God said, "Pick up enough on the sixth day to last you for the seventh day." And so that six in one pattern was established and then God said when He gave the Ten Commandments to keep the Sabbath holy and it was to be regarded by the people of Israel.
When we come to the New Testament, and I've taught on the Sabbath before so I'm not going to go hold exposé on the Sabbath in a Christian relationship to it. But by the New Testament, the Sabbath had been sabotaged. It had been added to. It had been wrangled and twisted by people. It didn't even mean the same thing. So as I mentioned, it was like much easier to work seven days a week than to keep the Sabbath one day a week. You need like a vacation after the Sabbath. They just rest from it.
In Matthew 23, Jesus said concerning the Pharisees, "They bind heavy burdens hard to bare and lay them on men's shoulders," speaking of the regulations of ceremonial law. So they twisted it to mean something it never really even meant. But they always figured out ways to get out of it. And let me tell you of one of them, actually something that happens today still.
Okay, in Jewish law on the Sabbath, you can go a Sabbath day's journey. That's about three quarters of a mile. That's about 3100 steps or about 3000 feet. You can't walk anymore than that. That's your domicile. That's your area. That's you digs. That's where you hang out. You can't go any further away from your home than that 3000 feet.
However, if you were to carry food previously prepared, not on the Sabbath, previously prepared 3000 feet away from your home, now you have made that food an extension of your home which allows you to walk another 3000 feet. See how this is going? See where this is going? So Jewish communities placed a cable around their cities referred to as "eruv" in Hebrew. It's the domicile exchange. I'm making this whole city where I live. This is my home. These are my digs.
So in Jerusalem, there's a cable and it's monitored and around Jewish cities, it goes around the perimeter of the city, it's the eruv. It allows them on the Sabbath to go further than the designated footage and to ramble around because, "I'm still at home. I'm still at home. Can you hear me now? Can you hear me? I'm still at home." So it's their way of adding to the regulations. So Jesus, you can see where he is coming from. He is not down on Sabbath law. He is not down on the Law of Moses. He didn't come to destroy the law but to fulfill it. He's down on their wrangling of it. The Pharisees went out and plotted against him how they might destroy him. But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew from there.
Okay. So I have a question from the web and we'll throw it up and I think we just answered it. But do the Jews today believe this kind of Sabbath interpretation? And it was up here. I'm sorry I waited so long. I did recognize it. Let me just give a little disclaimer.
A couple weeks ago, I said to Justin, "Hey, I saw couple of questions and how come you didn't throw them up?" "Well, because you kept talking and you answered the questions so we just took them off." So I think I already answered the questions, some today, not all. There are different classifications of Judaistic Jews. Some are reformed. Some are conservative. Some are Orthodox. Some are ultra Orthodox. If you lived in Jerusalem, there's a neighborhood called Mea Shearim. If you come with us to Jerusalem and we go by it, let me point it out to you. We'll probably go by it.
In Mea Shearim, it's the ultra Orthodox -- black hats, black coats, black suits, kind of grim faces. And if you drove your car through their neighborhood on the Sabbath, they would pick up stones and stone you in the car. They throw rocks to the car and try to stone the car because you've broken the Sabbath law and you've kindled the fire on the Sabbath Day. Not all but there are some pockets(ph) who believe very strict interpretations as such.
So back to our text. When Jesus knew it, he withdrew from there and great multitudes followed him and he healed them all. Now, they wanted to destroy Jesus. Do they want to destroy Jesus because of what he said about the Sabbath? No, I don't think so, and that would make him mad but not enough to kill a person. The reason they wanted to destroy him, they want to kill him and they will succeed in their view is because of his claims. He claimed to be the Messiah. He claimed to be the Lord of the Sabbath. He claimed to be greater than the temple. All of those claims, they knew unmistakably what this man is doing. He is claiming himself to be, not only Messiah, but not the Messiah like we thought he would come, but this grand representative of God like he's the Lord himself, that's why.
Now it says, "Jesus knew it and he withdrew from there and great multitudes followed him and he healed them all." Why did Jesus withdraw himself? I mean he has all the power, right? If he has all the power and he can heal people, certainly he could like go like this and put up a force field like a shield. It's going to keep people away like a Star Wars episode. Or why not just kind of look at them and like hold up a pen or something and of course they didn't have pens back there and erase their memories like another movie like, "I don't even remember what happened. Hi. How are you?"
He had all of this power but he did what you and I would do if our life was in danger. He withdrew himself. He was very practical. It's because though Jesus had all power, he never misused his power for personal use or protection. It was an inordinate use of power. So he withdrew himself. Now, he was able to heal people. He was able to make predictions, et cetera, know all things. He knew that they were doing this, and it says that the scripture might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the Prophet saying, "Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved in whom my soul is well pleased, I will put my spirit upon him and he will declare justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel nor cry out, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed, he will not break and smoking flax, he will not quench. Until he sends forth justice to victory and in his name, the Gentiles will trust."
According to Donald Grey Barnhouse, who was a pastor and a biblical commentator, at this point in Jesus' ministry, God's calendar for the nation of Israel stopped. And in effect, God is doing what he predicted and the prophets turning toward, not the house of Israel like he sent the disciples around the Sea of Galilee. "Don't go to any of the houses of the Gentiles," He said, "Only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel," remember that?
Now, the calendar has stopped and God is turning toward the Gentiles and will do a work toward the rest of the world, not just Jewish people, but the rest of the world until He is done doing that work with the Gentiles and concentrate back on the nation. So let me give you a scripture to throw in with that, Romans 11 Verse 25, I believe, "Blindness in part has happened unto Israel until the full number of the Gentiles be come in."
The calendar is on hold. God is turning toward doing a work. We're Gentiles most of us. I'm definitely really Gentile, but I love the Jewish people. I, you, we have been grafted in. We're the wild olive branch Paul spoke about in the Book of Romans. We've been grafted in to the original olive branch -- the Jewish nation. By God's grace, we've been grafted in and God is doing a work principally around the world with Gentiles. But there's coming a day when God says, "I'm done there. Now, I'm going to turn my attention back to the nation of Israel." That is called on the prophetic calendar, Daniel's Seventy Weeks, Daniel Chapter 9 Verse 24, 25, 26, the 70 weeks of Daniel. There is still one of those periods of times, 70-year period, the 70th week, yet unfulfilled.
When will that be fulfilled? The tribulation period. The tribulation is a seven-year period divided into two segments. The first part is relatively mild and the last part is like hell on Earth -- all of God's fury and judgments are poured in one fell swoop upon the Earth, judgment after judgment until it's virtually almost destroyed and then Jesus comes back. That 70th week of Daniel is when representatives from all of the 12 tribes of Israel -- a 144,000 of them, are saved and become a catalyst toward other Gentiles in the world at that time to be saved.
I believe that at the rapture of the church, this is my belief, that's when the fullness of the Gentiles be come in -- God takes the church off the Earth. The 70th week of Daniel begins, the tribulation period kicks off, 144,000 Jews radically saved, radically evangelized. I wrote about it on the Book of Revelation to outline what the Book of Revelation says. But at this point, this is when the pause happens and according to the prophets.
Notice even in this text, Gentiles is mentioned twice. He is quoting Isaiah 42, one of the four classic servant passages of Isaiah. It was always God's plan to not just select a chosen people called Jews but to reach the whole world. Did you know that? It was always God's plan. You can go all the way back to Genesis and God said to Abraham, "In you, all the families of the Earth will be blessed, all of them." My family has been blessed. Your family has been blessed because of what Abraham and his lineage, principally Jesus Christ who came from the loins of Abraham, what he did.
So we're recipients of it and that was always on the prophetic calendar and this is the time when all of those pauses happen and there's that change of direction.
Now, I'm running out of time but if you look in the text that is quoted in Isaiah 42 Verses 18 to 21, notice it says, "I will put my spirit upon him." Three times, the prophet Isaiah said the Messiah. This is Isaiah 11, 42 and Isaiah 61. All three passages speak about the spirit of God empowering the Messiah, the anointed one. In Isaiah 11, we're told, "A rod will come out of the stem of Jesse. A branch will come from his roots and the spirit of the Lord will rest upon him -- The spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of might and counsel, the spirit of the fear of the Lord and several derivations of that. The Holy Spirit will empower him."
So, Matthew is saying, "This is being fulfilled. The spirit of God has enabled Jesus to do these miraculous things as predicted by the prophets." But notice this, "He will not quarrel nor cry out." That means he won't scream excitedly or cry out in the streets. "A bruised reed, he will not break. A smoking flax, he will not quench until he sends forth justice to victory and in his name, the Gentiles will trust." This was against what they expected. They expected the Messiah to make a hoopla. The Messiah is going to impose his government radically, forcefully overturn the government, set up his kingdom by force, make people worship God, not according to the prophets.
He's going to come meek, mild and gentle. "A bruised reed, he will not break," what does that mean? Everybody knows what a reed is. You go down to the river and you have those little tiny shafts, those little reeds that grow in those days by the Jordan River where John the Baptizer was, little, tiny, hollow shafts that were plucked up and sometimes shepherd would even put holes in them and make little tiny flutes out of them. You've got to be really careful because if you just bruise it and got crease in it, it's shut. But there are thousands of them, so you can keep going. The point is the Messiah won't come in crashing, forcing, demanding. They'll come in quiet, meek, mild, being gentle with bruised broken people. And people whose flame is about to go out, he'll fan it in the flame. Look at the disciples -- weak people, average normal people like you and I, and he used them and he restored them.
Then one was brought to him who was -- now listen to this condition, demon-possessed, blind and mute. You can't get really any worse than that. To be blind and mute and demon possessed and the worse of course is being demon-possessed. It would seem since demonization is mentioned first that that is what caused the blindness and the deafness perhaps. And he healed him so that the blind and the mute man both spoke and saw. And all the multitudes were amazed and they said, "Could this be the son of David?" And that was the intended response. This is why Jesus did what he did to get this response. He wanted all of Israel to say, "This is the son of David," that's a Messianic term. "Here's our Messiah. This is the one predicted by Jeremiah and Isaiah and Amos and Hosea. Here he is. "Could this be the son of David? Is this is the one from the royal house of David?"
Now when the Pharisees heard it -- see they heard the response of the people. Remember, the rope is slipping out of their hands. When the Pharisees heard what they said, "This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of demons." But Jesus knowing their thoughts, he knew their thoughts and said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan cast out Satan, he's divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? If I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your son's cast them out, therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you or how can you enter a strong men's house and plunder his goods unless he first binds the strong men and then he will plunder his house. He who is not with me is against me and he who does not gather with me scatters abroad."
This is all Jesus' response to their reaction. "Therefore I say to you every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven by men. But the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the son of man, it will be forgiven him, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him either in this age or in the age to come."
I love to tell you what the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is but the time is up. So we're going to have to wait for the explanation next week to see Jesus' response to their reaction. It's a very, very important section of scripture. And it might not be what you think it means as we look at it but we have to wait and look at it next week. Now, I've got to tell you, my intention is always greater than my delivery. I always anticipate. I said this today, "I'm going to make it through all of Chapter 12." I'll be able to pace myself. I'll be able to do it. But it's taking longer than I anticipated to get through Matthew. I hope you don't mind because I want to go deep and have you understand the history and the background and the language and really probe deep enough. So, when some of these scenes are repeated in Mark and Luke, then we can move quickly through them because they've already been covered. So enough said let's pray.
Father, what shall we say to these things? That's the question Paul asked. Swift came his answer, "If God before us, who can be against us?" Lord, you're for us, not breaking a bruised reed, not putting out a smoking flax. The gentleness, the sweetness, the kindness of Jesus our Messiah, our Lord and Savior, toward those who are suffering, those who are blind, those who are oppressed by evil spirits, those who were incapable of stretching out a hand or an arm. You cared more about the need of the individual than the ceremonies that spoke about how to meet or not meet the needs of an individual. You cared about people. You came for people. No wonder we read the common people heard him gladly.
We're so refreshed to read these events and these words by Jesus. How we love it when he stands up to these religious academics and he pulls for the common person, the oppressed people -- some that were oppressed by these religious leaders. How we love our Jesus and how our faith is increased because faith comes by hearing and hearing by your word.
Now, Father, I pray the rest of this week that you would bless your people, that you would strengthen them with all might in the inner men. I pray that they would go from strength to strength, being victorious and taking Your calling of them and your promise to them as the enablement as impossible as it might seem to them, as impossible as their life might be to them right now that nothing is impossible with you.
So if you say, "Stretch out your hand or obey me in this area or go to that city or that culture or that ministry that we would just marvel that it's you who's given us the power." Do your work. You love to do it, it seems, through the weak and the imperfect. If that's true then we're your men, we're your people. In Jesus' name, Amen.