So many rules . . .

Pray | Father, help me to know your law, understand the intent, and respond well.

As we consider the verses below, we see the disciples picking wheat on the Sabbath because they’re hungry. The Pharisees see this and pounce, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath!” It’s almost as if they’re following Jesus around just to watch, judge, and challenge him.

The Pharisees were highly concerned about following the law – right down to the letter – as well as every other letter they had added. For perspective, the fourth commandment, Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it Holy, had been given 39 types of prohibited work, creating more laws around the law. These were called fence laws. In fact, 1,500 of these laws were created around the Ten Commandments (maybe originally out of concern for the people), attempting to create a wide berth around sin.

Read |Matthew 12:1-8

At that time, Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began picking some grain heads and eating them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”

He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 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. Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.  For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

Reflection | 

In response to the law, extra laws and heavy burdens had been put on the people. Then along came Jesus, who said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30. Jesus cares deeply about people, which doesn’t mean he dismisses the law, though he does lean into the intent of the law.

It seems that somewhere along the line, the original concern for people to follow the law got complicated and out of focus. Rules, regulations, expectations, and judgment reigned; maybe pride came near, and mercy was squeezed out. However it happened, people of faith started hurting people of faith. Unfortunately, we still do that today.

The challenge for us is to question ourselves: Are we watching for and pointing out what other Christians say and do that we interpret as wrong? Do we approach (or post) from places of pride and pouncing, or do we draw near with mercy and grace? As we walk out this life alongside others, do we truly desire mercy over sacrifice?

Today’s devotion was written for and originally published in DailyLife Devotionals for Five Oaks Church

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