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Chapter 12


Lord of the Sabbath

12:1 At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on a Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pick heads of wheat and eat them.


The disciples of Jesus were hungry so as they were going through a grain field they naturally began to pick the heads of grain and eat them. The law of God gave them the right to do this (Deut. 23:25).


12:2 But when the Pharisees saw this they said to him, "Look, your disciples are doing what is against the law to do on the Sabbath."


The Pharisees, who were ever eager to catch Jesus out, criticised his disciples’ behaviour, being quick to point out to him that they were breaking the law (Exodus 20:10).


12:3-4 He said to them, "Haven't you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry – how he entered the house of God and they ate the sacred bread, which was against the law for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests?


Jesus is never caught off guard and had an answer ready for them. King David, when he and his companions were hungry and there was nothing else to eat, received the holy bread which the priest had taken from the place of worship after putting out fresh bread (1 Sam. 21:6). This was despite the law only allowing the Levites to eat this bread (Lev. 24:7-9).


12:5 Or have you not read in the law that the priests in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are not guilty?


In order to carry out their God given tasks on the Sabbath the priests were allowed to work (Num. 28:8-9).


12:6 I tell you that something greater than the temple is here.  


It was God who had given the ordinances and laws concerning the worship in the temple and the Sabbath day. Jesus tells the Pharisees that there was someone greater and more important than the temple amongst them (2 Chron. 6:18). In fact it was God manifest in the flesh who stood before them (John 1:14; 1 Tim. 3:16).


12:7 If you had known what this means: 'I want mercy and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent.


The Pharisees had got it all wrong. They were so taken up with the rituals of worship that they had forgotten the nature and character of God. Instead of offering sacrifices, God wanted them to have mercy and compassion. If they had this then they would not be so quick to condemn those who were innocent (Hosea 6:6).


12:8 For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath."  


Jesus Christ who is God is therefore lord of the Sabbath (Philip. 2:6; Titus 2:13).


Doing Good on the Sabbath

12:9-10 Then Jesus left that place and entered their synagogue. A man was there who had a withered hand. And they asked Jesus, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?" so that they could accuse him.


Leaving the corn field Jesus went to their synagogue. In the synagogue was a man whose hand had wasted away, with no muscle or sinew left. Luke informs us that it was his right hand (Luke 6:6). Again the Scribes and Pharisees were seeking to make an accusation against Jesus so they ask if the law allowed someone to heal on the Sabbath day.


12:11 He said to them, "Would not any one of you, if he had one sheep that fell into a pit on the Sabbath, take hold of it and lift it out?


Jesus replies by asking if there was anybody among them who would not rescue their sheep who had fallen into a pit on the Sabbath day. Would they leave it there to suffer until the next day or would they pull it out on the Sabbath?  Under the law a Jew had to go to the aid of any of his neighbours’ animals that were in trouble, even on the Sabbath day (Deut. 22:4).  


12:12-13 How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath." Then he said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out and it was restored, as healthy as the other.


Jesus makes the point that since people are worth more than animals it is lawful to do well on the Sabbath. Then turning to the man he tells him to do that which was impossible for him: to stretch out his hand. The man believed Jesus and did so; and his hand was restored just like the other one.


12:14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted against him, as to how they could assassinate him.  


The Pharisees proved how right Jesus' words had been about them (v. 7). They could not care less about the man being healed, but began to make plans to kill Jesus.


12:15 Now when Jesus learned of this, he went away from there. Great crowds followed him, and he healed them all.


When Jesus heard of this he left that place and the crowds followed him. It was still the Sabbath day and Jesus continued to heal the people; they were only too willing to let him, even if it was the Sabbath!


The Tree and its Fruit

12:33 "Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is known by its fruit.


If a tree is healthy, it will produce good fruit. But if it is diseased, the fruit will also be diseased. The nature of the tree is discerned by the fruit it produces. The Pharisees, though outwardly religious, had revealed the true state of their hearts by their words of opposition to Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit.

There are today many professing believers who reject the doctrine of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the teaching about spiritual gifts for today. They speak and teach against it. Whilst they may profess salvation, Jesus’ teaching can be applied as a warning to them. Their words of opposition to the Holy Spirit reveal that their hearts are not right with God, and that they are in danger of committing an eternal sin. I am not referring to those believers who are untaught or ignorant of the things of the Spirit, but of those who deliberately oppose and malign the work of the Spirit.


12:34 Offspring of vipers! How are you able to say anything good, since you are evil? For the mouth speaks from what fills the heart.


It is because of the corruption in the human heart, which the scripture declares to be absolute, (e.g. Rom. 7:18) that the Pharisees were unable to speak of what was good. Jesus describes them as a brood of snakes, in other words children of the devil (Rev. 12:9), those whose nature was perverse and sinful. We are by nature alienated from God, and children of wrath (Eph. 2:3), and our mouths are simply organs through which we express the sinfulness of our souls. A man may claim to speak and teach for God, but unless his heart has first been cleansed by the new birth - unless he has received a new nature - he cannot teach correctly about God, for he cannot speak the truth which he does not know (John 3:3).


12:35 The good person brings good things out of his good treasury, and the evil person brings evil things out of his evil treasury.


Since only God is good (Mark 10:18), only those who share the divine nature (1 Peter 1:3) may be called good people. They are born again of his Spirit and he resides in them. It is out of this good treasure that they are able to speak the pure words of truth. If a man is not born of the Spirit, he does not have the new nature of Christ within him, but remains in the nature of sin. He is so utterly corrupt that he can neither do nor say anything that is pleasing to God (Rom. 8:7-8).


12:36 I tell you that on the Day of Judgment, people will give an account for every worthless word they speak.


All of us are accountable to God for what we say, do and even think. God has kept a record of every word we utter, even casual comments, and will hold us to account for them on the Day of Judgment (Rev. 20:12). The only hope any sinner has of escape from this judgment is through the Lord Jesus Christ.


12:37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."


The Pharisees sealed their own condemnation by their words which were hostile to Christ.

The means of God's justification is also through speech. For if we believe in our hearts that God has raised Jesus from the dead, and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, we will be saved (Rom. 10:9). Jesus said, "If any man confess me before men, I will confess him before the angels of God" (Luke 12:8); for "it is with the mouth that confession is made unto salvation" (Rom. 10:10).


Jesus’ Mother and Brothers

12:46-50 While Jesus was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and brothers came and stood outside, asking to speak to him. Someone told him, "Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside wanting to speak to you." To the one who had said this, Jesus replied, "Who is my mother and who are my brothers?" And pointing toward his disciples he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."


Christ recognised that he had a spiritual relationship with his followers, and indicated that this was far greater than the natural tie which binds families together (2 Cor. 5:16). Family ties are important, and the Christian is commanded to love and honour his or her parents; parents are to provide for their children and so on.


But Jesus Christ is the Son of God, an eternal and spiritual being, who brings us into an eternal and spiritual relationship with God. We become sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:26). There is no gender in the kingdom (Gal. 3:28), which is why at one and the same time we can be his brother and sister and mother. We are all these things. In other words we have a family relationship with Jesus greater than any that has previously been known on earth. This relationship has been brought about by new birth, and is revealed through the love and obedience shown by his followers; those who do "the will of [his] father in heaven" (John 14:15).

It is worthy of mention that Jesus gives no special position to Mary as his mother, but rather gives all believers an equal status to Mary in this heavenly kingdom.

Indeed, at this point in the gospel, Mary is left out altogether, for she has not yet come to the full understanding of faith which we see she has in Acts: and even then her status is of someone who is with the eleven and “together with the women” (Acts 1:14).



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Copyright (2009-2015) Sharon Full Gospel Church, UK. Reg. Charity No. 1050642 www.sharonchurch.co.uk


This Bible study is taken from Faithbuilders: The Gospel of Matthew


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