Matthew 12 (NRSV)
Plucking Grain on the Sabbath
At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2When the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the sabbath.”
“The Jews were so superstitious, concerning the observance of the Sabbath, that in their wars with Antiochus Epiphanes, and the Romans, they thought it a crime even to attempt to defend themselves on the Sabbath: when their enemies observed this, they deterred their operations to that day. It was through this, that Pompey was enabled to take Jerusalem.”
3He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4He 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. 5Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath the priests in the temple break the sabbath and yet are guiltless? 6I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 7But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8For the Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.”
The Man with a Withered Hand
9He left that place and entered their synagogue; 10a man was there with a withered hand, and they asked him, “Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath?” so that they might accuse him.
11He said to them, “Suppose one of you has only one sheep and it falls into a pit on the sabbath; will you not lay hold of it and lift it out? 12How much more valuable is a human being than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the sabbath.”
13Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and it was restored, as sound as the other.
14But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.
Luke 6:11 says that the critics of Jesus were filled with rage when Jesus healed this man. Which was more a violation of the Sabbath: When Jesus healed a man, or when these hate-filled men plotted the murder of a godly Man who never sinned against anybody?
God’s Chosen Servant
15When Jesus became aware of this, he departed. Many crowds followed him, and he cured all of them, 16and he ordered them not to make him known. 17This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
18“Here is my servant, whom I have chosen,
my beloved, with whom my soul is well pleased.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
19He will not wrangle or cry aloud,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.
20He will not break a bruised reed
or quench a smoldering wick
until he brings justice to victory.
21And in his name the Gentiles will hope.”
In “The Clown in the Belfry,” Frederick Buechner writes:
“If we only had eyes to see and ears to hear and wits to understand, we would know that the Kingdom of God in the sense of holiness, goodness, beauty is as close as breathing and is crying out to be born within ourselves and within the world; we would know that the Kingdom of God is what we all of us hunger for above all other things even when we don’t know its name or realize that it’s what we’re starving to death for.
“The Kingdom of God is where our best dreams come from and our truest prayers. We glimpse it at those moments when we find ourselves being better than we are and wiser than we know. We catch sight of it when at some moment of crisis a strength seems to come to us that is greater than our own strength. The Kingdom of God is where we belong. It is home, and whether we realize it or not, I think we are all of us homesick for it.”
Jesus and Beelzebul
22Then they brought to him a demoniac who was blind and mute; and he cured him, so that the one who had been mute could speak and see. 23All the crowds were amazed and said, “Can this be the Son of David?”
24But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons, that this fellow casts out the demons.”
25He knew what they were thinking and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? 27If I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.
“The Jewish exorcists operated in conventional fashion by use of herbs and magical formulae, and the results were probably insignificant. The practice was sanctioned by custom, and harmless. But in casting out devils, as in all other things, Jesus was original, and His method was too effectual. His power, manifest to all, was His offense.”
–F. F. Bruce
28But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you.
29Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property, without first tying up the strong man? Then indeed the house can be plundered.
30Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31Therefore I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
Acts 10:37-38 (New Living Translation)
“You know what happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee, after John began preaching his message of baptism. And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”
Let that be said about us — that we go around doing good.
HERE is Hillsong and “Lord, I Give You My Heart.”
A Tree and Its Fruit
33“Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. 34You brood of vipers! How can you speak good things, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35The good person brings good things out of a good treasure, and the evil person brings evil things out of an evil treasure. 36I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; 37for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Oh, be careful, little mouth, what you say . . .
Proverbs 15:2 (New Living Translation)
The tongue of the wise makes knowledge appealing,
but the mouth of a fool belches out foolishness.
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
The Sign of Jonah
38Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.”
39But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth. 41The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here! 42The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here!
We should not miss the central point here. William Barclay says, “You are asking for a sign – I am God’s sign. You have failed to recognize me. The Ninevites recognized God’s warning in Jonah; the Queen of Sheba recognized God’s wisdom in Solomon.”
The Return of the Unclean Spirit
43“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but it finds none. 44Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ When it comes, it finds it empty, swept, and put in order. 45Then it goes and brings along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So will it be also with this evil generation.”
The True Kindred of Jesus
- “Jesus’ True Family” from the Women’s Illustrated Bible
46While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him. 47Someone told him, “Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”
48But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49And pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
If Jesus calls our fellow believers his brothers and sisters and mothers — how carefully, how respectfully, how tenderly ought we to treat them!
1 Peter 1:22 (NRSV)
Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart.
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.