Matthew 12:1-14 Jesus Vs. Bad Religion

by | Nov 7, 2023 | Matthew, New Testament

I. Regarding Physical Needs Vs. 1 & 2

A. The Truth About The Matter

1. Regarding the picking of grain was allowable: Deuteronomy 23:25
2. Regarding the keeping of the Sabbath: Deuteronomy 5:12-15

B. The Pharisees’ View

1. The Pharisees believed Jesus and His disciples to be sinning V. 2
2. They did not criticize Jesus & the disciples just for the picking of grain
3. The Pharisees wrongly found fault b/c the grain was picked on the Sabbath

a. The grain was picked (wrongly interpreted as harvested)
b. Rubbed between the palms (wrongly interpreted as milling)
c. Blown on (wrongly interpreted as winnowing)

4. Other examples of wrong teaching re. the Sabbath

a. The Jewish “Talmud” contained 24 chapters re. how to keep the Sabbath
b. Rabbis taught that on the Sabbath, a man could not carry something in his right hand or in his left hand, across his chest or on his shoulder. But you could carry something with the back of your hand, with your foot, with your elbow, or in your ear, your hair, or in the hem of your shirt, or in your shoe or sandal.
c. So many rules had been added that the people couldn’t relax on the Sabbath. It had become a day of burdensome religion, instead of rest

5. Their “bad religion” treated animals better than humans. Vs. 10, 11

a. Healing was prohibited on the Sabbath
b. The healing restored not only physical, but emotional and social scars
c. In that culture, the left hand was used for personal hygiene; right hand for eating and greeting others
d. This man could not greet others properly, or eat w/others in public
e. Jesus’ healing of this man was much more than physical

C. God’s Intentions Towards Man

1. Honor God by keeping the Sabbath/don’t work

a. Trust that He can provide what you would have otherwise made
b. Don’t live thinking that your entire welfare depends upon you
c. Take that day and remember what God has done for you; He rescued you

2. Don’t work in your fields 7 days/week. Life is more than work & money
3. God doesn’t give commandments so that we will lack or suffer physically

a. The disciples were hungry, they needed to eat
b. God provided for them so that they could walk through a field & eat

D. Jesus’ 1st Response

Vs. 3, 4

1. Jesus responds by referencing Scripture: 1 Samuel 21:1-6
2. He reminds them about David and his men when they were fleeing from Saul
3. Jesus admits that David “broke” the Law

a. But human need is above ceremonial ritual
b. The intention of the Law was the sanctity of the priesthood, not make people go hungry

4. God’s Laws are to enhance our lives, not diminish them
5. Ritual isn’t more important than human need

E. Regarding God’s Laws & Human Physical Needs

1. Truth #1- True religion doesn’t ignore human physical needs, but meets them
2. Mistake #1- Exalting the letter of the Law and religious tradition over God’s intentions to meet man’s physical needs.

II. Regarding Spiritual Needs V. 5

A. The Truth About The Matter

1. Jesus takes the argument even further, & asks them to consider the implications
2. O.T. priests worked on the Sabbath; they received the offerings from the people

a. Priests were needed to serve the people; they weren’t guilty for working
b. Numbers 28:9, 10, 18, 19

3. Jesus said that the priests were blameless according to God’s design
4. Jesus once again confronts “bad religion” by quoting scripture in context
5. Jesus points out either their ignorance of God’s word or their memory loss

B. The Pharisees’ View

1. Wrong application of God’s word
2. Ignorance of God’s intentions towards helping man’s spiritual needs

C. God’s Intentions Towards Man

1. The priests were to serve the people every day in receiving their sacrifices for sin
2. God’s design was that man would have daily opportunity to come to Him

D. Jesus’ 2nd Response

1. Jesus responds by referencing Scripture re. the priests
2. He points out the ignorance of the Pharisees V.7
3. Hosea 6:6 For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.
4. Sacrifice/burnt offering are external; mercy & knowledge of God is what counts

E. Regarding God’s Laws & Human Spiritual Needs

1. Truth #2- True religion never ignores human spiritual need, but meets that need
2. Mistake#2- Exalting letter of Law & religious tradition over man’s spiritual needs

III. Who Determines What Is “Good” Or “Bad” Religion? Vs. 6, 8

1. V.6– Jesus declares Himself to be greater than the Temple, the priests, and their work
2. V.8- Jesus declares that He is Lord of the Sabbath- He decides what the Sabbath means
3. It must be Jesus & His word that explains the purposes of God’s Law

IV. When Is Religion “Bad”? Religion W/O Relationship: Legalism

1. When our religious traditions prohibit people’s physical needs from being met

a. “I can’t help you sand bag your house because I have to go to Bible study”
b. “I can’t feed you, I give 10% at church and I don’t really have any extra money”

2. When our religious traditions prohibit people’s spiritual needs from being met

a. We can’t meet & talk with those people, they smoke and that’s a sin
b. We’ll never worship w/those people b/c they like hymns & we wanna “rock”

3. When we criticize and condemn the guiltless that don’t follow our religious traditions
4. When we decide that our traditions/preferences are equal to or above scripture
5. When we have more compassion for animals than we do people
6. When you want to destroy others b/c they disagree w/ or don’t keep your traditions

Trusting In Activity
The essence of legalism is trusting in the religious activity rather than trusting in God. It is putting our confidence in a practice rather than in a Person. And without fail this will lead us to love the practice more than the Person.
Jack Deer, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit, p. 151
Didn’t Enjoy It
The story was told some years ago of a pastor who found the roads blocked one Sunday morning and was forced to skate on the river to get to church, which he did. When he arrived the elders of the church were horrified that their preacher had skated on the Lord’s day. After the service they held a meeting where the pastor explained that it was either skate to church or not go at all. Finally one elder asked, “Did you enjoy it?” When the preacher answered, “No,” the board decided it was all right!
Forsaking the World
“I am in earnest about forsaking ‘the world’ and following Christ. But I am puzzled about worldly things. What is it I must forsake?” a young man asks.
“Colored clothes, for one thing. Get rid of everything in your wardrobe that is not white. Stop sleeping on a soft pillow. Sell your musical instruments and don’t eat any more white bread. You cannot, if you are sincere about obeying Christ, take warm baths or shave your beard. To shave is to lie against Him who created us, to attempt to improve on His Work.”
Elizabeth Elliot comments on the above dialogue, “Does this answer sound absurd? It is the answer given in the most celebrated Christian schools of the second century! Is it possible that the rules that have been adopted by many twentieth-century; Christians will sound as absurd to earnest followers of Christ a few years hence?”
Girl on His Back
A story is told of two monks on a pilgrimage who came to the ford of a river. There they saw a girl dressed in all her finery, obviously not knowing what to do since the river was high and she didn’t want to spoil her clothes. Without much discussion, one of the monks took her on his back, carried her across, and put her down on dry ground on the other side.
The monks then continued on their way. But the other monk started complaining, “Surely it isn’t right to touch a woman. It’s against the commandment to have close contact with women. How could you go against your rules as monks?”
The monk who carried the girl walked along silently, but finally he remarked, “I set her down by the river and hour ago. Why are you still carrying her?”

Pharisaic Laws
In contrast to the two commands of Christ, the Pharisees had developed a system of 613 laws, 365 negative commands and 248 positive laws… By the time Christ came it had produced a heartless, cold, and arrogant brand of righteousness. As such, it contained at least ten tragic flaws.
(1) New laws continually need to be invented for new situations.
(2) Accountability to God is replaced by accountability to men.
(3) It reduces a person’s ability to personally discern.
(4) It creates a judgmental spirit.
(5) The Pharisees confused personal preferences with divine law.
(6) It produces inconsistencies.
(7) It created a false standard of righteousness.
(8) It became a burden to the Jews.
(9) It was strictly external.
(10) It was rejected by Christ.
Showing a Movie
One of my favorite stories comes from a man who used to be in our church. He and his wife were close friends of our family, but they have now moved to another part of the country. We really miss their joyful presence.
When he was a youth worker many years ago in an ethnic community, he attended a church that had Scandinavian roots. Being a rather forward-looking and creative young man, he decided he would show the youth group a missionary film. We’re talking simple, safe, black-and-white religious-oriented movie. That film projector hadn’t been off an hour before a group of the leaders in the church called him in and asked him about what he had done. They asked, “Did you show the young people a film?” In all honesty he responded, “Well, yeah, I did.” “We don’t like that,” they replied. Without trying to be argumentative, the youth worker reasoned, “Well, I remember that at the last missionary conference, our church showed slides—”
One of the church officers put his hand up signaling him to cease talking. Then, in these words, he emphatically explained the conflict: “If it’s still, fine. If it moves, sin!” You can show slides, but when they start movin’, you’re gettin’ into sin.
C. Swindoll, The Grace Awakening, Word, 1990, pp. 160-161