Lord of the Sabbath

Matthew 12:1-2

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.”

Working on the Sabbath. This is probably one of Jesus’ most common accusations. He was constantly accused for “breaking the Sabbath”. He would do things like heal people (v. 9), tell someone to pick up their mat, or pick food from a field to eat. All good things, but according to the traditions of the Jews, this was classified as work, and was forbidden.

In the next few verses, Jesus gives them specific examples from the Law about how people would eat at certain times or certain foods that were forbidden in the Law, and how they would profane the Sabbath and yet remained guiltless. He basically called them hypocrites.

They were so concerned about the temple and yet they missed the fact that “someone greater than the temple” was standing right there in front of them (v. 6). And, that he was the “Lord of the Sabbath” (v. 8).

I remember growing up in a small town, and by in 70’s and 80’s, there was a state law that forbid most retail stores from being open on Sunday. It was called the Blue Law. I remember very specifically one Christmas season that WalMart decided to break the law and stay open on Sunday. The fine was $1,000 and the manager of the store was on the news and he said, “I will easily generate more profit than that, so I just write it off as an operating expense.” Things are quite different today.

So, is it a sin to work on Sunday? Is it a sin to “profane the Sabbath”? Is it a sin to go to the store and buy stuff on Sunday because you’re making other people work on Sunday?

The Pharisees placed more importance on following the laws of the Sabbath that they missed the Lord of the Sabbath. Jesus later says that we were not created for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath for us (Mark 2:27). He was saying that there is value in keeping the Sabbath. Resting one day a week is good for us. We need the physical, emotional and mental break. The Sabbath was created for us. If we choose to not slow down and work hard through the weekend, there will be natural consequences. But, it doesn’t take away from our relationship with God. He does not hold back from us if we are working on Sunday.

Matthew 12:28

But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

In this verse, Jesus is saying that he is casting out demons by the Spirit of God, and that it’s proof that the kingdom of God has come. It’s really interesting to note because the message of grace is that Jesus brought the kingdom of God to earth. We are now living in this age of grace where the kingdom of God is here now on the earth through Christ. Too often, we see the “kingdom of God” as heaven, but not now. “One day, in heaven, we’ll experience the kingdom of God.” But, I don’t think that’s accurate. Through grace, we have access to the kingdom of God right now, today, through Christ. He has made us worthy and righteous so that we can receive all that God has for us.

Matthew 12:32

And whoever 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.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t fully understand this concept of “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit”. It’s serious! It won’t be forgiven in this age or the age to come. So, what is that unforgivable sin? What does it mean to blasphemy the Holy Spirit?

In the Strong’s concordance, it defines “blasphemy” as a “vilification” of something. To vilify the Holy Spirit is blasphemy. I guess that’s to speak evil and associate with evil behavior. Not really sure.

Mathew 12:36-37

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

This could be terrifying if you think about all the “careless” words you have spoken. Will you be judged for them? Is he speaking to believers here?

A couple things to consider. First, remember that he’s speaking to those under the Law, not to those under grace. Secondly, he sums it up with “by your words”, you will either be justified or condemned. This is the two states I believe all of humanity faces. They are justified in Christ, or they are condemned in rejecting Christ. So, if you “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord”, you are justified by your words and you won’t be judged for your “careless words”. But, if you reject Christ by your words, then you will be condemned and judged by those “careless words” that you’ve spoken. Grace says “In Christ, you are no longer judged because he took all your judgement upon himself.”

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