Day 11

Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath

from the Matthew reading plan

Matthew 12:1-50, Leviticus 19:9-10, Isaiah 42:1-4

BY Guest Writer

Scripture Reading: Matthew 12:1-50, Leviticus 19:9-10, Isaiah 42:1-4

Recently, at a dinner with friends, I noticed the person sitting next to me skip the pork tenderloin and serve himself an extra spoonful of brussels sprouts. This made no sense to me.

“Are you a vegetarian?” I asked, hoping to avoid a pitch to join the fold. (I love meat.)

“Oh no,” he said. “I’m just taking a break. We went paleo for a long time and I kind of went overboard.”

I laughed. Sure enough, a few years ago my husband and I decided to go Paleo too. This was before the “Whole 30” eating plan was a thing. We were simply trying to do something different with our diet, and quickly learned how easy it was to make a meal out of veggies and protein. But it was also easy to use the “Paleo” rules to fill our plates with nothing but pork, bacon, and ground beef.

It’s easy to follow the rules but ignore the spirit and intent behind them.

That’s the heart of Matthew 12. At this time in history, Pharisees were a group of devout Jewish men who had tried to keep every letter of the law. Scribes, mentioned later in the passage, were essentially lawyers—men who copied and interpreted the law of Moses for the people. Both groups knew the rules inside and out. And sure enough, they were right about the rules.

In the book of Leviticus, the Lord instructs His people not to strip the farmland bare, but to leave the final portion to the poor and to immigrants. In fact, in the book of Ruth, we see Ruth, a poor, barren immigrant woman, benefitting from that compassionate law, as she gathers grain from Boaz’s field. But intent on proving Jesus to be a hypocrite, the Pharisees point out that He was breaking two laws: the harvesting laws and the laws prohibiting work on the Sabbath.

I can almost see their self-satisfied smiles as they imagine Jesus stuttering to respond. But He doesn’t miss a beat. He says He is Lord of the Sabbath because He created it (vv. 6-8). He defined rest.

And yet, the Pharisees continue to press. Entering the temple, they point to a crippled man and ask Jesus a theoretical question, as if they can stump Him with a bit of moral philosophy. In order to accuse Him, they asked, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” (v. 9).

Are you kidding me? How prideful! How arrogant! As if they wanted to go around healing crippled people, but the Sabbath was all that was stopping them? If I were Jesus, I would have yelled, “You Pharisees couldn’t heal whether it was on the Sabbath or not! Shut your traps!”

But thankfully, Jesus is not me.

He doesn’t answer them while screaming and shouting like I would have. Instead, He exposes their hearts with a simple story that even a child could understand, making the truth abundantly clear: There is no prohibition against mercy. Only He can heal, and only He determines when to do it.

Scribes and Pharisees dole out burdens and rules and loopholes and philosophical arguments. Jesus delivers hope. May we put our trust in His name alone.


Claire Gibson is a writer whose work has been featured in publications including The Washington Post and Entrepreneur Magazine among many others. An Army kid who grew up at West Point, New York, Claire is currently growing roots in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, Patrick, their son, Sam, and their dog, Winnie. Her debut novel, Beyond the Point, will be published next year.

Post Comments (42)

42 thoughts on "Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath"

  1. Jennifer Vaughn-Estrada says:

    Great story to illustrate Jesus’ point. Thanks.

  2. Bailey says:

    “…I will put my trust in you alone and I will not be shaken” – Build My Life

    Amen! ♡

  3. Michelle says:

    I highly recommend everyone checks out Annie F Downs podcast called That Sounds Fun. Today’s episode was about sabbath and it was excellent! Thought you all would like it too!

    1. Kari says:

      Thanks for this recommendation Michelle!! The podcast was a perfect extension to this devotional….really brought it all in for me! Thank you again :)

    2. Heather Joy says:

      I also checked out her podcast. Thank you so much for sharing.

  4. Louise Fisher says:

    Any time, but instead he continued explaining to them why they were wrong. Their hearts were hard, but Jesus still explained things to them which just shows even more of His grace.

  5. Louise Fisher says:

    Jesus could have struck down the Pharisees at

  6. Erika Corson says:

    It’s so hard to wrap my head around Jesus being God and timeless and all things! I know we aren’t supposed to be able to figure out all who God is but this verse really hits home that he created the laws!!

  7. Lehua K. says:

    Is it just me or are the scripture links not there anymore?

    1. Kara-Anne C. says:

      It is working for me! x

    2. Bessie says:

      No, I don’t get the links anymore either. Not sure why. They were so convenient

      1. Nea says:

        They have been missing for several weeks for me too. They show up on my laptop but not my phone. I even tried different browsers on my phone and nothing.

  8. Churchmouse says:

    The National Football League here in the USA has some troubles. The officials make the calls to enforce the rules. But sometimes instant replay reveals their initial call to be wrong. One set of fans is upset. But not to worry, sooner or later the other set of fans will have their turn to be upset. Those in charge of enforcing the rules don’t always get it right. The result can affect the loss or win of a game. A game of entertainment. The Pharisees and the scribes had a far greater outcome to consider. The following of the Law affected an individual’s salvation. It affected their standing with God. It affected the future of the nation. No small thing. The Pharisees and scribes did not take their job lightly. So whereas we see them as arrogant and unbending, they were really just being zealous and protective. They were narrow minded in that they were intent in trying to force the result. But Jesus upended everything. He reminded them that there was an Authority above the Law and that was God Himself. And He was more merciful than they realized. The Law had a purpose – to show them they could not keep it. The Law showed them they needed a Savior. Their eyes were so fixated on the Law, they forgot to look for the Savior. The Law pointed to Him but they were too busy looking at every jot and tittle on the papyrus to see the loving face of the Messiah. What about me? I can miss Him too when I get wrapped up in trying to please Him with my actions rather than just being with Him. Abiding in Him. Enjoying Him. The actions will follow. Let me keep my eyes on Jesus. Not overly on myself and certainly not on others. He’s my Savior and He is merciful.

    1. Debbie Lanier says:

      ” I can miss Him too when I get wrapped up in trying to please Him with my actions rather than just being with Him. Abiding in Him. Enjoying Him. The actions will follow. Let me keep my eyes on Jesus.” This really struck my heart, Churchmouse! Let me sit, be still, enjoy His Presence, and keep my eyes on Jesus.

    2. Melissa says:

      this is just what I needed to hear – thank you for sharing!

    3. Shelby says:

      Thank you for writing this! I love how you added something that is so relevant to today! You added a great reminder to me to just sit and be still. To just enjoy the presence of our creator, which is something that I have been struggling with recently. Thank you!

    4. Rhonda J says:

      I love the way you explain things Churchmouse, very helpful. (I am a newbie on SRT!)

    5. Ebun Oshikoya says:

      Thank you so much for your comment. Your example and explanation of the Pharisees’ inner mind workings was so helpful. We’re often quick to judge and denounce their actions and not think about why they’re the way the are. Jesus knew this which is why He never stopped trying to speak with them. His grace is indeed sufficient. Thank You LORD!

    6. Jen K. says:

      Thank you. This perspective really caused some self-reflection on ‘what would I have done?’ As a lawyer, my trade is to interpret the law and give advice. Of course I know there is the strict constructionist view of “this is what the law says,” and the “spirit of the law” view looking at intent. I am deeply humbled, and fearful, by the self-reflection that it is possible I may have fallen in the Pharisee camp. As Churchmouse says, “they did not take their job lightly” and “were really just being zealous and protective.” In my early career days, I was very conservative in my advice to my business clients (“You can’t do that. This is what the law says, what the law prohibits.”). However, with experience comes perspective. Now I first ask, “What are your business goals? What outcome do you hope to achieve?” Then I try to find the right answer by balancing legal risks with the business goals in mind. Sometimes, it is necessary to bend the rules. Not always risk-free, but necessary. While Jesus tells us, “There is no prohibition against mercy,” and we know he is above the law, I still fear that if I were present at that time, that my “strict constructionist” views may have taken over and I too may have questioned this man who did not seem to be “following the rules.” How fearfully humbly.

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