"Jesus' Authority over the Sabbath"- Matt. 12:1-14

Identity in Christ - I believe I am significant because of my position as a child of God.

John 1:12- Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God–

Scripture: Matthew 12:1-14

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. 2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” 3 He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? 6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 7 And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” 9 He went on from there and entered their synagogue. 10 And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse him. 11 He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.


Have you ever known someone who was too proud or stubborn to receive a gift from you or someone else? How about someone so set in his ways that he resisted ever attempting something new? Have you ever been surprised or confused over someone’s behavior because it was not what you expected?

These questions reflect some responses to Jesus’ life and ministry. As we have established, Jesus did not come to Israel according to her messianic expectations. He came to radically reshape people’s thinking. Some humbled themselves and rose to the occasion. Others were only superficial in their response, not surviving the long haul.  Still others, especially among the Pharisees and religious leaders, resisted so vehemently Jesus once said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in” (Matt. 23:13). Notice that their resistance not only closed the door for themselves; it also “shut up” the kingdom of heaven to others as well. As teachers of the Old Testament, they should have been opening up the kingdom of God to their disciples.

Message of the Passage:

Like a first-rate novelist or journalist, Matthew introduces an increasing tension in his recounting of the life of Jesus, foreshadowing a deathly show-down to come. Specifically, it is the healing of a man’s withered hand on the Sabbath that prompts the Pharisees to begin counseling together how to destroy Jesus. This, in turn, leads to Christ’s withdrawal to the Sea of Galilee with a great multitude from many places, where He continues to perform miracles and cast out demons. Since even Christ’s own family and friends misunderstand His message and ministry, it is not surprising when Matthew records blasphemous accusations by the scribes and Pharisees.

While winning the debates, Jesus cannot win his opponents. Reluctantly, He realizes that He must take the offensive and settle the issue if He is to get on with His ministry of service to needy, waiting, and responsive people.

This backlash results in the announcement by Jesus of new spiritual ties, or a redefinition of what it means to relate rightly to God. Those who hear and embrace Christ’s message by faith are part of God’s family. All others, no matter how religious or sincere, are excluded from knowing or pleasing God.

Personal Reflection:

Use the following questions to help review the application of God’s Word to our Head (What does God want me to know?), to our Heart (What does God want me to desire/value?), and to our Hands (What does God want me to do?)


  • Looking back at Andy’s message, is there anything that especially resonated or challenged you?

  • Jesus referred to the Scriptures when responding to the Pharisees’ accusation that He and His disciples were violating the Sabbath. He compared them to the priests who “profane the Sabbath, and are blameless.” How did the priests profane the Sabbath? (See Numbers 28:9-10.)

  • Twice Jesus said to the Pharisees, “Have you not read...” How does this emphasize the importance of knowing what the Bible says and how it applies to your life’s circumstances?

  • What does Jesus say the Son of Man is Lord over? Read Hebrews 4 to discover how true rest is found in Him—how Jesus is the Sabbath that we all seek.

  • What do you think the Pharisee's response would be to the statement that something greater than the temple is here?

  • Why do you think Jesus includes in here the quote from Hosea 6:6 that He desired mercy, not sacrifice. If the Pharisees had followed this teaching, what would they not have done?

  • What value did Jesus put on a person? How did He show that?

  • If you had to summarize what Matthew teaches in these verses, what would the main points be?



There are probably a number of applications from these verses, here are a few to consider:

1. Commitment to the authority of Christ.

2. Avoidance of legalism. Legalism is not simply keeping laws, but is a self-righteous attitude. Now be careful here, obeying Scripture is not legalism. God demands it. But that is not what we mean here by self-righteous legalism. How would you define the difference?

3. Doing acts of mercy. People should be looking for objects of mercy, not objects to criticize. If they were busy with that, the Church would be a much better place.

And, the guideline here seems to say it would be better to “err” on the side of mercy, not self-righteous legalism.