Mercy and Not Sacrifice? #7

Thursday, September 12, 2013

“But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day” (Matthew 12:7,8 KJV).

What did our Lord mean in today’s Scripture?

The Pharisees, as well as other religious leaders of Israel, were not serving the LORD of the Old Testament Law that they studied. While they were highly educated and appeared good, they were not merciful toward the sick and hungry. They were sticklers for not working on the Sabbath day, and yet, they had no idea what the Sabbath day even represented. Blinded by their religious tradition, they preferred to see the hungry faint and the sick suffer, than even dare break the Sabbath!

Jesus told the Pharisees, “But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless” (today’s Scripture). The Pharisees’ heartlessness originated from a desire to serve a denominational system rather than let the love of the Lord Jesus Christ operate in their hearts and actions. The disciples were hungry, so Jesus Christ—the Person who authorized Sabbath-day observance—permitted them to pick food on the Sabbath. The Pharisees erred in presumptuously criticizing Christ’s disciples. They failed to realize that the JEHOVAH who had instituted the Sabbath-day observance, the “Lord of the sabbath day,” was Jesus Christ—the Person standing right in their midst!

One last interesting tidbit to conclude: In the companion passage of today’s Scripture, our King James Bible has the unique expression, “the second sabbath after the first” (Luke 6:1). That Sabbath of today’s Scripture loops back to the original (first) Sabbath of Genesis 2:1-3. The time of the fulfillment of the purpose of that original Sabbath—the establishment of God’s earthly kingdom—was near during Christ’s earthly ministry. Alas, the Pharisees failed to make that connection between those two Sabbaths. Religious tradition had caused them to ignore the God of the Sabbath, thereby causing them to be merciless and self-righteous for the sake of religion, and worst of all, they missed God’s kingdom altogether!

That is what our Lord meant in today’s Scripture.