This is the last bible study for the year. We won't be picking up again until January 10. LOTS of stuff in this chapter. Sorry it's so long...I was trying to be brief and succinct...honest.
Overall tidbits about the chapter
The chapter is full of Old Testament references and prefigurements. We see the pride of the Pharisees growing to a fever pitch. They are not just blind to whom Jesus is, but are willfully overlooking all that Jesus does right in their midst that shows He is the Son of God. Throughout the chapter, Jesus continues to reference various people and places and shows how He is the fulfillment – He is greater – than all these things and explicitly state that HE IS GOD. Jesus mentions David and draws parallels to him (more later), mentions the temple and says, “I tell you, something greater than the temple is here.” He goes on to talk about the Sabbath and says, “For the Son of man is lord of the Sabbath.” Jesus also refers to Jonah and draws parallels to Jonah. Solomon too and says, “…something greater than Solomon is here.” The Pharisees were well versed in the Old Testament and would know what Jesus is saying when He shows that he is of the line of David (the New David), that he is greater than the temple…He IS the temple, He is greater than the Sabbath because He is God who created the Sabbath, He is the New Jonah and greater than Solomon who built the temple. He worked miracles before their eyes and they still didn’t get it.
Profaning the Sabbath
Father Echert mentioned that the word Sabbath come from the Hebrew word SABBAT, which means “rest.” The Sabbath was from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. The chapter starts out with the Pharisees accusing Jesus’ disciples, who were hungry, of “harvesting” grain in violation of the Sabbath, which stated you couldn’t do menial labor.
The disciples weren’t harvesting, but merely plucking grain to satisfy their hunger. This was not a violation of The Law since you are allowed to pluck grain to eat, you just can’t use a sickle (tools) or gather more than you need (place it in a basket). You could pluck grain for immediate nourishment. And, it wasn’t stealing as Father mentioned, since back then farmers were required to grow some of their crops for the hungry and when they harvested they had to leave some of their crops in the field for just this purpose. (The Pharisees claim they are violating Exodus 34:21, that forbids harvesting on the Sabbath, but Deuteronomy 23:25 distinguishes between plucking grain and harvesting it.)
Jesus replies to the Pharisees, drawing parallels between Himself and David, that David ate on the Sabbath when he was hungry. In fact, David ate the bread of the Presence (The Bread of the Presence, or showbread, that was placed daily in the holy place of the Temple, reminded them that God was their provider and sustainer, and they lived constantly in his presence. The bread of the Presence is described in Leviticus 24:5-9, “Take fine flour and bake it into 12 loaves; each loaf is to be made with four quarts. Arrange them in two rows, six to a row, on the pure [gold] table before the Lord. Place pure frankincense near each row, so that it may serve as a memorial portion for the bread and a fire offering to the Lord. The bread is to be set out before the Lord every Sabbath day as a perpetual covenant obligation on the part of the Israelites. It belongs to Aaron and his sons, who are to eat it in a holy place, for it is the holiest portion for him from the fire offerings to the Lord; this is a permanent rule.”)
From our study answers it says:
Jesus refutes that accusation of the Pharisees that his disciples are breaking Sabbath law:
1. by reminding his listeners of the example of King David eating consecrated bread
2. by citing the law concerning priests who don’t profane the Sabbath
3. by explaining the correct understanding of compassion and mercy
4. by testifying that He Himself is “lord of the Sabbath.”
1 Samuel 21:1-6 explains that King David and his men were considered holy and able to receive the bread of the Presence because they had kept themselves sexually pure (Father said this is another example of that there always was a period of celibacy required in the priesthood.) Just as King David and his men were hungry and seeking something to eat while on an expedition, so Jesus and his disciples also are on a mission and seeking something to eat. Just as King David and his men kept themselves pure for their mission, Jesus and his disciples are pure.
Lord of the Sabbath
In Matthew 12:6-8, Jesus says to the faithless Pharisees, “I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,” you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is lord of the sabbath.” The Pharisees would’ve known what Jesus is talking about since this term, Son of Man, comes from the book of Daniel. In our notes it mentions that in Jewish tradition, God alone is Lord, and He alone is lord of the Sabbath. By claiming to be Son of man and lord of the Sabbath, Jesus continues to equate Himself with God, the one who gives Sabbath rest to mankind.
Jesus isn’t being disrespectful to the temple. From the Catechism (586):
Far from having been hostile to the Temple, where he gave the essential part of his teaching, Jesus was willing to pay the Temple-tax, associating with him Peter, whom he had just made the foundation of his future Church. He even identified himself with the Temple by presenting himself as God’s definitive dwelling-place among men. Therefore his being put to bodily death presaged the destruction of the Temple, which would manifest the dawning of a new age in the history of salvation: “The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.”
Desires mercy and not sacrifice
Father Echert said that Jesus is not criticizing sacrifice, but said that if you make sacrifices without love or the right intentions, they are just hollow actions and are worthless. No one receives merit from a sacrifice made in the state of mortal sin. Father said that this isn’t a case of either mercy OR sacrifice, but through mercy/love/compassion, your sacrifice has merit.
And, Father Echert made a very profound point on this topic. Father said that our Catholic faith has always had sacrifices. The Old Testament is full of sacrifices. However, Protestants DO NOT have this in their worship. They have removed this either in part or completely from their worship and removed the idea of acts (some of which could be considered sacrifices) from what is required.
This idea of mercy and not sacrifice goes back to what is said in Hosea 6:6, “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” From the Catechism (2100):
Outward sacrifice, to be genuine, must be the expression of spiritual sacrifice: "The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit…" The prophets of the Old Covenant often denounced sacrifices that were not from the heart or not coupled with love of neighbor. Jesus recalls the words of the prophet Hosea: "I desire mercy, and not sacrifice." The only perfect sacrifice is the one that Christ offered on the cross as a total offering to the Father's love and for our salvation. By uniting ourselves with his sacrifice we can make our lives a sacrifice to God.
The withered hand
Father mentioned that the laws allowed you to save the life of an animal on the Sabbath, so why would curing a man of an ailment on the Sabbath be a violation? From Matthew 12:9-12, “Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, they asked him, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?" He said to them, "If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath." Here Jesus is again showing them the correct interpretation of mercy and compassion and showing that it is lawful to do good works on the Sabbath.
Father also mentioned that the earthly Sabbath prefigures the heavenly one where God will give us all rest from our labor and we will perpetually be in God’s presence. The Sabbath as made for man, not man for the Sabbath. This is a huge reason to rest on the Sabbath (check out the apparitions and message of La Salette). Father also mentioned that the Pharisees had made the Sabbath such a burden to the common Jews that they made it more of a chore than what it really was intended to be.
Once again, as in prior chapters of Matthew, we see the Pharisees accusing Jesus of casting out demons, since Jesus must be the “prince of demons.” From Matthew 12:25-28, “Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” Father Echert said that Jesus is just using logic to refute them. The Pharisees cannot deny what Jesus is doing so they accuse Him of being demonic. But, this is silly because why would Satan drive himself out? Why would anyone dispossess a territory once you’ve claimed it?
Prefiguring of Jonah
In Matthew 12:40 we see Jesus referring to Himself as the New Jonah, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here.” Jesus is showing that Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of the whale and how it prefigures His own passion, death and resurrection. The “sign” of Jonah is the resurrection.
We learned in the study that since the Church teaches that there are no limits on the mercy of God, how is this unforgivable sin explained in Church teaching? From Matthew 12:31, “And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”
From the Catechism (1864), it says:
"Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven." There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept his mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit. Such hardness of heart can lead to final impenitence and eternal loss. So, we see that if you are hardened of heart, unrepentant and don’t seek forgiveness, your sin will not be forgiven. It’s not so much God sending you to Hell as much as it is in your own completely willful act to be defiant that you choose to go to Hell.