Matthew 12:1-21: Proclaiming Justice = Spreading the Gospel?! The Model Servant Blueprint? Mercy Trumps Sacrifice. Law fulfilled by Grace.

Matthew 12: 1-21

Law of the Sabbath – no work at all?? ( Exodus 35, Exodus 31:12-17, Numbers 15: 32-36).

  • Quite explicit and harsh
  • Kind of an impossible law to keep. How else were they to eat?
  • The law was a school master to show us our need for a Saviour…Galatians 3:24
  • …the free gift of salvation from our heavenly Father who so loved the world that He gave us His only beloved Son so that we may not perish if we believe …John 3:16
  • …whom we receive by grace through faith & not by any works of our own…Ephesians 2:8-9


The disciples with Jesus are hungry and beak off heads of grain on the sabbath to eat.

  • The Pharisees, teachers of religious law, protest.
  • Were the Pharisees following Jesus to catch / corner Him when the law is broken in His presence?

Jesus replies..
– David ( your revered king?) broke the law…in the House of God!
– The Priests of the ( your revered?) Temple worked on a Sabbath when on duty…

Jesus calls His disciples innocent ( even though they are going against the law of Moses??).

  •  Mercy trumps sacrifice
  • The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath… Mark 2:27



  • The spirit of the law ( what was the Lord’s intention in that law) is greater than the letter of the law ( just following for the sake of not breaking it)??
  • The human extensions to the law were out of sync with the Lord’s intention for the law??
  • There were human additions to the law making it more strict but possibly missing God’s purpose for the law??
  • Galatians 3 better explains on faith, works and the law


Jesus is greater than the Temple.

  • He is Lord ( over all things), even of the Sabbath….vs 8
  • The Son of David but Greater than David…Matthew 22:43
  • Our Great High Priest… Hebrews 4:14


Jesus is both King and Priest & therefore can perform duties on the Sabbath??

  • Jesus as King…Luke 1:32-33
  • And God designated him to be a High Priest in the order of Melchizedek… Hebrews 5:10
  • Hebrews 7:11-12
  • …Now if perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on this basis the people received the law), why was there still need for another priest to appear—one in the order of Melchizedek and not in the order of Aaron? 
  • …For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed as well.
  • A Priest can work on the Sabbath… Matthew 12:5
  • …Jesus is always on duty therefore Jesus, our Great High Priest is not actually breaking the law??
  • … Jesus being not of the Levitical priesthood but of the order of Melchizedek was therefore not breaking the law??…because the law was changed??


Those for Jesus, like the disciples ( born again Christians) can also perform good works of the kingdom on a Sabbath as we carry the presence of Jesus in us…

  • And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen…Revelations 1:6
  • And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth… Revelations 5:10
  • And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These arethe words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel… Exodus 19:6
  • But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:…1 Peter 2:9
  • Transformed into His image and likeness from glory to glory… 2 Corinthians 3:18??
  • Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him… Colossians 3:10 (NLT)
  • “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father… John 14:12 (NLT)
  • Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think… Ephesians 3:20 (NLT)


Jesus, man and the law

  • “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved…Matthew 5:17-18 (NLT)

Purpose of the law

  • So the law became our guardian to lead us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith… Galatians 3:24
  • Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified… Galatians 2:16

Romans 8:1-4

  • 1. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
  • 2. For in Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life has set you free from the law of sin and death.
  • 3. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man, as an offering for sin. He thus condemned sin in the flesh,
  • 4. so that the righteous standard of the law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God… Romans 10:4 (NLT)

What amazing …

  • Love: for God so loved the world that he gave …
  • Mercy: not getting what we deserve, the wages of our sin…
  • Grace: getting what we don’t deserve, being made the righteousness of God in Christ.


Grace vs law

  • For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ…John 1:17
  • Jesus is full of grace and truth…John 1:14

The son is greater than the servant…Galatians 4:7

  • The Son ( Jesus) is greater than the servant( Moses).
  • The lesser ( law) cannot be above the greater ( Grace and Truth).
  • Jesus Christ, full of grace and truth is greater than the law.
  • Truth is on the side of Grace or is it Grace on the side of Truth??
  • …Either way, the Truth came with Grace or…the law is (now) fulfilled through grace (Jesus).

What Jesus says (the Word) is established (as) Truth??

  • …He is the Way, Truth and Life…John 14:6
  • And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…John 8:32
  • So it is about knowing the – truth about grace (Jesus / the finished work on the Cross ) – that will (has) set us free??


Shall we continue in sin so that grace may increase?

Shall we sin because we are not under law, but under grace?

  • Question better tackled in Romans 6.
  • Basically, grace is the one that enables us not to sin…
  • … freeing us from the slavery of sin
  • … helping us to be slaves of righteousness

Problem with sinning deliberately because of grace…

Hebrews 10:26-29

  • Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins.
  • There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies.
  • For anyone who refused to obey the law of Moses was put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
  • Just think how much worse the punishment will be for those who have trampled on the Son of God, and have treated the blood of the covenant, which made us holy, as if it were common and unholy, and have insulted and disdained the Holy Spirit who brings God’s mercy to us.


Dangers of backsliding…

Hebrews 6:4-8

  • 4. It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 
  • 5. who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age— 
  • 6. and then have fallen away—to be restored again to repentance, because they themselves are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting Him to open shame.
  • 7. For land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is tended receives the blessing of God. 
  • 8. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless, and its curse is imminent. In the end it will be burned.

2 Peter 2:20

  • And when people escape from the wickedness of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then get tangled up and enslaved by sin again, they are worse off than before.


Therefore, the Truth having set us free…

  • But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law…Galatians 5:18
  • …free from the law?? as Christ fulfills it for us ??
  • For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil…1 Peter 2:16
  • For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love…Galatians 5:13

Is that why those who still go back to the law are termed as having fallen from Grace, with Grace being higher / above the law ?

  • Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace…Galatians  5:4


Sacrifice was the justification of the law of Moses…Grace the justification of the new covenant??

  • The law demands that we do something in order to be made right with God.
  • Divine Mercy ( not getting what we deserve, the wages of sin) received by Grace through faith is the justification of the New covenant??
  • Grace freely supplies (demands that we receive the free gift without any works on our part so that we may not boast…Ephesians 2:8-9 ) the justification of being the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus…2 Corinthians 5:12

Old covenant context of sacrifice was a temporary payment for sin??

New covenant context of Jesus sacrifice was a permanent payment for sin??


The Cross as a symbol of Divine Mercy & Amazing Grace

Mercy is a greater form of sacrifice??

That ultimate sacrifice of the Blood of the Lamb fulfilled the whole law (for us).

  • There is now no more condemnation for those in Christ Jesus… Romans 8:1
  • It is done / finished / paid for!…John 19:30

The Cross of Christ, the symbol of the sacrifice of the Blood of the Lamb…

  • …released for us Mercy ( not getting what we deserve, the wages of sin) and
  • …activated for us Grace ( getting what we don’t deserve – being made the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus).

Jesus gave up His rights to make mercy available to us.

Showing mercy ( carrying our cross and following Jesus) is giving up our rights for something also done wrong to us.

Matthew 12:7 – form the context of Jesus saying He desires mercy over sacrifice…

  • Jesus wants us to show mercy (to others also) because He has the sacrifice fully covered.
  • There is now no more sacrifice left…Hebrews 10:26??
  • We receive the ultimate sacrifice by grace through faith..
  • or another way of looking at it…
  • …the ultimate sacrifice that would be pleasing to God has already been done on our behalf and the Lord requires of us to show love to others as well, the ultimate being to show mercy and be gracious to others,
  • …usually summarized as the commandment of love: loving God ( by being obedient) & loving others as loving ourselves….with love defined as God so loved us that he gave His Son as a sacrifice on the Cross to give us mercy (payment for our sin so we don’t get what we deserve, the wages of our sin) and activate for us grace (being made the righteousness of God in Christ – freely getting what we didn’t deserve on our own).

Therefore the Cross as the symbol of divine mercy & amazing grace is a greater form of sacrifice??

# Holy Spirit grant me more revelation and clarification on Your Word so that I may understand and correctly divide the Word of Truth. Amen!

Vs 9–
Jesus goes into their synagogue –  their synagogue & not the Temple of God?

  • If we reject Jesus He graciously does not force His will onto us…
  • Indeed He will respond to us (answer us) according to the idols of our heart…Ezekiel 14:4

…there is a man with a deformed hand, the Pharisees ask if it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath expecting Him to agree and then use the law against Him.


Jesus answers basically that the law seems to be used selectively when there would be self interest involved.

  • When it’s a person’s animal ( interesting that sheep is used as an example – the Lord is our Shepherd) , one would compromise on the strictness of the law ( mercy trumps sacrifice ),
  • …but when it’s for the benefit of a person, one applies the strictness of the letter of the law ( possibly thereby failing the commandment of loving our neighbor as ourselves)… now sacrifice trumps mercy??

Jesus answers that it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath. ( The Lord is my Shepherd… Thank You Jesus).

The man with the deformed hand is possibly a picture of what Jesus is trying to teach.

  • That the law has two sides, with one side deformed representing the duel application ( hypocritical? Selective? Human additions that corrupted the intentions of the law? ) of the law by the Pharisees.
  • He makes the hands equal possibly to signify that He came to harmonise the law so that it can be applied consistently, without the double meaning – harmonise the letter and spirit of the law.
  • Jesus came with the message of love, with mercy triumphing over sacrifice…the condition and intention of the heart is what determines our application of the spirit of the law.

Another picture that it may present to us is that we are unable ( paralysed) to perform the whole law ourselves.

  • We are naturally handicapped when it comes to fulfilling the law.
  • There is no self effort that will enable us fulfill the whole law as required.
  • We need a saviour…we need Jesus to come help us.

The main lesson being…
It is possibly, more not about condemning people but releasing mercy towards people, leaving the judging to God. God is always looking for a reason to be merciful.

  • The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent…2 Peter 3:9
  • And yet the LORD is waiting to be merciful to you. He is ready to take pity on you because he always does what is right. Happy are those who put their trust in the LORD… Isaiah 30:18 (GNT)
  • “I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land, but I found no one… Ezekiel 22:30 (NLT)
  • O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever… Psalm 136

That is why He told Abraham about the impending destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and Abraham responded correctly with mercy after discerning the Heart of God. Possibly one of the reasons he was described as a friend of God… James 2:23. A friend should be able to discern the heart of someone and respond accordingly.

Most of us would have just encouraged the Lord to destroy them or leave one to continue walking into their destruction…going against the heart of God…

The mindset of Jonah towards the people of Nineveh…Jonah 4:10-11

  • Then the LORD said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly.
  • But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”

The sons of thunder, James and John asking Jesus to call fire from heaven to consume His enemies…Luke 9:54

  • …as opposed to correctly discerning the Heart of God for a particular situation.


We must always be careful when God asks us a question!!
We should be able to discern the Heart of God for a given situation, not thinking from our perspective but always from the Lord’s perspective.


Vs 14- the Pharisees plotting to kill Jesus.

  • The law usually leads to sin and death.
  • Possibly how it was designed so that those steeped in the law are pulled on by the consequences of the law.
  • This is opposed to the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus that in fact negates the law of sin and death…Romans 8:2

Jesus went ahead to heal all the sick among them…

Vs 16- Jesus warned them not to reveal who He was? Why?
He was not doing it for His benefit but for the Father’s benefit. It was not for Jesus to draw attention to Himself.

It is an example to us to always give all the glory to Jesus for it is by His power that works through us…

  • Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think… Ephesians 3:20
  • Apart form Christ, we can do nothing… John 15:5

The same model that Jesus had with the Father is required of us with Jesus…John 17:21

  • Jesus only does what He sees His Father doing…John 5:19,
  • He seeks the will of the one who sent Him… John 5:30, John 6:38, 
  • Speaks what the Father taught Him…John 8:28, John 12:49, John 12:50
  • Allows the Father in Him to work trough Him:
  • …Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through meJohn 14:10

God is a jealous God not willing to share His glory with another…Isaiah 42:8, Exodus 34:14

  • Jealousy described as taking what is not rightfully ours
  • Like when a husband see someone trying to take his wife, he as a right to be jealous as the person is taking what is rightfully his.
  • Glory is also therefore rightfully for the Father ( Jesus came as man) and for God in the context of man and Elohim.


Vs 17- the prophecy fulfilled…. Basically what we are to learn from this scripture…

  • Being a servant of God.
  • A servant is chosen by God
  • A servant is God’s beloved who pleases Him.
  • The Lord puts His Spirit on His beloved
  • The servant has a mission from the Lord… Here it was to proclaim justice to the nations.
  • It is not about drawing attention to oneself.
  • It’s not about exercising power against others / to harm others.
  • Ensures the mission of the Lord is successful…here ( in the context of this scripture) it is to cause justice to be victorious.
  • All this only possible by working with and through the Hope of the World, our Lord Jesus Christ, The Messiah.


Interesting that if one takes the context of the fulfilled prophecy from vs 1-21….

  • The aim was to cause justice to be victorious.
  • That means there was injustice
  • The context focused on the letter vs the spirit of the law. Possibly when humans added onto the law, they corrupted it and missed the heart of God for the law. This possibly then caused a lot of injustice in the application of the law.
  • Jesus came with Grace and Truth. Grace is needed otherwise we ourselves will be unable to fulfill the law. Truth is needed to get the Heart of God ( intention) for the law.
  • Jesus came to fulfill the law putting us above the law because we are now in Christ Jesus and operating under the law of the spirit of life that negates the law of sin and death.

Indeed it is through the finished work of the Cross of Jesus Christ that we receive justice.

  • Just as sin came into the world by one man Adam ( we were born into sin, a seeming injustice) salvation also came by one man, the second Adam, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
  • The Good News of this Amazing Grace is the proclamation of justice to all the nations.
  • It is done, it is finished, it is paid for with our sin washed away – we are now the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus able to boldly approach the Throne of Grace.
  • It is indeed a free gift that we receive by Grace through faith, thank You Jesus – I believe and receive Your free gift of Salvation.



Hebrews 4:14-16

  • So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe.
  • This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.
  • So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

Romans 3:28-31

  • So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.
  • After all, is God the God of the Jews only? Isn’t he also the God of the Gentiles? Of course he is.
  • There is only one God, and he makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles
  • Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.


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