I send Martha to the kitchen so that Mary can sit at Jesus feet.
I have been singing and longing – Jesus only Jesus help me trust you more and more”.
“ Look at the cross – look at the figure on the cross. It is not just a picture – it is a real person – look at the blood running down the face from the crown of thorns pushed into His scalp, look at the hands and feet pierced by spikes – feel the agony – that was for you that he did that, for you as much as anyone else. Now you have also been singing, ‘How long oh Lord, how long?’ That is the experience I am giving you to help you to trust me more and more. If the path was easy and the answer immediate and pat it would not contribute to your trust at all. So I take you at a measured pace along a path I have preconceived so that your trust will grow day by day and will be rewarded at the end of the path. Take a deep breath then, relax and placed your trust in Me – remember it does not ultimately depend on you. You cannot bring anything to contribute. It depends in the end entirely on Me and my grip on you.”
As we move into Ch 12 of Matthew, the focus falls again clearly on the answer to the question, “Who is this Man?” The Sabbath was a clear point of contact between God and His people. In many ways they misunderstood the purpose of the Sabbath, trying to keep it simply by refraining from work, without realizing the real purpose that God had set the day aside for .A celebration of the covenant and their relationship of awe and adoration of Yahweh, demonstrated by a life of obedience. So regularly the people are castigated for profaning the Sabbath, not simply for working on that day but for following other Gods. Which He takes as a sign of their rejection of Him and His love for them. So the Sabbath represented the contact point between God and His people and showed their trust in Him and His love for them.
Now at the beginning of ch 12 there is a conflict between Jesus over the keeping of the Sabbath. It could be a full dress repetition of the Old Testament problem of God’s people. Their rejection of Him as their Lord Jehovah. By saying “The Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath”, Jesus is actually reprimanding the Pharisees for their inability to recognize who He really is. He is the One to whom the Sabbath was pointing to all along!
To underline this Matthew then repeats Isaiah’s prophecy from Isa 42:1-4. This man standing before the Pharisees and before you dear reader, is none other than this unique “Servant” of Yahweh whom the sabbath was pointing to all along.
In the background the other theme of Matthew is playing out. The theme of rejection of the Messiah, especially by the religious establishment. Not only were the Pharisees rejecting the claims that Jesus was making, they were actively becoming engaged in discrediting Him. This was only the beginning and would rise in vigour till it would eventually lead to Jesus’ crucifixion. In the next section till vs 37, Matthew shows to what extent their rejection will actually go. They are prepared to identify Him as Beelzibub – the Devil himself. Consider to what extent they had sunk.
Now friends, as we ponder this. This is a warning. The act of rejecting Jesus is a short step from actually considering His supernatural power as demonic. C.S.Lewis has said that if one rejects Jesus’ claim as to who He is, then the only alternative is that He was either mad or bad. Yes – even the Devil himself.
Once again we are reminded of the importance of understanding the OT symbolism, especially that of the Sabbath correctly, to be able to fully appreciate who Jesus is. It is in reading and re-reading passages like this that our faith grows and is undergirded. So that we are ready when the little voice inside us says, “Is He really God?”. “Does He really care?” “Can I really trust Him?”
It is interesting how severely Jesus addresses these “important” men. “Brood of vipers” for instance. As you read this you can see the subtle shift of Jesus’ words, He is not of the Devil, it is they who stand beside the Devil trying to carry out his purposes. Ultimately He says, as He repeats what He had already said in 7:15 ff, “It is by their fruit that they will be recognized”. A timely word in this day with some debates in the religious sphere hitting rock bottom.