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.”
It’s always lovely to watch Jesus do the things that he does. He reminds us that his grasp of truth and of the desires of God is accurate while ours is often quite lacking.
I think that one of the biggest helps to me in reading this passage in Matthew is to remember where I likely would have stood given my natural bent. I think it likely that, at least for most of my life, I would have stood with the teachers of the law. I am used to having a set of rules that I want others to follow. When somebody brings my understanding of the rules into question, that bothers me.
But here we see two major things from Jesus. On the one hand, we see the deity and supremacy of Christ. Jesus is over the Sabbath. That is a radical claim for anyone to make. No mere man could declare himself to be Lord of the Sabbath, since I think anybody would recognize that only God is Lord of the Sabbath. Thus, we see Jesus claim equal footing with the God who gave the Ten Commandments.
On the other hand, we see a tremendous amount of grace on Jesus’ part. He pointed out that it is not at all unheard of for a general rule to be compromised for the good of the people of God. David ate bread that was not technically lawful for him to eat. But, it seems that God was more concerned about David’s survival than the rules regarding day-old show bread. Similarly, Jesus’ disciples were going to be allowed to pick some grain and sustain themselves while walking across the countryside. Jesus is over such rules anyway.
Jesus tells us that God desires mercy more than sacrifice. That is a mind-blowing statement of grace for me, someone bent toward rules, to hear. God loves mercy. He loves to rescue sinners. He loves to care for his children. He is more concerned with our hearts for him and our love for others than he is for us being sticklers for the rules that we love so much.
Jesus shows me that he is bigger than I tend to realize. And, I do not know exactly what to do with it. Obviously, this statement does not give me the right to compromise the commands of God. I cannot relax the requirements of Scripture that we heard Jesus say will never pass away until all are fulfilled in Matthew 5. I cannot condone intentional rebellion against God and his ways. Yet, I also must understand that God is more interested in me being merciful than he is with me getting everything exactly right. Such balance is impossible for me to figure out. Yet, this is God’s way, and it is full of kindness, love, and grace.
Lord, I thank you for the kindness you have shown in Jesus. I think you that you desire mercy above sacrifice. You desire my kindness and love toward you and others far above my doing everything exactly right. Help me to figure this out and to be as merciful as you desire me to be. Help me also not to confuse being merciful with being lawless. Help me strike the balance that will help me to properly reflect your glory to the world.