Matthew 12 contrasts the clear demonstrations of Jesus as the promised Messiah against the unrighteous rejection of Messiah by the Pharisees (Jewish religious leaders). This contrast is intensified through the strong and direct teaching of Jesus, which provides insight into God’s character in a very personal way.
To me, the passage that brings this together is Matthew 12:6-8. This is Jesus speaking to the Pharisees, who persistently (and desperately) are looking to catch Jesus in a violation of the law:
6 "I tell you, there is one here who is even greater than the Temple! 7 But you would not have condemned my innocent disciples if you knew the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ 8 For the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!”
In this brief exchange, Jesus succinctly defeated the perceived “violation of law” with Scripture, which the Pharisees knew. Jesus also affirmed His own authority, even over the Sabbath. I can only imagine the looks on the Pharisees’ faces – probably an ugly mix of contempt, shock, disgust, and conviction, all dominated by anger.
The Pharisees were trained professionals at the law, and Matthew details numerous other occasions where they continued their efforts to trap Jesus in a legal technicality – unsuccessfully. He consistently dismantled the Pharisees’ traps with a practical, relevant, and divine viewpoint. As much as the Pharisees knew about Scripture and religion, somehow they knew little of what was important to God. God doesn’t want rigid, legalistic formality. He doesn’t want show. There are no style points!
God wants – he expects – he demands – authenticity! Time, after time, God is about mercy (v.7), compassion (v.12) and justice (v.20), desiring real relationship (v.50).
As I read Matthew 12, I found myself in the margins of Scripture cheering on Jesus – celebrating, nearly dancing to the authoritative, convicting, condemning words He unleashed on the Pharisees. I felt like I was ring-side, shadow-boxing, as if helping finish off the riffraff myself!
Then, suddenly, I was silenced, listening. Uncomfortably, I found myself convicted. What meaningless sacrifices have I offered to God? What idle words (v.36) have I spoken? Do I consistently reflect the mercy, compassion and justice of God?
How about you? In what parts of your life do you hear God calling you into deeper relationship with Him…calling you to drop the pretense, and get real with Him?