… “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread – which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests … If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” (verses 3-7)
I’m reflecting this morning on the issue of grace. We so easily get caught up in our own narrow expectations, our own constraining rules, and our own sharp sense of offense – like the Pharisees. They thought they clearly understood the rigidity of Sabbath observance, but they had missed viewing it through the Lord’s lens of grace. “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath,” Jesus says in Mark (2:27). Here in Matthew, he connects Sabbath with grace, reminding them, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (verse 7).
And so the offense caused by the disciples’ loosened rigidity – eating grain as they walked and feeding their hunger – is declared by Jesus to be just fine. Similarly, he speaks backward in time a word of blessing over the offense of David and his companions eating those consecrated loaves, because it met a real human need.
The point is that Jesus himself is Lord of the Sabbath. He is the Prince of Peace, the Lord of Grace. Sabbath is meant as blessing, not as rock and hard place combined. Yes, there is certainly the sacrificial discipline of putting aside work, trusting the Lord. Yes, those who set out to collect wilderness manna on the Sabbath found, in judgement, there was none. But Sabbath is meant as blessing, producing rest. It is saturated in grace.
“If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.” What a powerful theme for ongoing reflection. Mercy, grace, peace – they all come from the Lord’s hand to shape our outlook on life, and on others. The call to holiness is undiminished. It will continue to call us to hard sacrifice. But it needs, always, to be informed – to be infused – with grace. Otherwise, we miss the point.
Dear Jesus, thank you for your grace and peace extended, even to me. So capture my mind and heart and attitude with this rest-filled grace that I, by your Spirit, extend it, also, in each interaction this day. When I am tempted, like the Pharisees, to render judgment, let me embrace mercy, not rigidity. Let me rejoice in fullness of shalom, bringing freedom, health, and wholeness. You are Lord – of the Sabbath, yes, and Lord of all.
Thinking ahead: As you think through your day, what circumstance or person do you expect to encounter that will require more grace than you yourself possess? In advance, ask the Lord for his mercy and grace to fill you. Pray it again, in the moment, when you need it.