A Third Argument
Text: Matthew 12:1-14
How would the Pharisees make a reply to Jesus’ first two arguments? If they had not been able to say anything significant, they would be even more dumbfounded at the third argument put forward.
“Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater
than the temple.”
This statement must have mystified and intrigued the Pharisees! Jesus could be as plain or as vague as He chose. Did the Pharisees understand what Jesus meant?
1. Jesus had made other claims of greatness before
a) He claimed greatness when He spoke authoritatively
Against the oral traditions, Jesus replied with these words, “But I say to you…” (Matthew 5:22, 27, 32 etc)
b) He claimed greatness when He pronounced forgiveness of sins.
Much to the astonishment of all who were there to witness the healing of the paralytic, Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven you.” (Matthew 9:5)
2. The claim of being greater than the temple
This was just one more claim that the Pharisees would have to assess. What did He really mean? Could He be making a reference to Himself? Or could He be making a reference to something else, God perhaps? If they were to ask questions, they might appear foolish. If they didn’t reply, would Jesus have won this round too?
What was greater than the Temple? The Law could be argued to be greater than the temple. The Lord would certainly be greater than the temple! Surely Jesus couldn’t be saying that He was greater than the temple, could He? The Pharisees once again could not come up with a satisfactory reply to the statements Jesus made.
A HUMBLING CHALLENGE
Couldn’t the Pharisees come up with a reply to any of Jesus’ statements? Then they were not as well schooled as they should be. To these Pharisees, Jesus issued a humbling statement.
“But if you had known what this means,
‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’
You would not have condemned the guiltless.”
1. The basic essence of the law
What was the basic essence of the Law? To the Pharisees brought up on oral tradition, it would be the slavish keeping of the law! Jesus argued otherwise. He had in fact spoken these words before.
When Jesus was questioned as to why He mixed with known sinners and tax collectors, He said,
“But go and learn what this means, ‘I desire
mercy and not sacrifice.’ ”
Had the Pharisees taken what He said to heart? Had they learned the real meaning behind this statement taken from the Book of Hosea (Cf. Hosea 6:6)? Apparently not, for Jesus once again repeated Himself, citing the famous words of Hosea!
The basic essence of the Law was “mercy”! Surely that must be the most fundamental lessons to be learned! Why had not the Pharisees learned this basic lesson?
2. The lack of mercy
If there was anything that the Pharisees lack obviously, it would be this quality of mercy. They were always fault finding. They lacked a sense of mercy when they related to sinners and tax collectors. They dismissed them as being unworthy of their attention.
They found fault with the disciples of Jesus. In fact they tracked Jesus and His movements, not because they wanted to learn anything from Him, but simply because they wanted to see if they could trap Him in His words! That was certainly no display of kindness let alone mercy!
3. Condemnation of the guiltless
At last Jesus came to the issue of His disciples partaking of the heads of grain. In His opinion, they were “guiltless”. Only by a very long stretch of imagination would anyone have argued that they had broken the Sabbath law because they plucked off some heads of grain for a simple meal! To condemn in this manner would only prove His point. If the Pharisees were right, then Hosea would have been wrong to speak of exercising mercy. If Hosea was right, then the Pharisees were obviously wrong!
THE FINAL ARGUMENT
Were the Pharisees looking for a loophole that they could use to accuse Jesus? Well they would have every opportunity to do so with this last statement.
“For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
How were the Pharisees to interpret this statement? They would have to come to terms with this phrase, “The Son of Man”. Who was this Son of Man? If the Son of Man was the eschatological Messiah spoken of in the book of Daniel (Cf. Daniel 7:13) then He must be the Divine Messiah Himself! The Pharisees would never openly debate with Jesus on this issue, lest they fail miserably. They had no answer to any of Jesus’ statements!