Then He said to them, “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and it was restored as whole as the other. Then the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him. (Matthew 12:11-14)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The Pharisees plot against Jesus because they fear God. But it's not a reverent fear, or the respectful fear Jesus shows His heavenly Father. It's a dread fear that starts gnawing on a person's heart when he hears God say, “Do this and you shall live...”, then sets off trying to do what the Law demands—to prove to God he is a faithful, obedient servant.
So Jesus comes along saying things only God can say, doing things only God can do. How else are the Pharisees supposed to react? Jesus breaks the Sabbath by working on the Sabbath: He heals a man. Worse yet, He corrects the teachers of the Law—that it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath, as if they didn't understand the commandment's meaning. What He'd done isn't a tender, compassionate act: it's ruthless. Jesus is acting without any restraint, beyond the boundaries of the Law. So they plot against Jesus, to kill Him, because they refuse to take Him at His word. They don't trust that He's got the meaning right. They can't because they don't believe He's the Word of God made flesh, who spoke to Moses at Sinai, so they plot to kill Him.
They can't see past their own work to His work. Their dread fear of God's judgment blinds them to the truth. Jesus comes not to do away with the Law, but to fulfill it, to pay the bill that's come due for the sin of the whole world! They can't believe that in Jesus the true Sabbath rest comes to us. They don't trust that by His work we're freed from dreading God's judgment so we may lovingly, reverently, delight in the commandment, joyfully hearing preaching and His Word, holding it sacred, and gladly hearing and learning it.
Restrain, O Lord, the human pride That seeks to thrust Your truth aside Or with man-made thoughts or things Would dim the words Your Spirit sings. (LSB 585:5)
Registration for the 2013 Higher Things Conferences, From Above, is now open! Register today at fromabove2013.org.
Questions or comments regarding the Reflections may be sent to the Rev. Mark Buetow, Reflections Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org.