By, Isam Itson III
Matthew 12:1-8 – At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” 3 He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? 6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 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.”
Mercy and grace are the clearest expressions of justice and righteousness in a fallen world, among people in need of salvation and followers of Christ in need of encouragement. Remember from Matthew chapter 1, the goal of Jesus’ coming is the salvation of God’s people from their sins. God’s goal in our creation, redemption and ultimate glorification is life with him and each other, forever. As disciples of Jesus Christ, the proper response to someone who is weak or broken flows from a soft and open heart. Harsh responses are saved for the hard hearted, self-righteous person, who identifies as a leader of God’s people.
So much of our time and energy outside of work and home can be spent on church life with church people. Our meditations too easily focus on making church more suited for ourselves, than making Christ more available to others. The fruit of this mindset is more frustration with our fellow congregants, and less joy and thanksgiving in their being with us. It is a subtle but disastrous slip from joy in the righteousness of Christ on our behalf, to satisfaction with our self-righteousness and seeking the approval of others.
Self righteousness is an expression of self justification. Self justification is an expression of our desire to be in control without regard for our accountability to God, or our responsibility in relationship to others. Self righteousness and self justification are the direct consequence of living as if we answer only to ourselves. They lead us down a path in life that denies the presence and power of God. This is the heart of sin and the root of all evil, cruelty, and wickedness in our world. And it is the heart of sin that battles for dominance in the heart of every follower of Jesus Christ.
The remedy for the evil rooted in our own hearts is refocusing on the love, grace, mercy, and power of God toward us revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Purposefully turning our thoughts throughout our day to the fact that God is with us right now, wherever we are, whoever we are with, and whatever we are doing. Nothing can separate us from the love and presence of God revealed in Jesus Christ. There is no place on earth where God is not present and active. There is no tyrannical power on earth that can ultimately overcome the power of God at work in and through the people of God.
As followers of Jesus Christ, God’s presence, love, power, and faithfulness inspires us to obey God. In obedience to God we help each other fulfill the purpose of God in the world around us. In pursuit of God’s purpose we love one another no matter what it costs us in time, status, or financial gain. Our lives are in God’s hands, not our own. We are products of God’s craftsmanship created in Jesus Christ to pursue God’s good works. We answer to God for how we spend our lives, not to ourselves. And thanks be to God in Jesus Christ, God has already given us his seal of approval, his promised Holy Spirit living within us. We don’t have to prove anything to anybody. God already approves of us. We are free to live for God honoring his mercy, love and grace for one another.
1. Remember often, what God has done for all people in Jesus Christ.
2. Thank God for his faithfulness revealed in Jesus Christ.
3. In prayer, trust God to guide and keep ourselves, our loved ones, and our enemies, in the center of His will.