Today’s “Page From My Journal” post really comes from three days’ worth of my studies, starting last Tuesday. I was reading along in Matthew 12 (click the reference if you’d like to follow along on BibleGateway.com), and started noticing…
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day, the Pharisees, sure gave him a hard time. At every opportunity, too. Here, they pounced on the disciples for grabbing a quick snack when they were hungry. Normally even the Pharisees didn’t criticize people for picking fresh food to eat, but this was on the Sabbath day. When they were supposed to be “resting.”
So Jesus reminded them that no less a leader than King David had done pretty much the same thing. Centuries earlier, David and his hungry companions ate the priestly bread right from the tabernacle. Of course, they had the priest’s permission. Then Jesus quoted the prophet Hosea: “For I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice…” (Hosea 6:6).
Hadn’t I just read that the week before? I turned back a few pages. Sure enough, almost the same conversation appears in Chapter 9, when the Pharisees complained about Jesus extending grace toward sinners. Jesus had told them to “Go and learn what this means.” Then he had quoted the same verse, and had also pointed out that doctors are for sick people, not healthy ones. In my journal I wrote,
The Pharisees were all about self-righteousness. But Jesus kept telling them that God wants us to show compassion / mercy…
1. If I condemn someone, I’m forgetting that I am just a fellow sinner.
2. Trying to “shame” someone is arrogant and doesn’t work anyway. The bigger picture is that everyone needs a Savior.
3. Jesus loved where there was need, not merit.
4. Compassion keeps you from condemning the innocent (12:7).
A bit later, Jesus went into the synagogue and taught some more about the Sabbath. “It is lawful,” he said, “to do good on the Sabbath” (v. 12). The Pharisees were were not amused. Here are my notes about the point Jesus was making:
Jesus answered the Pharisees by reminding them of the sprit of the Sabbath. Focusing on Christ’s love, emulating his compassion… this puts the “rules” into their proper place in life.
God had indeed established the laws, but while the sacrifices represent the letter of the law, compassion represents its spirit. What God really wants is a relationship with people. He wants us to trust him. Jesus encourages that trust because, as the prophet Isaiah foretold,
He will not quarrel, nor cry out;
Nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets.
A battered reed He will not break off,
And a smoldering wick He will not put out,
Until He leads justice to victory (verses 18-20; Matthew is quoting Isaiah 42).
I’m thankful that when I was battered by my own sin, Jesus didn’t break me off. And when the wick of my faith smoldered, he didn’t snuff it out altogether. I have learned firsthand what compassion looks like. Now I want to pass it along to others.