In Matthew 12, the disciples plucked grain on the Sabbath day to satisfy their hunger. The Pharisees condemned them for doing so and complained to Jesus about the perceived violation of the law.
Jesus, however, responded to their wrong way of thinking. After mentioning David in a time of need and noting the example of the priests, He concludes, “But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day” (Matt. 12:7-8). By this, Jesus indicates the Pharisees did not grasp the idea behind Hosea 6:6. God desires mercy and not sacrifice. The underlying principle is that God cares more about people than rituals. He is Lord of the Sabbath. If the Lord cares more about an animal in need than carrying out the discipline of the Sabbath day, then He certainly cares more about people than ritualistic concerns.
Jesus also adds that if they had understood the principle, they would not have condemned the innocent. How many so focus on their version of law-keeping or how in their minds Christianity should play out, that they constantly condemn others who are innocent in God’s sight? Too many have felt the weight of an unjust condemnation. In contrast, how freeing is the truth as it is in Jesus! Jesus never compromises, but He regularly shows God’s real intent. And truth as God intends it to be understood is often far different than interpretations derived from man’s extrapolations.
John Van Gelderen