matthew.gif (5610 bytes)

Matthew 12:1-21
Yeshua's Teachings

Last Updated 6-30-00


At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day. But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless? But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. 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. And when he was departed thence, he went into their synagogue: And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him. And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other. Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him. But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all; And charged them that they should not make him known: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory. And in his name shall the Gentiles trust.

12:2  thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath ...

One of the concepts lost upon the modern reader of the Bible (unfamiliar with the Jewishness of the Scriptures), is that Yeshua and the Pharisees were not arguing from vastly different backgrounds. Yeshua Himself taught as a Pharisee and His dialogue with these religious leaders can very well be considered a "family argument." Had Yeshua been coming from some new non-Pharisaical viewpoint, the Pharisees would have had little concern for what He was saying. However, He was arguing within the family, and beginning to convince people that many of the Pharisees were both hypocritical and wrong in their opinion about him. (See 12:23 in the next section.)

The section from 12:1-12:8 has to do with an accusation made by certain Pharisees regarding some of Yeshua's disciples, picking and eating grain in a field during the Sabbath. The verses shown above are the key ones in this passage. The Torah does prohibit "work" on Shabbat, and the oral Law of the time would support the Pharisees claim.

Yeshua responds to this in a fourfold manner:

  • He makes comparison to two accounts from scripture
  • He tells them that He is greater than the Temple
  • He reminds about what He told them to learn earlier (Matthew 9:13)
  • He say that He is Lord of the sabbath day

12:3-5  Have ye not read what David did ... have ye not read in the Law

The first Scripture Yeshua quotes is of David eating of the "bread of the Face," something that was reserved for the priests to eat (from 1 Samuel 21:6), followed by how the Torah allows for priests to do certain type of work on the Sabbath, as part of their Temple service (Leviticus 24:5-9). His point in quoting these, is to establish the principle that within the framework of the Torah is a hierarchy of principles.

The Pharisees recognized this fact, as in the Talmud makes it clear that both the commands of circumcision and Temple sacrificial service, take precedence over the command not to do work on the Sabbath:

Talmud - Mas. Shabbath 132b - whilst the sacrificial service supersedes the Sabbath, yet circumcision supersedes it: then the Sabbath, which is superseded by the sacrificial service, surely circumcision supersedes it.

12:6 ... in this place is one greater than the temple

Having reminded these Pharisees of the recognized oral Torah, he now announced that He is greater than the Temple (therefore the same hierarchy of principles should apply to Him and His disciples). Yeshua was the Temple of God while on earth.

Once again, John's Gospel (the one) makes the connection for us:

John 2:19-21 - Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body.

Yeshua is alluding to what the prophet Isaiah spoke about the relationship between God and His Temple:

Isaiah 66:1 - Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?

The same passage in Isaiah, also says what the Lord is looking for in man. These words mirror those of Hosea 6:6, which Yeshua quotes in verse 7 below:

Isaiah 66:1 - For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.

12:7  but if ye had known what this meaneth, ...

Yeshua repeats his quote from Hosea 6:5, that He said earlier in Matthew 9:13. If these Pharisees had truly been seeking God's righteousness, and not their own, they would have recognized Him as the Messiah. They made themselves "blind" through their legalistic observance of the commands of God, seeking their own righteousness over His (i.e., Romans 10:3).

If they had recognized His as Messiah, then by both the written and oral Torah, they would have no cause to be critical of any work being done by those serving the one who is greater than the Temple.

12:8  For the Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath day.

Just as the priority was not to fast during Yeshua's presence on earth (Matthew 9:14-17), so to does this affect other priorities of the Torah (as mentioned above). The Messiah's presence on earth was not to invalidate any of Torah (Matthew 5:17-21). Any "messiah" that declared an end to Torah would be a false one.

Rather, according to the correct Hebrew understanding of the Scriptures (at that time and now), Messiah is to come and explain the deeper meanings of the Torah. Because of this better understanding He gives, when we study and perform the commands of the Torah (Romans 2:13, James 1:22), we can grow in our relationship with God, enjoying life more abundantly (John 10:10).

The Torah was given to man for a variety of reasons, all of which have to do with the principle of tikkun, ("spiritual repair"). Torah does this by showing us what the meaning of life is, namely:

  • To be conformed to the image of God
  • To grow in intimacy in our relationship with Him

Messiah fulfills the same role, as He is the goal of the Torah (Romans 10:4, when properly translated). Isaiah writes that by His suffering and death, Messiah brings spiritual healing (tikkun) between us and God:

Isaiah 53:5-6 - But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

The above verse has been misused to by some as having something to do with physical healing. It does not in Isaiah's context, nor when Peter cites the verse and reiterates that this healing has to do with our being made righteous:

1 Peter 2: 24-25 - Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

12:8  And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days?

Here is an example of where the true meaning of Sabbath had been lost and the prioritization of God's commandments placed out of order. The Pharisees had developed a teaching that healing on the Sabbath was "work" and therefore not allowed. Yeshua continues to teach that the purpose of the Sababth is that of tikkun. Refusing to do good (to heal someone in this case) would not be doing anything to advance the Kingdom of God. For instance, circumcision is an important part of tikkun, and is commanded to be done on the eight day - whether or not this falls on a Sabbath.

12:18  Behold My Servant ...

The verses from 18 to 21 are a quotation from Isaiah. Matthew mentions this in relation to Yeshua's request for the people He healed (in verse 15) not to broadcast to everyone what He was doing. As the people of the day were expecting a powerful vengeful Messiah that would lead Israel to glory (i.e., Messiah ben David) He did not want some violent insurrection to take place with everyone thinking He would be the leader. The quote from Isaiah clearly alludes to a Messiah ben Joseph type -- one that would suffer and die for his people.

12:20 ... till He send forth judgment into victory

At that time he will play the role of Messiah ben David, the Lion of Judah, and the High Priest annointed unto war. (For more on the topic of the High Priest annointed unto war, click here to read an article from our Revelation study, then use your BACK button to return to this Matthew study.)