Year A Pentecost 9
Matthew 11:25 – 12:13
Jesus Thanks His Father
25 At that time Jesus said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
28 ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’
Plucking Grain on the Sabbath
12At that time Jesus went through the cornfields on the sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2When the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, ‘Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the sabbath.’ 3He said to them, ‘Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4He entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests. 5Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath the priests in the temple break the sabbath and yet are guiltless? 6I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 7But if you had known what this means, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice”, you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8For the Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.’
The Man with a Withered Hand
9 He left that place and entered their synagogue; 10a man was there with a withered hand, and they asked him, ‘Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath?’ so that they might accuse him. 11He said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has only one sheep and it falls into a pit on the sabbath; will you not lay hold of it and lift it out? 12How much more valuable is a human being than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the sabbath.’ 13Then he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and it was restored, as sound as the other.
Matthew 11:25 – 12:13
© The New Revised Standard Version,
(Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers) 1989In the name of God. Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sometimes we get hungry, walking all over the country-side. It’s not easy going from one place to another, carrying our water, a bit of bread with olives, but often unsure of where we will eat at night. I can remember some nights when we would sleep out and just go hungry. But then other nights we would stay in a friend’s house, and they would feed us all, almost a banquet, with all of their family, and us, and Jesus, all sitting around the table or leaning against the walls. These are the times when I feel the best; when there is lamb, and bread with olives, cheese and wine; friendship around the fire.
And while we were there, all gathered around, we’d listen to him talk about God, and tell stories… like the one about the farmer who went out into the paddocks with bags of seed, and threw it around. Some of the seed fell on the path and the birds ate it, some fell on the hard ground, where it sprang up, but then withered and died, some fell where there were thorns, and thistles, so the seed never got a chance to grow, and some of the seed fell on good soil then shot up, and grew into healthy, fruitful wheat. He said it was a story about people, and how some would hear God’s word and be fruitful, and others wouldn’t.
Sometimes he would tell us words of encouragement and he always told us in gentle meaningful ways. Like when he told us… “
‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’
I think when I hear him say that it was the first time I had really felt as if I was loved and that my life wasn’t just up to me.
Ah, they were good times with Jesus, …but nearly every day there was trouble too.
Once we were all walking towards a village, it was off in the distance, and we were hoping to get there on time so we could go to the synagogue, it was the Sabbath, and we’d be walking all day. We’d had water with us, but hadn’t eaten for hours, and we came to a place where the track had grain fields on either side. Golden, full, ready to be cut down and thrashed to get the heads off to be made into flour and bread. Of course where the grain was growing and falling beside the track, all of us were pulling it off, chewing on the wheat flowers, the grain, grinding in our mouths to get that floury, sweet taste. Wonderful. Just those few handfuls of grain gave new energy to us.
And I was thinking about the story that Jesus told, about the farmer, and the seed falling on different ground.
And then we turned a bend, and there were five religious men, all dressed in black, like a looming black cloud.
‘oih’ one yelled out. “What do you think you are doing on this day?” “You know as well as anyone that it’s the Sabbath, the day or rest, a holy day… so why are you picking grain and eating it… that is against the law”.
Of course, on the Sabbath, the day of rest, no one could do any work; even picking grain, was against their law.
Well he spoke up, Jesus did, and told these religious men, the men dressed in black, a story from the scriptures… from the life of David, ages old, told from one generation to another….[1 Samuel 21:1-6.].
And Jesus said to them… “Of course you men would remember David, he was chosen by God to be king, and he became a great man, leader, of our faith. He was very human, ordinary in ways, and yet faithful; a man of God. Before he was king, he had to flee for his life, run away so he wouldn’t be killed. And he ran and ran and finally entered the synagogue and went to the priest. “What do you have to eat”, David asked. “Nothing” the priest said, “except the Holy bread, that has been put aside and is only to be eaten by the priests. But you should eat it”… the priest said and so he gave David, the Holy Bread.
Then looking straight at the holy men dressed in black, Jesus said to them…. “Surely if David can eat the Holy Bread, given to him by the priest, these faithful hungry men can eat wheat. You know, you worship a God who wants mercy, love, and not sacrifice and suffering. You remember those ancient words, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice”.
Of course, as usual, the men didn’t know what to say. They were silent, and just walked past us and on their way with their heads down. I wonder if they heard anything he said, or if they just ignored those words, too proud to think about it, and consider those words of wisdom.
We kept walking and of course, we kept picking that wheat and eating as we went. It was liberating. Freeing. Rebellious. To be picking and eating that wheat grain on that Holy day.
When I was young there were so many rules in our house, and in our village; the things we weren’t allowed to do. There were days for doing some things and days not for doing some things. There were times for certain clothes, and days for eating or not eating, seasons for going to special places, and years to be seen to be doing the right thing.
And when I became an adult, still I had to do those things, and of course I believed that if I did them all, and more, that I was doing what God wanted. And now I see people talking about what God wants but oppressing people with rules and laws. And now I hear people talking about what God wants, and telling people what they are doing is not what God wants. And people say what God is like, and how others are not like them and not like God. And people talk about God and fight each other because they believe God is on their side, and like them, and not on the side of the others. And with their laws, and rules, and ideas, and image of God, they feel safe… and powerful.
And as we walked picking the grain, chewing, and feeling renewed in strength, I kept thinking about those words that Jesus said…
“God desires mercy, and not sacrifice”.
“God desires mercy, and not sacrifice”.
Finally we came to the village and we all followed him straight to the synagogue. I thought we might stop for food, but no, we went straight to the synagogue. Just as we walked, in it was as if they were expecting Jesus, and a hush came over the crowd sitting on the floor. Then one of the men in black stood up and looking at Jesus, he pointed to a man leaning against a pillar, he had a withered hand, dark and dry, and the man in black asked him, ‘Is it lawful to cure on the Sabbath?’ Straight away I knew they were trying to trap him. Jesus said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has only one sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath; will you not lay hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a human being than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.’ Then he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and it was alive again, renewed, as sound as the other.
Ah, I thought again, “God desires mercy, and not sacrifice”.