Lesson 6

Resting in Christ

(Matthew 12)
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Introduction: As a lawyer, I believe in rules. Having the right rules provides the maximum amount of freedom, including religious freedom. God believes in the rule of law, otherwise Jesus would not have come to fulfill the requirements of the law on our behalf. What keeps lawyers in business is conflicts between rules and different views about the same rule. Our lesson this week is about sorting out God's rules. Let's plunge into our study of Matthew and see what we can learn about the nature of God's rules!

  1. The Yoke Rule


    1. Read Matthew 11:28-30. Last week we looked at these verses. Let's consider one additional aspect. Jesus offers us a "yoke." Is that a good or bad thing?


      1. Isn't a yoke like a rule, it constrains us?(The yoke is a constraint, but the good thing is that Jesus is the other person in the yoke. This means that in every task, every challenge, every problem, Jesus is pulling for you. This is a constraint that helps. It shows mercy.)


    2. Read Matthew 12:1-2. Why is it unlawful to pick heads of grain? (The problem was not stealing grain (Deuteronomy 23:25), the charge was working on Sabbath ( Exodus 20:8-11).)


    3. Read Matthew 12:3-4. What do you think of Jesus' answer? Isn't that the answer your children give you - other people do it? "He's doing it, she's doing it!"


      1. What answer would you think might be better than "others do the same thing?" (I would answer that this was not work.)


    4. Read 1 Samuel 21:1-6. Is David telling the truth about being on a mission for King Saul? (No. If you read the prior chapter you will see that Jonathan warned David that King Saul wants to kill him. David is running away from Saul.)


      1. What is similar between David's situation and the situation of Jesus' disciples? (They are hungry.)


      2. Is that the lesson we should learn about the Sabbath - it is okay to break the rules if you are hungry?


        1. If that is not the lesson, what is Jesus' lesson?


          1. Helping others is more important than the rules?


        2. What if helping others is the main rule?


          1. Is that a standard? Is that a rule?


    5. Read Matthew 12:5-8. What does Jesus mean when He says that He is "Lord of the Sabbath?" (He gets to decide what is appropriate to do on the Sabbath.)


      1. What does Jesus mean when He says, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice?" ( Hosea 6:6) (If Jesus' disciples and David had refrained from eating that would have been a sacrifice. Thus, Jesus is saying that for the Sabbath command (and others, apparently), the goal is to show mercy.)


      2. Is that a rule? (I think it is. Consider your view of the second half of the Ten Commandments and every other similar rule in the Bible. Are they there to trip us up, to catch us in sin? Or, are they there because Jesus loves us and wants us to live a life free from unnecessary problems? I think the rules exist to show us mercy - and that is the point Jesus is making. His "yoke" is a mercy to us.)


      3. Notice that the Sabbath commandment is not in the "second half" of the Ten Commandments. Is it about worshiping God or is it about having a better life? (The Fourth Commandment is a transition from the commands concerning God and those concerning fellow humans. Read Mark 2:27-28. The Sabbath is a day of rest for humans, but it is also a special time for recalling what God has done for us.)


  2. Shriveled Hand Rule


    1. Read Matthew 12:9-10. How would you answer this if you understood that mercy is the goal behind God's rules? (The answer is an obvious, "yes.")


    2. Read Matthew 12:11-13. How does this story reinforce the previous stories about picking grain and David eating the sanctuary bread? (This shows that mercy is the overriding rule.)


      1. Let's circle back to David's story about the temple bread. What was the purpose of the temple and the temple ceremonies? (To point to Jesus coming and dying on our behalf.)


        1. Was that showing mercy to us? (Yes! Preferring the rules about the temple bread over David's needs would ignore the entire point of the temple ceremony - that God was coming to show us mercy!)


    3. Do you think God has a hierarchy of rules? Are some rules more important than others?


      1. In American law, there is a rule of statutory construction that says one rule supercedes another only if there is a direct conflict. In the stories we have looked at so far (picking grain and healing on Sabbath/David eating sanctuary bread), was there a direct conflict between the rule of mercy and Sabbath or sanctuary rules? ( Leviticus 24:8-9 directly conflicts with David eating the bread. Plus, Jesus admits there is a conflict ( Matthew 12:4). Although I don't see the conflict with picking grain, Jesus refrained from arguing His disciples were not working. I think Jesus' point is that there is a hierarchy of rules.)


      2. Is there an alternative to the hierarchy of rules explanation? (That all the rules have a common core - showing mercy.)


    4. Read Matthew 12:14. What are the religious leaders showing? (Not mercy. They are showing hatred. This is a clear violation of the rules.)


  3. The Mercy Rule


    1. Read Matthew 12:15-16. After Jesus learns of the plot to kill Him, He withdraws. Was it dangerous for Him to heal? (Yes, it would further provoke the religious leaders to kill Him.)


      1. Why does Jesus do this anyway? (Mercy!)


    2. Read Matthew 12:17-21. What are we told Jesus will do? (In the power of the Holy Spirit He will proclaim justice, and He will lead "justice to victory." He will create hope.)


      1. What will Jesus not do? (He will not quarrel or cry out. He will not raise His voice. He will not further injure those who are already injured.)


    3. Re-read Matthew 12:20. A "smoldering wick" has lost its flame. A "bruised reed" is in danger of breaking because it already has an injury. What kind of people do these describe? People who are ill? Discouraged? Losing the flame of faith?


      1. Would people who promote sinful lifestyles, and are hostile to religion, also qualify as bruised reeds and smoldering wicks?


  4. Danger Rule


    1. Read Matthew 12:22-23. What do the people seem to think? (They suggest that Jesus is the Messiah.)


    2. Read Matthew 12:24. What do the religious leaders assert? (That Jesus is powered by Satan.)


    3. In Matthew 12:25-29 Jesus makes a series of logical arguments as to why He is not using the power of Satan. Read Matthew 12:30-32. Why is Jesus talking about speaking "against the Holy Spirit" and saying that is the sin that cannot be forgiven? (Attributing to Satan the work of the Holy Spirit is the sin that cannot be forgiven.)


      1. This very morning I exchanged notes with a fellow who argued that syncopated contemporary praise music was demonic. I believe that contemporary praise music involves, in part, the Holy Spirit bringing my mind directly to God. See 1 Corinthians 14:14-17. However, the issue I want you to consider is not music, but the charge of demonic power. What is the danger? (The danger is the unpardonable sin! Christians who accuse other Christians of using the power of Satan are on very dangerous ground. They need to be certain of these charges or not make them.)


      2. Has the fellow who disagreed with me committed the unpardonable sin? (This is not like tripping a wire. The problem is that the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin. John 16:8-9. When we begin to resist the power of the Holy Spirit by claiming it is demonic, we push away its convicting power in our life. It is a process, not a single charge.)


    4. Friend, are you convicted that mercy is behind God's rules for life? Will you decide, today, to show God's mercy to others? To rest in God's mercy to you?


  5. Next week: Lord of Jews and Gentiles.

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Lessons on Matthew

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