Change is coming...

Notice in the readings the mixed reception that Jesus receives. This new 'way' draws much criticism and anger from the religious leaders of His day. The Pharisees are looking for ways to oppose and trap Him. They have trusted so much in their strict obedience to the Law that their hearts have become hard to the truth Jesus has brought into the world. Jesus quotes Hosea 6.6 a couple of times. I love this passage of scripture: "I (God) desire mercy, not sacrifice." The Israelites were trusting in their sacrifices to make them right with God. But as Jesus will continue to say, it is the condition of our hearts that connects us with our Heavenly Father.

I believe the church in our day focuses on sins of commission. We seem to focus on not doing certain things. But there are also sins of omission. These are things that we should do, but choose not to do. I believe it is possible to not do evil/wrong, but still fail to do good. This is what was going on with the Pharisees. They were completely preoccupied with staying away from certain things and in turn, they missed out on doing more important things (did that sentence make any sense?). We can be guilty of the same. Let's not focus only on cutting out certain things...let's remember to do good in the process.


  1. How is it that man naturally seeks refuge in rules, order and regulation when it comes to “religion”? The “practice” of Christianity, Judaism, Islam and others often succumb to the seemingly natural desire of humanity to cling to ritual, dogma and legalisms that dictate behavior that is “pleasing” to God. I have been blessed by many of the commentaries of learned scholars available on the internet. Many have pointed out that the Pharisees (the cultural leaders and revered and honored peoples of their time within the Jewish community) ‘religiously’ adhered to the law to ensure that their behavior was proper and righteousness before God. In particular, the following comment was quite powerful in speaking to me about the beckoning of Christ and his desire for relationship:

    “The principles of God's Word actually demand far more from us than extrapolated rules: they demand the absolute integrity of our hearts before God, summoning us to devote all our actions and thoughts to his glory (Matt. 5:17-48). Perhaps some Christians take refuge primarily in legal debates because we lack the courage to pursue a genuine relationship with the Father through faith in Jesus Christ”.”

    As in previous chapters, there is a great depth of amazing material in Matthew 12, but most poignantly it speaks to me about relationship with Christ, in the face of political, social and cultural opposition. The words He spoke the deeds he did (and when he did them) were clearly in opposition to the accepted social and religious norms of the day. In a culture which was honor bound and family centered, he boldly commented, committed and acted contra to the “acceptable”. The Pharisees rose up against him largely because of his popularity and the message of freedom through belief and commitment to God through His Son. This was anathema to their very calling and existence!

    In the final verses of the chapter, in the presence of his mother and brothers He boldly and clearly states that it is the priority of God’s people to act in obedience, commitment and worship to God. Again, the commentary that follows completely, concisely and appropriately gives context to the priority of Christ:

    “From this we learn both the importance of obedience and the futility of depending on other means of access to Jesus. Those who suppose they have some natural claim on the kingdom have no claim on it at all. But those who obey God's will for themselves have an intimate relationship with Jesus and can depend on him the way members of his immediate family can. Perhaps Jesus stresses the priority of spiritual family here because he hopes to be able to count on his disciples too.”

    In today’s cultural and social environment, where tolerance is applied to almost any form of anti-Christ behavior, there is little if any tolerance for the claim that Jesus Christ is above all. Around the world there is outright hatred and persecution of those that dare claim that He is the way, the truth and the life. He became the quiet revolutionary leader of the ages because of the divine and overarching nature of His mission. He remains a figure contra to the culture even today. What a humbling blessing to know Him!

  2. Gosh, I feel inadequate writing a simple thing after Grant's wonderful blog!

    I have been doing a bible study on Moses and we have been talking about all the obedience of the Laws back in the Old Testament. One example talks about clean/unclean animals to eat. Is it wrong these days to eat, lets say pork because of the law back in the Old Testament? or Do we not have to follow that because of Jesus atoning for our sins as a sacrifice, in the New Testament?

  3. It is the way the controversy is spread at the moments when Christ's words are most diffusing that amaze me. In so many situations with the religious officials, Christ has the opportunity to completely thrash them, and yet always the wisdom to answer them with words that draw back to conversation and contemplation, not to conflict.
    I guess he had to be diplomatic, to carry out the plan. Otherwise he would have been wiped out by the leaders before the planned time. But there is so much more peace and assurance in the words of such contradiction to the leaders. I can only imagine the battle in the minds of the religious leaders who cared enough to listen.
    Contra figure indeed, and yet in a tone of love that could easily pass our understanding, when we don't read read absorb and pray to understand.

  4. Wow, Grant, that was very powerful and moving. Thank you.

    Matt, I wonder if the issue you were describing is the third kind of soil Jesus mentions in 13:22. I think the question is are we focused on what we're doing or what God's doing?
    Verse 58 says "...He did only a few miracles there because of their unbelief." A note in my Bible says, "Believe, ask God for a mighty work in your life, and expect Him to act." The focus there is on what God's doing. Then we can look at our openness to receiving that.

  5. Esther Bailey

    Thanks, Lori for the beautiful example of stepping out of the boat. I'm glad God directed you to step our way.

    Your story prompts me to share how I'm stepping out of the boat this year, but only into very shallow water. My commitment goes back to Chapter 6 where Jesus says, "Why do you worry about clothes?"

    I like fashion but enough of a good thing is enough and I overdid it late last year. Therefore, I have decided I will buy no clothes this year. Exception: shoes for a foot problem and if I need a special dress for my granddaughter's wedding.

    The reason for my posting my commitment on the blog is so I will have to keep it. A commitment made publicly is easier to keep than one made privately.