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1 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.
2 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.
The exact locality in which Jesus uttered the words considered in the last chapter is not stated, and it matters little. It was somewhere in that journey among "the cities and village of Galilee" to which he departed after despatching the twelve on their first preaching tour in twos. During that same journey occurred a small recontre between Jesus and the rarely-absent Pharisees, which, though occupying but a minute or two of time, gave birth to one of the many utterances of wisdom which have been operative for all time ever since.
It was on a Sabbath Day, in the open air, when many people would be out enjoying the blue sky, clear atmosphere and beautiful scenery of a Syrian climate, in the interval between the Synagogue attendances. Jesus also was out, and passing through a field of ripening corn (Matt. xii. 1) Some of the disciples were with him, though not the twelve. Some, also, of the Pharisees were near and observant. As they walked along, the disciples began to pluck ears of corn, as the law allowed (Deut. xxiii. 25), and rubbing them in their hands, to eat the same. The Pharisees, on the outlook for something to discredit Jesus in the eyes of the people, seized on this as a breach of the Sabbath law:
"Thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the Sabbath day."
Well, the breaking of the Sabbath was unlawful, and it is a good thing to be opposed to "that which is not lawful;" but it is a different thing to show this opposition only when the object is to condemn another. This is a common and grievous form of wickedness. Righteous men are scrupulous round the whole circle of God's commandments, and not at one or two points only; and they show their scrupulosity in subjecting their own life to them on all points, rather than in hunting up the shortcomings of their neighbours. It is a suspicious thing when a man shows a great and unusual zeal on behalf of some one element of righteousness, to score a point against an adversary.
Jesus has called such zeal "hypocrisy," and the most searching reflection will show that it is nothing else. Zeal of this sort is apt to be very shallow in its constructions, and it is always deaf to reason. The only way to deal with it effectually, next to passing it by on the other side (which Jesus sometimes did, and wisdom sometimes calls for), is to question it on its own premises. This is what Jesus did in this case.
Their zeal ostensibly was all on behalf of what had been written. Very well:
"Have ye not read what David did when he was an hungered, and they that were with him? -- how he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shew bread which was not lawful for him to eat?"
If David did an unlawful thing, which the Pharisees palliated, why were they to condemn Jesus and his disciples if a similar palliation existed? The palliation in David's case was David's need and David's discretionary power as Yahweh's anointed servant, on whom the Spirit of the Lord rested. An identical palliation existed in the case of Jesus: his disciples were hungry, and he had a far higher measure of divine authority than David. -- Again, he said, "Have ye not read in the law how that on the Sabbath days, the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless." The priests, notwithstanding the command to do no work on the Sabbath day, were to offer up special sacrifices on that day, or to circumcise children whose eighth day might fall on the Sabbath, that God's will on other points might be done. In doing this, they were blameless, though technically guilty.
The Pharisees were aware of this -- that the temple law suspended the Sabbath law where the law otherwise required it, without involving unrighteousness. Yet they were condemning disciples of Jesus for doing on the Sabbath day what the Sabbath law required -- viz.: the eating of food to supply nature's wants; and that, too, under the sanction of one present who was "greater than the temple!" It was a poor and paltry quibble,as the sanctimonious carpings of enmity generally are. But what a crime when directed against "the Son of Man who is Lord even of the Sabbath day." "If ye had known," said Jesus, "what this meaneth, 'I will have mercy and not sacrifice,' ye would not have condemned the guiltless." "If ye had known ": how much is involved in this.
There is a knowledge, of which the Pharisees had their full share, which does not go deep enough for the true apprehension of the meaning of things. It is exact enough and apt enough so far as it goes, but it does not go below the outside appearance of things. It stops short at their external form -- their human bearings -- how they will affect this one and that -- what this one and that will say. The form of an institution is sharply discerned by this class of intellect, without any sense of its intent.
Israel was never deficient in this microscopical and petty breadth of mind which they possess in wonderful density to this day. With a strong sense of what might be called the mechanical sancitities of the Mosaic law, they lacked the deep probing penetration that goes to the bottom of things, and the mental amplitude that can take in "the breadth and length and height" of which Paul speaks.
They accepted and stickled for the washings, and the fastings, and the sacrifices, without seeing what was under it all -- righteousness, mercy, obedience, faith. God rebuked them more than once for the multitude of their sacrifices in the absence of the spiritual "salt" that made them acceptable -- not that the sacrifices were not enjoined, but that they were out of place when divorced from the sentiments of which God intended them to be the symbol and expression. Jesus is here directing them to one of those reproofs by Hosea (vi. 6). "I desired mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings." He says if they had understood this saying, they would not have condemned the disciples for eating corn on the Sabbath.
Why not? What had the saying about mercy versus sacrifice to do with the Sabbath? Directly, nothing: but indirectly, everything, as Christ's remark shows. It showed that as in sacrifice, so in the Sabbath, they must obey and interpret the law of it in the spirit in which it was instituted -- which was a spirit of mercy and wisdom. The Sabbath was ordained for rest and refreshment -- not for penance and oppression. "The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath," as he said on another occasion.
As expounders of the law, they ought to have understood this, and not to have substituted a censorious legal exactness for the spirit of benevolent common sense in which the commandment originated. The disciples were "guiltless" -- for so he pronounced them -- though they ate corn in the fields on the Sabbath day: and the guilty ones were the Pharisees who condemned them -- ostensibly in a spirit of zeal for the divine law, but in reality in a spirit of hostility to him who was, by pre-eminence, the Servant of Righteousness, who had mortally hurt their dignity by championising its claims against their traditions.
Nazareth Revisited - 'In Collision with the Pharisees.'
7 But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.
"So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also to you if ye from your hearts -- FROM YOUR HEARTS -- forgive not every one his brother their trespasses."
The greatest of personal sacrifice is repulsive to God if it is in self-glory and harshness, and not in the spirit of humbleness and mercy and tenderness and an expanding love toward all mankind.
Bro Growcott - I Will Return To My First Husband
31 Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the holy spirit shall not be forgiven unto men.
The Pharisees committed an unpardonable sin in attributing the miracles of Christ to Beelzebub, the imaginary prince of demons; but such an offence would be impossible now. There is no miracle-working now, nor are there any who have tasted of the powers of the world to come in the same sense as did the apostles of the first century. In short, it is perfectly evident that the whole of the New Testament teaching is in harmony with the words of John,
"There is a sin unto death, and there is a sin not unto death."
Those who do their best to follow Christ, and keep pressing onward will be forgiven the remissnesses which they have manifested.
It was thus in Old Testament times. Unless those under the law were in a much more privileged position than those under grace, forgiveness of sin would be no more possible then than it is now; yet, after entering covenant relationship the subsequent sacrifices offered were an indication that sin might still be covered. The Israelites did sin without exception, and yet it is clearly stated that many of them will have eternal life.
TC March 1896.
37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.
I proceed now to remark, that the second proposition of our opponents is as foundationless as their first.
They say that the " righteous are not to be brought to judgment." By this they mean that the elect are not to stand at the bar of Christ's tribunal, and there to tell the story of their lives, as developed in connection with the profession of the faith.
Their theory of being conceived, quickened and born of the spirit in an instant of time, will
not allow of giving account. They are satisfied with nothing short of an instantaneous and sudden bound from the dust, somewhat after the manner of a rocket skyward through the air !
They do not seem to have any respect for figures, or analogies ; and, I am sorry to say, some of them manifest as little deference for the plain and direct testimony of the Word.
Moses and Paul both testify that " Yahweh shall judge His people " (Deut. xxxii. 36 ; Heb. x. 30). And Solomon says, " The Elohim shall judge the righteous and the Wicked " (Eccl. iii. 17). This Elohistic Judge is the Father and the Son in flesh-manifestation, justified by spirit (1 Tim. iii. 16). "The Father hath committed all judgment to the Son, and hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of Man " (Jno. v. 22, 27). " As I hear," adds Jesus, " I judge; and my judgment is just." " The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day " (Jno. xii. 48). " The Lord will not condemn the righteous when he is judged " (Ps. xxxvii. 33). " He shall bring every work into
judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil" (Eccl. xii. 14). " Every injurious word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in a day of judgment " (not merely when they confess in prayer) : " for by thy words," saith Jesus, " thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned " (Matt. xii. 36-37).
Paul teaches that "men treasure up for themselves wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of Deity : who will render to every man according to his
deeds : to them who by patient continuance in well doing SEEK FOR glory and honour and incorruptibility, eternal life ; but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first and also of the Gentile ; but glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile ; for there is no respect of persons with Deity. For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law ; and as many as have sinned in the law, shall be judged by law, in the day when Deity shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel" (Rom. ii. 5-12,16).
No teaching can be plainer than this. There is a day styled " the last day," which is " a day of judgment " ; specified by John as " the time of the dead that they should be judged " (Rev. xi. 18). In that day, " a great white throne " is set; and " the dead, small and great, stand before Deity " sitting thereon : certain books are then opened;" and the dead are judged out of those things which are written in the book, according to their works " (Rev. xx. 11-15).
41 The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.
From what Jesus says about Moses and the prophets, it is evident that the class of mind that cannot be convinced by the evidence contained in the Scriptures, and the confirmation which it receives in various ways from the history and condition of mankind, is too far below the elementary endowments of intelligence to possess the faith that pleases God, and without which it is testified "it is impossible, to please Him" (Heb. xi. 6). How much more must this have been true of those who, like the Scribes and Pharisees, could listen to Christ's wonderful teaching and behold his wonderful works without perceiving, with Nicodemus, that he was "a teacher come from God."
We may therefore understand why he proceeded to give his contemporary generation a poor place in comparison with some of the ancients:
...The Ninevites showed some susceptibility to the claims of righteousness at the mouth of an erring prophet. The Queen of Sheba showed some reverent appreciation of excellence coming to her merely as a matter of report. But here was a generation who could set up their opposition to him to whom all the prophets gave witness, and who could cry down the impersonation of all wisdom and worth though exhibited in their very midst.
Nazareth Revisited - In collision with the Pharisees
50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
A brother of Christ (or Christadelphian) is one who does the will of the Father. This is Christ's own declaration (Matt. xii. 50). Consequently, you may disregard the suggestion that a man is not a Christadelphian who, being otherwise a doer of the Father's will, was uninstructed at the time of his baptism on some abstruse question of priesthood. We have to grow in knowledge.