I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath. (Mat 12:6-8 ESV)
Walking through a grainfield on the Sabbath, Jesus’ disciples caused offense by plucking and eating the heads of grain. Jesus responded to the criticism by pointing to the Scriptures. He referenced the life of King David and the work of the priests in the temple on the Sabbath. Then he stated that he was greater than the temple and that he was Lord of the Sabbath.
It is hard for us to appreciate the depth of the shock this must have created. It was an earthquake. God had created natural boundaries to mark the circle of the years, the passing of the months, and the division of night and day. But there was no natural boundary to mark a week. There was a supernatural boundary established in God’s own creative activity. He rested. People should rest. This revelation was given to the Jews. Nothing so demarcated the Jew as the chosen of God as the Sabbath. The temple was part of that, but there were many temples. There was only one Sabbath and it belonged to the Jews.
To claim a greatness beyond the temple and even the Sabbath, to claim in fact to be Lord of the Sabbath, was nothing less than a claim to be equal with God. It was a stunning revelation that many would not accept. It was the writings of C. S. Lewis that first confronted me with the fact that there were no mild reactions to Jesus. They ran after him. They ran away from him. They sought to destroy him. But they could not disregard him.
How sad when the modern church is able to drift in and out of its services with a casualness that borders on blasphemy. How very sad that people quit “church” with claims of boredom and irrelevance. How very, very sad when church leaders strain at the oars to produce the kind of ‘service of worship’ that will keep people engaged.
Yet Jesus has not changed. Let him but walk through a grainfield and it becomes a sanctuary. O that he would walk through our churches once again! Even if no one repented, they would at least leave in a fit of rage, ‘hopping mad’ as they say at the crossroads. Our striving for relevance is making us irrelevant. He is God! If that is not relevant now, it soon will be. Yes. It soon will be.
What a Savior!