“A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” It was certainly true of the Pharisees in this story (Matthew 12.1-21). Mark says they were silenced (3.4). Yes, but not convinced. In fact, the situation grew worse. Rather than being merely unconvinced, they were determined to kill Jesus. 12.14).
In this story Matthew (12.1-21) explains that Jesus and His disciples were passing through the grain fields on the Sabbath day, and because the disciples were hungry, they began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands to separate the grain from the chaff, and eat the grain. There is no suggestion that the disciples were stealing. On the contrary, the right to pick and eat grain at the edges of fields was established by Deuteronomy 23.25. The sole issue was the Sabbath and the Pharisees’ narrow rules for keeping it. Some years later the famous Jewish rabbi Maimonides said, “To pluck ears is a kind of reaping.” But the disciples were guilty of more than that, according to the Pharisees. By plucking grain they were guilty of reaping. By rubbing it in their hands they were guilty of threshing. By blowing off the chaff they were guilty of winnowing. And by the total of those acts they were guilty of preparing a meal—all of which was forbidden.
Opposition to Jesus began to develop in Israel after His early ministry in Galilee. But so far it has not been too bad. John the Baptist’s doubt was not really opposition, and the unbelief of the Galileans was more a case of indifference than rejection. Now the situation changes as Matthew brings the fierce opposition of the Jewish leaders to the fore.
Isaac Watts wrote one of the most familiar of all the Christmas carols that turns out actually, not to have been intended as a Christmas carol at all that we call “Joy To The World.” Watts led in the development of hymns in the English tradition, drawing many of his hymn texts directly from the Psalms. The song we know as “Joy To The World” is actually based upon the Psalm 98, which declares creation’s joy when the Lord comes to rule and to judge.
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Continue reading ““The Christmas Story””
Matthew 11 ends with a Gospel invitation to do what those who have believed in Jesus Christ have done. They have enrolled in Christ’s school in order that they might learn and believe all that He will teach them. Here Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Continue reading ““A Christmas Gift””