Apart from His works of healing, Jesus’ ministry consisted of two things: teaching and preaching. Teaching and preaching are not the same thing. Teaching is instruction; it has to do with content, and it is primary. Preaching contains instruction and is based on it, but it is more than mere instruction. It is also a passionate declaration of what the hearers need to do with the truth they have been given, and it calls for that response. True preaching is the point at which sound teaching becomes personal.
Statue of Josephus in Germany by Bridge in Wurzburg. After receiving freedom from slavery by Emperor Vespasian he took the emperor’s name, Flavius, thus becoming Flavius Josephus. Josephus was a soldier in the Roman/Jewish war. He was an eyewitness to Rome’s First-Century conquest of Judea and would become an indispensable part to a proper understanding of Jewish thought during the time of Christ..
“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.