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    CHAPTER 12

    Mt 12:1-8. PLUCKING CORN EARS ON THE SABBATH DAY. ( = Mr 2:23-28; Lu 6:1-5).

    The season of the year when this occurred is determined by the event itself. Ripe corn ears are found in the fields only just before harvest. The barley harvest seems clearly intended here, at the close of our March and beginning of our April. It coincided with the Passover season, as the wheat harvest with Pentecost. But in Luke (Lu 6:1) we have a still more definite note of time, if we could be certain of the meaning of the peculiar term which he employs to express it. "It came to pass (he says) on the sabbath, which was the first-second," for that is the proper rendering of the word, and not "the second sabbath after the first," as in our version. Of the various conjectures what this may mean, that of SCALIGER is the most approved, and, as we think, the freest from difficulty, namely, the first sabbath after the second day of the Passover; that is, the first of the seven sabbaths which were to be reckoned from the second day of the Passover, which was itself a sabbath, until the next feast, the feast of Pentecost (Le 23:15, 16; De 16:9, 10) In this case, the day meant by the Evangelist is the first of those seven sabbaths intervening between Passover and Pentecost. And if we are right in regarding the "feast" mentioned in Joh 5:1 as a Passover, and consequently the second during our Lord's public ministry (see on Joh 5:1), this plucking of the ears of corn must have occurred immediately after the scene and the discourse recorded in Joh 5:19-47, which, doubtless, would induce our Lord to hasten His departure for the north, to avoid the wrath of the Pharisees, which He had kindled at Jerusalem. Here, accordingly, we find Him in the fields--on His way probably to Galilee.

    1. At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn--"the cornfields" (Mr 2:23; Lu 6:1).
    - and his disciples were an hungered--not as one may be before his regular meals; but evidently from shortness of provisions: for Jesus defends their plucking the corn-ears and eating them on the plea of necessity.
    - and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat--"rubbing them in their hands" (Lu 6:1).

    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 act itself was expressly permitted (De 23:25). But as being "servile work," which was prohibited on the sabbath day, it was regarded as sinful.

    3. But he said unto them, Have ye not read--or, as Mark (Mr 2:25) has it, "Have ye never read."
    - what David did when he was an hungered, and they that were with him-- (1Sa 21:1-6)

    4. How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the showbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?--No example could be more apposite than this. The man after God's own heart, of whom the Jews ever boasted, when suffering in God's cause and straitened for provisions, asked and obtained from the high priest what, according to the law, it was illegal for anyone save the priests to touch. Mark (Mr 2:26) says this occurred "in the days of Abiathar the high priest." But this means not during his high priesthood--for it was under that of his father Ahimelech--but simply, in his time. Ahimelech was soon succeeded by Abiathar, whose connection with David, and prominence during his reign, may account for his name, rather than his father's, being here introduced. Yet there is not a little confusion in what is said of these priests in different parts of the Old Testament. Thus he is called both the son of the father of Ahimelech (1Sa 22:20; 2Sa 8:17); and Ahimelech is called Ahiah (1Sa 14:3), and Abimelech (1Ch 18:16).

    5. Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath--by doing "servile work."
    - and are blameless?--The double offerings required on the sabbath day (Nu 28:9) could not be presented, and the new-baked showbread (Le 24:5; 1Ch 9:32) could not be prepared and presented every sabbath morning, without a good deal of servile work on the part of the priests; not to speak of circumcision, which, when the child's eighth day happened to fall on a sabbath, had to be performed by the priests on that day. (See on Joh 7:22, 23).

    6. But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple--or rather, according to the reading which is best supported, "something greater." The argument stands thus: "The ordinary rules for the observance of the sabbath give way before the requirements of the temple; but there are rights here before which the temple itself must give way." Thus indirectly, but not the less decidedly, does our Lord put in His own claims to consideration in this question--claims to be presently put in even more nakedly.

    7. But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice-- (Ho 6:6; Mic 6:6-8, &c.). See on Mt 9:13.
    - ye would not have condemned the guiltless--that is, Had ye understood the great principle of all religion, which the Scripture everywhere recognizes--that ceremonial observances must give way before moral duties, and particularly the necessities of nature--ye would have refrained from these captious complaints against men who in this matter are blameless. But our Lord added a specific application of this great principle to the law of the sabbath, preserved only in Mark: "And he said unto them, the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath" (Mr 2:27). A glorious and far-reaching maxim, alike for the permanent establishment of the sabbath and the true freedom of its observance.

    8. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day--In what sense now is the Son of man Lord of the sabbath day? Not surely to abolish it--that surely were a strange lordship, especially just after saying that it was made or instituted for MAN--but to own it, to interpret it, to preside over it, and to ennoble it, by merging it in the "Lord's Day" (Re 1:10), breathing into it an air of liberty and love necessarily unknown before, and thus making it the nearest resemblance to the eternal sabbatism.


    Healing of a Withered Hand (Mt 12:9-14).

    9. And when he was departed thence--but "on another sabbath" (Lu 6:6).
    - he went into their synagogue--"and taught." He had now, no doubt, arrived in Galilee; but this, it would appear, did not occur at Capernaum, for after it was over, He "withdrew Himelf," it is said "to the sea" (Mr 3:7), whereas Capernaum was at the sea.
    - And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered--disabled by paralysis (as in 1Ki 13:4). It was his right hand, as Luke (Lu 6:6) graphically notes.
    - And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him--Mark and Luke (Mr 3:2; Lu 6:7) say they "watched Him whether He would heal on the sabbath day." They were now come to the length of dogging His steps, to collect materials for a charge of impiety against Him. It is probable that it was to their thoughts rather than their words that Jesus addressed Himself in what follows.

    11. And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?

    12. How much then is a man better than a sheep?--Resistless appeal! "A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast" (Pr 12:10), and would instinctively rescue it from death or suffering on the sabbath day; how much more his nobler fellow man! But the reasoning, as given in the other two Gospels, is singularly striking: "But He knew their thoughts, and said to the man which had the withered hand, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth. Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing: Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life or to destroy it?" (Lu 6:8, 9), or as in Mark (Mr 3:4), "to kill?" He thus shuts them up to this startling alternative: "Not to do good, when it is in the power of our hand to do it, is to do evil; not to save life, when we can, is to kill"--and must the letter of the sabbath rest be kept at this expense? This unexpected thrust shut their mouths. By this great ethical principle our Lord, we see, held Himself bound, as man. But here we must turn to Mark, whose graphic details make the second Gospel so exceedingly precious. "When He had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, He saith unto the man" (Mr 3:5). This is one of the very few passages in the Gospel history which reveal our Lord's feelings. How holy this anger was appears from the "grief" which mingled with it at "the hardness of their hearts."

    13. Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth--the power to obey going forth with the word of command.
    - and it was restored whole, like as the other--The poor man, having faith in this wonderful Healer--which no doubt the whole scene would singularly help to strengthen--disregarded the proud and venomous Pharisees, and thus gloriously put them to shame.

    14. Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him--This is the first explicit mention of their murderous designs against our Lord. Luke (Lu 6:11) says, "they were filled with madness, and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus." But their doubt was not, whether to get rid of Him, but how to compass it. Mark (Mr 3:6), as usual, is more definite: "The Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him." These Herodians were supporters of Herod's dynasty, created by Cæsar--a political rather than religious party. The Pharisees regarded them as untrue to their religion and country. But here we see them combining together against Christ as a common enemy. So on a subsequent occasion (Mt 22:15, 16).

    Jesus Retires to Avoid Danger (Mt 12:15-21).

    15. But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence--whither, our Evangelist says not; but Mark (Mr 3:7) says "it was to the sea"--to some distance, no doubt, from the scene of the miracle, the madness, and the plotting just recorded.
    - and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all--Mark gives the following interesting details: "A great multitude from Galilee followed Him, and from Judea and from Jerusalem, and from Idumea, and from beyond Jordan; and they about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they had heard what great things He did, came unto Him. And He spake to His disciples, that a small ship"--or "wherry"--"should wait on Him because of the multitude, lest they should throng Him. For He had healed many; insomuch that they pressed upon Him for to touch Him, as many as had plagues. And unclean spirits, when they saw Him, fell down before Him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God. And He straitly charged them that they should not make Him known" (Mr 3:7-12). How glorious this extorted homage to the Son of God! But as this was not the time, so neither were they the fitting preachers, as BENGEL says. (See on Mr 1:25, and compare Jas 2:19). Coming back now to our Evangelist: after saying, "He healed them all," he continues:

    16. And charged them--the healed.
    - that they should not make him known--(See on Mt 8:4).

    17. That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying-- (Isa 42:1).

    18. Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my Spirit upon him, and he shall show judgment to the Gentiles.

    19. He shall not strive nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets.

    20. A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory--"unto truth," says the Hebrew original, and the Septuagint also. But our Evangelist merely seizes the spirit, instead of the letter of the prediction in this point. The grandeur and completeness of Messiah's victories would prove, it seems, not more wonderful than the unobtrusive noiselessness with which they were to be achieved. And whereas one rough touch will break a bruised reed, and quench the flickering, smoking flax, His it should be, with matchless tenderness, love, and skill, to lift up the meek, to strengthen the weak hands and confirm the feeble knees, to comfort all that GOTO NEXT CHAPTER - D. J-F-B INDEX & SEARCH

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