Introduction: As a lawyer, I believe in rules. Having the right rules
provides the maximum amount of freedom, including religious freedom.
God believes in the rule of law, otherwise Jesus would not have come
to fulfill the requirements of the law on our behalf. What keeps
lawyers in business is conflicts between rules and different views
about the same rule. Our lesson this week is about sorting out God’s
rules. Let’s plunge into our study of Matthew and see what we can
learn about the nature of God’s rules!

  1. The Yoke Rule

    1. Read Matthew 11:28-30. Last week we looked at these
      verses. Let’s consider one additional aspect. Jesus offers
      us a “yoke.” Is that a good or bad thing?

      1. Isn’t a yoke like a rule, it constrains us?(The yoke
        is a constraint, but the good thing is that Jesus is
        the other person in the yoke. This means that in
        every task, every challenge, every problem, Jesus is
        pulling for you. This is a constraint that helps. It
        shows mercy.)

    2. Read Matthew 12:1-2. Why is it unlawful to pick heads of
      grain? (The problem was not stealing grain (Deuteronomy
      23:25), the charge was working on Sabbath ( Exodus 20:8-11).)

    3. Read Matthew 12:3-4. What do you think of Jesus’ answer?
      Isn’t that the answer your children give you – other
      people do it? “He’s doing it, she’s doing it!”

      1. What answer would you think might be better than
        “others do the same thing?” (I would answer that this
        was not work.)

    4. Read 1 Samuel 21:1-6. Is David telling the truth about
      being on a mission for King Saul? (No. If you read the
      prior chapter you will see that Jonathan warned David that
      King Saul wants to kill him. David is running away from

      1. What is similar between David’s situation and the
        situation of Jesus’ disciples? (They are hungry.)

      2. Is that the lesson we should learn about the Sabbath
        – it is okay to break the rules if you are hungry?

        1. If that is not the lesson, what is Jesus’

          1. Helping others is more important than the

        2. What if helping others is the main rule?

          1. Is that a standard? Is that a rule?

    5. Read Matthew 12:5-8. What does Jesus mean when He says
      that He is “Lord of the Sabbath?” (He gets to decide what
      is appropriate to do on the Sabbath.)

      1. What does Jesus mean when He says, “I desire mercy,
        not sacrifice?” ( Hosea 6:6) (If Jesus’ disciples and
        David had refrained from eating that would have been
        a sacrifice. Thus, Jesus is saying that for the
        Sabbath command (and others, apparently), the goal is
        to show mercy.)

      2. Is that a rule? (I think it is. Consider your view of
        the second half of the Ten Commandments and every
        other similar rule in the Bible. Are they there to
        trip us up, to catch us in sin? Or, are they there
        because Jesus loves us and wants us to live a life
        free from unnecessary problems? I think the rules
        exist to show us mercy – and that is the point Jesus
        is making. His “yoke” is a mercy to us.)

      3. Notice that the Sabbath commandment is not in the
        “second half” of the Ten Commandments. Is it about
        worshiping God or is it about having a better life?
        (The Fourth Commandment is a transition from the
        commands concerning God and those concerning fellow
        humans. Read Mark 2:27-28. The Sabbath is a day of
        rest for humans, but it is also a special time for
        recalling what God has done for us.)

  2. Shriveled Hand Rule

    1. Read Matthew 12:9-10. How would you answer this if you
      understood that mercy is the goal behind God’s rules? (The
      answer is an obvious, “yes.”)

    2. Read Matthew 12:11-13. How does this story reinforce the
      previous stories about picking grain and David eating the
      sanctuary bread? (This shows that mercy is the overriding

      1. Let’s circle back to David’s story about the temple
        bread. What was the purpose of the temple and the
        temple ceremonies? (To point to Jesus coming and
        dying on our behalf.)

        1. Was that showing mercy to us? (Yes! Preferring
          the rules about the temple bread over David’s
          needs would ignore the entire point of the
          temple ceremony – that God was coming to show
          us mercy!)

    3. Do you think God has a hierarchy of rules? Are some rules
      more important than others?

      1. In American law, there is a rule of statutory
        construction that says one rule supercedes another
        only if there is a direct conflict. In the stories we
        have looked at so far (picking grain and healing on
        Sabbath/David eating sanctuary bread), was there a
        direct conflict between the rule of mercy and Sabbath
        or sanctuary rules? ( Leviticus 24:8-9 directly
        conflicts with David eating the bread. Plus, Jesus
        admits there is a conflict ( Matthew 12:4). Although I
        don’t see the conflict with picking grain, Jesus
        refrained from arguing His disciples were not
        working. I think Jesus’ point is that there is a
        hierarchy of rules.)

      2. Is there an alternative to the hierarchy of rules
        explanation? (That all the rules have a common core –
        showing mercy.)

    4. Read Matthew 12:14. What are the religious leaders
      showing? (Not mercy. They are showing hatred. This is a
      clear violation of the rules.)

  3. The Mercy Rule

    1. Read Matthew 12:15-16. After Jesus learns of the plot to
      kill Him, He withdraws. Was it dangerous for Him to heal?
      (Yes, it would further provoke the religious leaders to
      kill Him.)

      1. Why does Jesus do this anyway? (Mercy!)

    2. Read Matthew 12:17-21. What are we told Jesus will do? (In
      the power of the Holy Spirit He will proclaim justice, and
      He will lead “justice to victory.” He will create hope.)

      1. What will Jesus not do? (He will not quarrel or cry
        out. He will not raise His voice. He will not further
        injure those who are already injured.)

    3. Re-read Matthew 12:20. A “smoldering wick” has lost its
      flame. A “bruised reed” is in danger of breaking because
      it already has an injury. What kind of people do these
      describe? People who are ill? Discouraged? Losing the
      flame of faith?

      1. Would people who promote sinful lifestyles, and are
        hostile to religion, also qualify as bruised reeds
        and smoldering wicks?

  4. Danger Rule

    1. Read Matthew 12:22-23. What do the people seem to think?
      (They suggest that Jesus is the Messiah.)

    2. Read Matthew 12:24. What do the religious leaders assert?
      (That Jesus is powered by Satan.)

    3. In Matthew 12:25-29 Jesus makes a series of logical
      arguments as to why He is not using the power of Satan.
      Read Matthew 12:30-32. Why is Jesus talking about speaking
      “against the Holy Spirit” and saying that is the sin that
      cannot be forgiven? (Attributing to Satan the work of the
      Holy Spirit is the sin that cannot be forgiven.)

      1. This very morning I exchanged notes with a fellow who
        argued that syncopated contemporary praise music was
        demonic. I believe that contemporary praise music
        involves, in part, the Holy Spirit bringing my mind
        directly to God. See 1 Corinthians 14:14-17.
        However, the issue I want you to consider is not
        music, but the charge of demonic power. What is the
        danger? (The danger is the unpardonable sin!
        Christians who accuse other Christians of using the
        power of Satan are on very dangerous ground. They
        need to be certain of these charges or not make

      2. Has the fellow who disagreed with me committed the
        unpardonable sin? (This is not like tripping a wire.
        The problem is that the Holy Spirit convicts us of
        sin. John 16:8-9. When we begin to resist the power
        of the Holy Spirit by claiming it is demonic, we push
        away its convicting power in our life. It is a
        process, not a single charge.)

    4. Friend, are you convicted that mercy is behind God’s rules
      for life? Will you decide, today, to show God’s mercy to
      others? To rest in God’s mercy to you?

  5. Next week: Lord of Jews and Gentiles.