READ: Matthew 12:1-21
THINK: When Jesus walked the earth, He was a polarizing figure to whom people responded in extreme ways. The Pharisees rejected Jesus and wanted to kill Him because they viewed Him as a threat to their positions and way of life. On the other hand, masses of people followed Jesus from place to place because they were well aware of their need and they looked to Him for answers. No doubt, some followed Jesus solely out of fascination or because of what He could do for them. But others recognized who Jesus is and truly put their faith in Him as their only Source of hope and spiritual salvation.
RESPOND: Why were the Pharisees so upset by what Jesus and His disciples were doing? What was the Pharisees' real motivation for challenging Jesus? What is the true principle and purpose behind a weekly Sabbath, or day of rest? (See 12:1 note.) Is this purpose still valid for Christians today? How so? What are the benefits of this time? In what ways did the Pharisees miss the point of the Sabbath--and of Jesus mission-- distorting its true meaning? What was the Pharisees greatest concern? Why were they more obsessed with their rules and traditions than with actually helping people who were in desperate need, such as the man with the withered hand? What do you think Jesus meant when He said, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice" (v. 7)?
PRAY: Give thanks to God for giving you times of rest and refreshment. But also ask Him to keep you from being distracted by your own ideas, concerns and benefits. Pray that you will always be able to recognize the good things He wants you to do for others as a means of demonstrating God's mercy and compassion.
ACT: Throughout the day, look for opportunities to represent Jesus by doing good for others. As much as possible, keep the focus off of yourself and do all you can to benefit those around you with random acts of kindness, help and encouragement.
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