Matthew 12:8 (NIV) “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
This was a very bold thing for Jesus to say to the Pharisees. They would have heard Him saying that He could decide for Himself what was and was not allowed and appropriate for the Sabbath, regardless of how the Pharisees interpreted the law.
But what He was actually saying was more profound and much more challenging to the Pharisees than what they understood. In this statement, Jesus was claiming unequivocally to be God Himself.
Just a couple of verses earlier (verse 6), Jesus had said that “one greater than the temple is here,” clearly indicating Himself. (And what could possibly be greater than the temple except for God Himself?!) And now He is claiming that He, the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath, able to authoritatively say what was and wasn’t okay with God!
How could Jesus make that astounding claim? It actually took the disciples themselves a long time to understand. But Jesus was God in the flesh. Which God? There is only one true God – the God who created the heavens and the earth; who created man from the dust of the earth and breathed into him the breath of life; who called Abraham, and who spoke to Moses from the top of Mount Sinai; the God who built the law, and had the sole right to interpret it. Jesus could say what was in the law, and what was meant by it, because He Himself was its author. He knew exactly what was meant by every syllable.
Even though He didn’t look it to the Pharisees, Jesus really was greater than the temple, because the temple was built for Him. Even though the Pharisees couldn’t accept it, Jesus was not only the Son of Man, but God in the flesh, and thus not only Lord of the Sabbath, but even Lord over those who were right then challenging His authority.
Father, this isn’t easy to fit into our brains; how much harder for those who were only willing to accept Jesus as a man! But we know that Jesus is in fact God in the flesh, and Lord over all creation (Hebrews 1:2-3, 8). And, of course, this realization needs to inform our understanding of Jesus statement, “If anyone loves Me, he will obey My teaching.” (John 14:23 NIV) Jesus’ teachings are not just those of a good man, like the teachings of C.S. Lewis or Gandhi – they are the very words of God! Help me to live this truth today, Lord. Amen.