Life: Blessing or Burden

Life: Blessing or Burden?

Matthew 12:1-8

“If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’…” vs. 7

Never Give Up

It was September 25, 2000 and  Maricel Apatan was an 11-year old girl in Zamboanga, Philippines. On that day, this little girl went with her uncle to draw water. Along the way, four men met them. They were carrying long knives. They told her uncle to face down on the ground, and they hacked him on the neck and killed him. Maricel was in total shock, especially since she recognized the men as their neighbors. She tried to escape, but the men ran after her. She cried, “Kuya, ‘wag po, ‘wag n’yo akong tagain! Maawa po kayo sa akin!” (“Don’t kill me! Have mercy on me!”) But they weren’t listening. With a long knife, a man slashed her on the neck too. Maricel fell to the ground and lost consciousness. When she woke up, she saw a lot of blood. She also saw the feet of the men around her, so she pretended to be dead. When they walked away, Maricel ran back home as best she could. But along the way, she saw that both her hands were falling off and that’s because the men hacked them too. She cried but she kept running. Sometimes she would faint and fall to the ground. But she’d regain consciousness and run again.

When she was near her home, Maricel called her mother. Upon seeing her daughter, her mother screamed in terror. She wrapped her bloodied child in a blanket and carried her to the hospital. Here was the problem: From her house to the highway, it was a 7 ½ mile walk. It took them 4 hours just to reach the highway. When they arrived in the hospital, the doctors thought Maricel was going to die. But for 5 hours, they operated on her. It took 25 stitches to stitch together the long knife wound in her neck and back. Maricel barely survived. And she lost both of her hands. Ironically, the next day was Maricel’s birthday. She was 12 years old.

But the tragedy didn’t end there. When they went home, they saw their home was gone. It was ransacked and burned down by the same men that had killed her uncle and hurt her. Being very poor, Maricel’s family also didn’t have P50,000 for their hospital bills. But God sent many angels along the way to help them. Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, a distant relative, paid for hospital bills and helped them bring the criminals to court. They were sentenced to prison.

It would seem all your dreams and goals for life were completely dashed. But this is the incredible miracle. Instead of staying down, Maricel kept running. What she became will boggle your mind. At one point, Maricel was cited as the most industrious, best in computer, and most courteous in the School for Crippled Children.  In 2008, she graduated from a course in Hotel and Restaurant Management. She even received a Gold medal for Arts and Crafts. In 2011, she finished her education and began to fulfill her dream to be a chef. Yes, a Chef without hands. Nothing can stop this young lady from reaching her dreams.

An amazing story about a young woman who pursued her dreams and was able to overcome many obstacles and yet still see her dreams fulfilled. Are you passionate about something that you would pursue it that vigorously? Well, today we are going to look at a passage of Scripture that will help us understand God’s love for us.  If you are able, please stand as we read God’s word from Matthew 12:1-8.

Read Passage – Matthew 12:1-8

At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”

He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

S________: A Blessing or Burden?

Did you know that God designed Sunday to be a blessing? A blessing is meant to be an encouragement or something that is for your welfare. So when God created the world and set aside a day of rest, a Sabbath, it was meant to be a day of encouragement or something to benefit us. In fact, he took a day of rest and his desire is that we do the same thing. But…what happens in the passage we read today is that we see the Pharisee’s lost sight of that.  It says in verse 2:

“When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.” vs. 2

What’s happening here is the Pharisee’s have taken what is supposed to be a blessing and made it a burden. Instead of enjoying their Sabbath, day of rest, they came up with a list of “can’t’s” that had to be observed.  Now originally they did it to preserve holiness but it developed over the years to a list of things you couldn’t do on the Sabbath. You can’t carry grain, you can’t walk more than a certain distance, you can’t eat certain things, you can’t clean, you can’ etc. The joy of the day turned to the onus of keeping the law; and they were man’s laws at that. If we are not careful, we can do the same thing, not just with the Sabbath, our Sunday, but with life. God’s desire wasn’t to create a Sabbath to be a burden but a blessing. Jesus says as much in verse 7 when he says:

“If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’…” vs. 7

Jesus is pointing out that the Pharisee’s have missed the point and had lost their way on what God really desired for them.  Mercy is compassion. The Pharisee’s had lost their passion and were focused on following the rules or as Jesus put it, sacrifice.

The Gospel _________ the Way We Think…

Here’s what I really think Jesus was getting at and what we should take to heart as well: “I want you to think in a different way.” The Pharisee always seemed to be at odds with Jesus and I think this is one of the main reasons why, they didn’t think like God or in this case, Jesus, did. The Pharisee’s put their worth in their own holiness and their own actions and because of that, they missed the real point of why Jesus came and what the gospel is all about. The gospel changes, or should change, the way we think. Here are 3 things that the gospel should change the way we think about certain things.

  • About ________

First, we need to let the gospel shape the way we think about God. We have thought that we are the ones pursuing God and yet, the reality is, that God is pursing us.  Our thinking says that we are the ones that must go and find God. God is always looking to build his relationship with us.

“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” 2 Chronicles 16:9

2 Chronicles is the story of Asa king of Judah.  He did not follow God’s ways and built alliances with other nations.  He wasn’t trusting God he was trusting in the strength of other nations and men.  Verse 9 tells us how God is pursuing us and looking for us, for those that want to build their relationship with God. His desire is that we trust him. But notice he is pursuing but its more than just looking for us, it’s looking and caring for us. David recognizes this in Psalm 8:4:

“What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” Psalm 8:4

Here’s the thing: God has a goal and it’s you! He wants you.

Ex. Ever set a goal and go after it with everything? My goal to hike 1,000 miles a year.  I go out in rain, in cold, in the early morning, if I miss a day I make it up, etc. I am goal driven and I work hard to achieve the goals I set.

How much more with God; his goal is people, it’s me, it’s you! Now, how far was God willing to go? 1 John 4:10:

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:10

God’s goal is to have a full relationship with you and he will do everything in his power, and his power is so much more than ours, to see that happen. The pinnacle of that is that God sent his Son, a part of the Triune Godhead, to live among us, show us he is real, and to die for us. He doesn’t want anyone to perish without knowing him. He was even willing to die for the things we did. And that is the gospel story, not that we follow rules and a list of things that we can or can’t do but that we know, accept, and embrace his compassion and gift of salvation.

  • About ___________

The second way the gospel shapes and changes our thinking is about ourselves. God loves us and because of that, we can love ourselves. God says we are valuable and we are worth it. In our passage the Pharisee had put the law above people. Their list of rules and laws to follow were more important than people themselves.  Right after this interaction Jesus goes into the temple and there is a man with a withered hand. The Pharisee’s try to trap Jesus by asking about healing the man’s hand. Jesus points out that in their thinking, keeping the law is more important. In God’s eyes, people are more important  but the Pharisee’s will break the law if it’s important to them, like  if one of their sheep fall into a ditch. Here’s how Jesus shows them to change their thinking, verse 12:

“How much more valuable is a person than a sheep!” Matt. 12:12

The gospel is that people are more important than any other created thing. You are more important to God than any other created thing. God loves us so much that love is expressed through our love for his son Jesus. John 16:27 says:

“The Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” John 16:27

We should be careful not to put ourselves down, but to realize our value and worth because he loves us so much.

Ex. Many of us put ourselves and down. We look at our deficiencies and the things we don’t like about ourselves or the things we do wrong and put ourselves down. That can be another source of pride in a way.

Here’s a little test that might be a red flag that we are not thinking like God thinks. Tell me the subject of this sentence:

The dog ran around the yard.

The bridge is newly painted .

The boat sped across the lake.


Ok, I think you get it.  Now continue that with these sentences:

I am not good enough

I have sinned too much

I don’t deserve God’s love

Ok, you get it. When “I” is the subject that could be a flag your focusing too much on yourselves and you need to change that to be thinking more about God and allw  him to define who you are.

  • About __________

And third, the gospel changes our thinking about others.  In our passage today the Pharisee’s only concern was themselves. Jesus is pointing out that our thinking needs to change so that we think about others. We need to be concerned about others, concerned about their lives and their salvation, concerned enough to realize that we are all sinners and that God still chooses to love all of us and that part of our thinking should be to love others. Jesus iterates this in John 13:34 where he states:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34

Jesus tells us to love other the way he loves us; that’s unconditionally, with open arms, with joy, and it should be the root and core of who we are. Jesus changes the extent of love by his example. He willingly gave his life for us and he raises the bar on how deep love goes. In the story of Matthew 12 the Pharisee did not love others but consider themselves the law keepers and the enforcers. Christ’s new model of love is expands the depth of love we are to have.  The Old Testament law was to love your neighbor as yourself. Now we are called to fulfill that law by loving others not as ourselves but as Christ loved. In fact, in loving people as Christ did, we are fulfilling the law, Romans 13:8:

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” Romans 13:8

Notice the call in this verse, it comes at the end and you may want to circle the word fulfill.  We are called to not keep the law of love but to fulfill the law of love.

God’s Focus

What we have learned is that God’s focus is us. Remember the words from verse 7-8:

“If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” Vss. 7-8

Mercy = compassion. God’s focus is us. The message of the Gospel is that God wants a relationship with you, and he wants you to change your thinking. Stop worrying about keeping the law but worry about fulfilling it.

About Ron Bowman

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