17 April, 2024

Lesson for Dec. 27, 2020: Fulfilled through Hope (Matthew 12:1-23)

by | 21 December, 2020 | 1 comment

Dr. Mark Scott wrote this treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson. Scott teaches preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri. This lesson treatment is published in the December 2020 issue of Christian Standard + The Lookout. (Subscribe to our print edition.)

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COMPANION RESOURCES

“He’s Got Your Back” by David Faust (Lesson Application)

Discovery Questions for Dec. 27, 2020

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Lesson Aim: Let Jesus change your life as you pursue hope in the Son of David.

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By Mark Scott

One day in class at Denver Seminary, Haddon Robinson said, “Hope is the music of the future, and faith is the courage to dance to it now.” Humans, by nature, are creatures of hope. As we approach a new year, people hope that 2021 will be better than 2020. But hope is only as secure as the object in which it is placed. We hope that science can give us good vaccines for pandemics. We hope the political process can give us leaders who can right the wrongs of injustice. But are science and politics secure havens for our hope? Is there something better? Is there someone better?

Hope for a Defense
Matthew 12:1-14

Matthew 11 ends with what is called “The Great Invitation.” Jesus called the weary to rest and the religiously fatigued to discipleship. The very next thing Matthew recorded were two “rest” (Sabbath) controversies. In both of these events, Jesus claimed the title Lord of the Sabbath. Jesus had returned from the Passover in Jerusalem (John 5). Somewhere en route, the Pharisees criticized Jesus’ disciples for picking and eating heads of grain. (They criticized Jesus too, according to Luke 6.) Jesus defended himself and his disciples.

Jesus first presented a narrative defense. He referenced a story from 1 Samuel 21. David was running from Saul and needed food for his men. David stopped at Nob where Ahimelek gave him consecrated bread from the tabernacle. This was technically forbidden, but human need trumped rules—and Jesus was related to David.  

Next, Jesus offered a legal defense. The law taught to do no work on the Sabbath. But the priests had to exercise some work in the temple even on the Sabbath—and Jesus was greater than the temple.

The third defense was a prophetic defense. For the second time in Matthew’s Gospel, Hosea 6:6 was cited: God desired mercy, not sacrifice. Mercy is the great loving-kindness or loyal love of God—and Jesus exemplified it. Jesus defended his disciples.

The Pharisees’ criticism grew into looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus as he made his way into a synagogue along the way. Jesus healed a man with a shriveled (withered; dried-up) hand. The Pharisees’ question was loaded, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” Jesus answered with a defense about a sheep, a pit, and the Sabbath. If the sheep falls in a pit, it does not matter what day it is, you rescue the sheep. And people are more important than sheep.

After that lesson, Jesus healed the man, who gave evidence of his healing by stretching out his hand for all to see. Jesus first defended his disciples, and then he defended the man with the shriveled hand. Jesus was painted as a total lawbreaker, which is why they plotted how they might kill Jesus.

Hope for Compassion
Matthew 12:15-21

The disciples and the man with the shriveled hand must have felt affirmed when Jesus defended them. They would feel even better when Jesus showered his compassion on them. Jesus withdrew from the religious leaders. But it was nearly impossible for him to hide (cf. Mark 7:24). The crowds followed him, and he healed all who were ill.

Jesus brought about justice by acts of compassion (e.g., healing people). Matthew connected what Jesus was doing with the longest quotation from the Old Testament in this Gospel. Verses 18-21 were taken from Isaiah 42:1-4 and clearly were messianic. The servant was not Israel (as a nation) or Cyrus or some other appointee. The servant was God’s Messiah. The Father was (and is) endeared to him (chosen, loved, and delighted in), and the Father has enabled him (that is, empowered him with the Spirit).

This equipped the Messiah to proclaim justice to the nations. But the way of the Messiah was compassion—not quarreling, not breaking reeds, and not blowing out smoldering wicks (i.e., lifting their heads rather than stomping on their hearts).

Hope in the Son of David
Matthew 12:22-23

As a result of the many miracles Jesus performed, people brought to him a man with three problems—he was demon-possessed, blind, and mute. Jesus healed him, and the crowd entertained the question and confession of faith, “Could this be the Son of David?” That potential confession brought a stinging accusation from the religious leaders: “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons” (12:24, New American Standard Bible). Jesus would go on to teach about the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.

As we approach the dawn of a new year, is our hope located in religious systems or rules . . . or in the Son of David?

Mark Scott

Dr. Mark Scott wrote this treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson. Scott teaches preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri. He also serves as minister with Park Plaza Christian Church in Joplin.

1 Comment

  1. Larry E Whittington

    The last sentence is the critical question for all of us. To calm ourselves a little more, it might be well to throw into that question: “Do we trust in man’s religious traditions.” There are several that are thrown in (some even without thought). Some traditions has no affect on our attitude toward God and his worship. Others can have either a negative or a positive affect on our attitude toward God and our worship of him.

    With this in mind, what religious traditions can and should be dealt with in such a way that the negative influence on our attitude toward God and our worship of him can be prevented from affecting our relationship with the God we worship.

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