Gospel: Matthew 12:1-8 -
It happened that Jesus walked through the wheat fields on a Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and began to pick some heads of wheat and crush them to eat the grain. When the Pharisees noticed this, they said to Jesus, “Look at your disciples; they are doing what is prohibited on the Sabbath!”
Jesus answered, “Have you not read what David did when he and his men were hungry? He went into the house of God, and they ate the bread offered to God, although neither he nor his men had the right to eat it, but only the priests. And have you not read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the Temple break the Sabbath rest, yet they are not guilty?
“I tell you, there is greater than the Temple here. If you really knew the meaning of the words: It is mercy I want, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the innocent.
“Besides the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
Mercy! It could also be translated (as Luke does) as love. In its original context in Hosea, it meant the tender love that God has for Israel, like the love a husband has for his young wife. After Hosea, the word retained this meaning, and it must have been the meaning in Matthew’s mind as he quoted it so frequently. It is in strong contrast with the harshness of the Pharisees. No doubt other phrases from Hosea often ran through his mind: I will betroth you to myself forever, betroth you with integrity and justice, with tenderness and love. (Hosea 2:19)
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