illustration of three young girls reading a book

Questions for Reflection and Discussion – Matthew 12 1-14

The Uniform Series or “standard lesson” for Sunday, June 3 is Matthew 12:1-14. Here are some questions about the text that we might consider in class:

There are actually two, different stories in this text, one in vv1-8, another in vv9-14. Do we feel drawn to or prefer one of these stories to the other? If so, which one? Why, do we think? Does that suggest anything to us about us (for instance, the way we read scripture, the way we think about Jesus, the way we relate to the idea of “the Sabbath” or divine rules in general, …)?

Do the two stories seem to be saying different things, or the same thing? What are they saying, do we think? What in the stories leads us to that interpretation?

English translations of our text make some reference to the “law” in verses 2, 10, & 12; the Greek word being translated means, literally, something like “permissible” or “possible.” Does the word “lawful” give us any different impression than “permitted”? Why or why not? If there’s a difference, what is the difference? How does that affect what we think is going on in these stories?

In vv3-5 Jesus brings up the time David [anointed king; ancestor of the anticipated Messiah] and the soldiers with him ate bread from the Tabernacle which was only for priests (1 Samuel 21:1-6), and the rules about priests [ordained, divinely designated] performing sacrificial work specifically on the Sabbath (Leviticus 24:5-9; Numbers 28:9-10). Why do we think Jesus brings up these specific examples? How would we feel today if someone claimed to have the right to do something normally off limits because some uniquely qualified people get to do it (e.g., “the President can do it,” “the Pope can do it”) – favorably disposed, angry, puzzled, …? How does thinking about the story this way affect our understanding of the story?

In v6, Jesus says “something greater than the temple is here.” In v8, Jesus says “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” Who or what do we understand to be “greater than the temple”? Who or what do we think Jesus means by “Son of Man”? Do we think Jesus is talking about himself? If so, what is he saying about himself? How similar or different is this from the way we normally think about Jesus?

In v7, Jesus refers to Hosea 6:6 when he says “I will have mercy and not sacrifice.” Why would understanding this verse have kept his opponents from “condemning the guiltless”? Who is or are “the guiltless” here, do we think? How does our answer affect the way we understand what is happening in this story?

In vv9-13, do we think Jesus “does work on the Sabbath”? Why do we think this? How does our answer affect what we think is going on in this story?

Have we ever thought it would be good for someone to be ruined or destroyed? Why – that is, what were our thoughts or motives in that situation? How similar or different were our motives to those of the Pharisees in v14? What explains those similarities or differences, do we think? What are the implications of our answer?

illustration of three young girls reading a book

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