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Friday – Fifteenth week – OT1
Readings: Ex 11:10-12:14; Mt 12:1-8.
1/ First Reading: RSV Exodus 11:10 Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh; and the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go out of his land. 12:1 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 “This month shall be for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. 3 Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month they shall take every man a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household; 4 and if the household is too small for a lamb, then a man and his neighbor next to his house shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old; you shall take it from the sheep or from the goats; 6 and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs in the evening. 7 Then they shall take some of the blood, and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat them. 8 They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. 9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled with water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. 10 And you shall let none of it remain until the morning, anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. 11 In this manner you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD’s Passover. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you, upon the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall fall upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt. 14 “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations you shall observe it as an ordinance forever.
2/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 12:1 At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” 3 He said to them, “Have you not read what David did, when he was hungry, and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have you not read in the law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are guiltless? 6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 7 And if you had known what this means, `I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of man is lord of the Sabbath.”
I. THEME: The laws are issued to protect life.
People are easy to be lost. The reason for their lost might be because of their ignorance or stubbornness of heart. For example, the laws are issued to protect life; people are never permitted to kill in the name of the law. The reality shows the opposite; many times people misused the laws to oppress, to unjustly treat, and even to destroy others.
Today readings illustrate two cases which people got lost because of their ignorance or stubbornness of heart. In the first reading, God established the Passover so that the Israelites remember the event in which God, out of love, liberated them from their slavery for the Egyptians to lead them into the Promise Land; not to keep the tedious laws that related to the Passover celebration. In the Gospel, the Pharisees accused Jesus’ disciples of violating the Sabbath’s law when they pluck heads of grain to eat because they were hungry. Jesus protected his disciples by illustrating some examples of those who worked on the Sabbath without violating the law.
1/ Reading I: The Israelites’ Passover
1.1/ The meaning of the Passover: God concerns about the Israelites’ suffering. He heard the Israelites’ lament when they were maltreated as slaves for the Egyptians. He called Moses to liberate them from the Egyptian king. He wanted Moses and the elders to ask Pharaoh to release His people so that they could go into the desert to worship Him. Instead of releasing people, the king increased his wickedness and oppressed them more heavily than before, so God must use His power through the seven plagues. Today passage reported the last plague which happened to the Egyptians before the Israelites’ crossing of the Red Sea. The followings are the important facts and their meaning in the Passover.
(1) The blood of the Passover Lamb: is necessary to differentiate the firstborns of the Israelites from the Egyptians. When God’s angels see blood on the doorposts and the lintels of the house, they shall pass over and not enter to destroy their firstborns.
(2) Unleavened bread and bitter herbs: are eaten with the Passover lamb to memorize the bitter sufferings of their slavery to the Egyptians.
(3) They must quickly eat them and be ready to move out of the place where people want to destroy their life, as God commands them, “In this manner you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover.”
1.2/ The Egyptians’ blood were poured out to save the Israelites: There are some people who blame God for His injustice. They questioned, “Why did He use the Egyptian blood to save the Israelites?” This is not correct because in God’s wise providence, He always finds a way to protect before to destroy life. The Book of Exodus gave us a clear reason why the Egyptian king wanted to destroy the Israelites: He fears that they shall fight against him when there is a war. If the king really fears that, he should let them go when Moses and the elders asked his permission to let them go to the desert to meet their God. When king Pharaoh didn’t release them, God showed His power. God used not only one or two but seven plagues, and the king was still stubborn and not changing his mind. The plague in today passage is the last plague.
This shows God gives people many opportunities to repent before He destroys them. All nations on the earth are His children and He isn’t happy when He must destroy them. He also can’t let the wicked man to destroy lives of other nation.
2/ Gospel: For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.
2.1/ The purpose of the Sabbath: The argument about the Sabbath is one of main conflicts between Jesus and the Pharisees and the scribes.
The Book of Leviticus clearly declared: “For six days work may be done; but the seventh day is the Sabbath rest, a day for sacred assembly, on which you shall do no work. The Sabbath shall belong to the Lord wherever you dwell” (Lv 23:3). The third law of the Decalogue also declared, “Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day” (Exo 20:8; Deut 5:12). Therefore, the two reasons for the Sabbath are for people to rest and to worship the Lord.
People’s body needs to be rested, and God, who creates people, commands people not to work on the Sabbath. Besides, human experience also shows that it is necessary for people to pay attention to their spiritual dimension on this day. Without them, people shall be tired and have no strength to face difficulties of life.
God only gave the principle which stated: “The seventh day is the Sabbath rest, a day for sacred assembly, on which you shall do no work.” He didn’t give all detailed laws about this day; all detailed laws came from people. They determined what kinds of work and how heavy does one person carry, shall violate the Sabbath. Some even said that people can’t go to restroom on the Sabbath!
Can people fight on the Sabbath? The Israelites’ enemies knew that the Jews won’t fight on the Sabbath, so they attacked them on this day and killed many of them. After a while, the law permitted them to fight for their protection on the Sabbath.
2.2/ Those who are exempted on the Sabbath:
(1) The priests who serve in the temple: If the priests keep the Sabbath, there shall be none to serve in the temple. Therefore, Jesus pointed out for them to see that there are someone who are exempted, they can be rested on other day.
(2) Those who must protect their life: Jesus’ disciples picked the heads of grain and ate them because they were hungry. Jesus reminded them the event which David and his companions during their flee from Saul, ate even the Bread of offering, which neither he nor his companions but only the priests could lawfully eat (1 Sam 21:1-6). Jesus wanted to say that when people must protect their life, they must find something to eat even on the Sabbath.
(3) The Son of Man is the Lord of the Sabbath: The law of the Sabbath is only applied to human beings, not to God who gives law and doesn’t depend on human laws.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– Only God has the right on life. He creates and gives it to people for protection.
– In God’s wise providence, He teaches and warns many times before He actually destroys. We should be awoken to recognize these warning signs from God.
– The laws are made to protect life; we should never use the name of the law to destroy others’ life.