I remember Saturday mornings when I was a kid. My parents would take me bowling at Gold Crown Lanes, a bowling alley in East Ft. Myers off of Palm Beach Boulevard. (It’s since been torn down and now a small grassy field sits next to a cell phone store in its former location.) While we were away from the house at the youth leagues, my family would tape the ABC sponsored pro-bowling show on VHS tape so that we could watch it later. (For the young people reading this, VHS is what we used some years ago to record television programs we wanted to see and save—it was invented long before DVR and sometime after 8-Track!) While viewing those programs I became a big fan of a bowler named Walter Ray Williams, Jr. It seemed that he would make the show (which meant he would be in the top 5 qualifiers out of a field ranging from 160 to over 200 professionals) nearly every week and just tossed strike after strike after strike against all of his “inferior” opponents.
I’ve long since lost track of those VHS recordings but recently discovered that the bowling telecasts of yesteryear are now available on YouTube. Through the advent of technology I also came upon THE Walter Ray Williams, Jr. Facebook page. While scrolling through the various posts I saw that someone had the gall and audacity to publish a comment where they called THE Walter Ray Williams, Jr. a GOAT. I was aghast that someone would call the bowler with the most titles ever, the bowler who’s won the most money ever, the bowler who’s made the most telecasts ever, the bowler with the most player of the year awards ever, the bowler who was my hero with regard to the sport a GOAT. How dare they?! You might say that their remark got my GOAT! Then as I read farther I became educated to the fact that GOAT is a phrase the young people use as a shorthand method to speak of the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT)! (Language isn’t the same these days is it?—I guess I’ve reached the age where I’m a VHS man living in a DVR World!)…
The Scriptures use the term “goat” to describe a person who does not genuinely know God nor keep His law. In contrast the word “sheep” is utilized to refer to a true follower of the LORD and one who has been initiated into the flock and family of God. In the twelfth chapter of Matthew we come across some scenes that pit the religious leaders of the day against our Lord. The Pharisees would accuse Jesus of breaking the law of God in various ways. They would likely think of Christ and His disciples as goats; not as the greatest of all time, but as people who did not know God nor follow His commands. However, Jesus of course was the only One who ever walked the face of this earth who never sinned, who never violated righteousness in any way, shape, manner or form in word, thought, or deed. This would not make Him a “goat”, but would indeed show Him to be the greatest of all time.
Jesus Is The Greatest King (Matthew 12:1-4)…Matthew 12 opens with the disciples becoming hungry and picking some heads of grain from the fields to eat on the Sabbath Day. The religious leaders taught that this sort of activity was classified as work and therefore was a violation of the command to keep the Sabbath holy and to do no work on this set aside day. Now mind you, if they had been as expert in the actual word of God as they were in their man-made laws and traditions, then they would know that gleaning from a neighbor’s field to satisfy your immediate hunger was expressly allowed for in Deuteronomy 23:25. However, the Pharisees had long held their traditions above God’s actual Word, esteeming themselves and their thoughts above God and His thoughts.
The Pharisees confront Jesus about this supposed transgression asking Him why His disciples did that which was unlawful to do on the Sabbath. The Lord responds by referencing 1 Samuel 21:1-6 where David and his men were given consecrated bread by Ahimelech to meet their hunger pains. This bread was only to be eaten by the priests; however God allowed and endorsed it to be consumed by David’s forces to fulfill their immediate and necessary need. King David of course was a man after God’s own heart, one used mightily to bring many victories to the people of Israel, a man who authored many of the Psalms we have in Scripture some 3,000 years after his passing, and the one through whose lineage the Messiah was prophesied to come. Yet, as great as David was, Christ is infinitely greater. David was a king, but Jesus is the King of kings! David brought temporal military victories, but Jesus brings eternal victory over death, hell, and the grave; over Satan and over sin, both its penalty and its power! David’s pen was inspired by God to author small portions of Scripture, but Jesus is the Word of God made flesh who dwelt among us and whose glory we beheld, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth! David was the one whose natural lineage would lead to the promised Messiah, but Jesus is the promised Messiah who eternally exists before time began, through whom every family on earth is named, and through whose blood the people of God have been purchased and redeemed from their sins! Jesus Is the Greatest King! Jesus Is The Greatest!
Jesus Is The Greatest Sacrifice and The Greatest Priest (Matthew 12:5)…Matthew 12 next tells of our Lord responding to the accusations of the Pharisees by citing the fact that the priests do work on the Sabbath as they offer up various sacrifices to God. This kind of labor was obviously not in violation of the Sabbath, but was actually ordained and ordered by the law of God to be accomplished on this set aside day. Now, the offering of bulls and goats was important for many reasons. It was a way that God’s people could acknowledge His righteous law and humbly admit their sins. However, the main purpose that these sacrifices would serve was to point to THE Lamb of God who was to come who would take away the sins of all of those who would repent of sin and put their faith in Him. The animal sacrifices had to be offered on a regular basis and could never take away sin, but Jesus offered Himself once and for all, a sacrifice never to be repeated, and His blood doesn’t just cover sin but cleanses from sin! Jesus Is The Greatest Sacrifice! Jesus Is The Greatest!
The priests who offered up these sacrifices as prescribed by Mosaic Law were certainly performing a service to God and to His people. However, their work was never done as evidenced not only by the repeating of the sacrifices but also by the fact that there was no chair provided in Scriptures for the priests to sit down. Also, the priests, even the good ones, were not great ones because they were sinners who had to offer up sacrifices for their own sins as well as for those of the people at large. Jesus, the great High Priest, offered up Himself as a sacrifice to end all sacrifices and has sat down (something that the earthly priests could not do) at the right hand of the Father where He ever lives to make intercession for His children. Jesus, the great High Priest, had no need to offer up a sacrifice for His own transgressions for He was spotless and blameless! Jesus Is The Greatest Priest! Jesus Is The Greatest!
Jesus Is Greater Than The Temple (Matthew 12:6)…Jesus’ rebuttal to the Pharisees’ accusations next finds Him declaring openly, explicitly, and unequivocally that He is greater than even the Temple! King Solomon, roughly 1,000 years before Christ, had been used by God to build a massive Temple. Unfortunately, Israel (and Judah) sinned against the law of the Lord and through the instrument of the Babylonians encountered a severe judgment that would include the utter destruction of Solomon’s then 400 year old magnificent edifice and an exile away from the Promised Land. God was merciful and brought His people back to their homeland in the century that followed. They eventually constructed a new Temple (often referred to as Zerubbabel’s Temple), though it was architecturally far inferior than its predecessor, God promised that His Presence would honor the place. At the time of Christ, Herod’s Temple now stood. It was an enlarged and refurbished version of Zerubbabel’s rebuild. The Jews of Jesus’ day resented, even hated, being under Roman control. They largely resented and hated Herod as well, a terrible tyrant who ruled their region of Judea. In the midst of all this humiliation and angst the Temple was a great source of pride for them, a house that would honor their God and pay homage to the greatness of their people.
The Temple down through the ages was indeed meant to be a place ordained by God where required sacrifices and reverent worship would be offered. However, Solomon’s Temple was destroyed by man (and Herod’s Temple would be as well in 70 AD), and had to be rebuilt by man. The Temple of Jesus’ body was freely offered up by His own will and was raised three days later by His own power! The Temple was a place where a veil spoke of God’s righteousness being so high that man must be kept at a distance, but when Jesus died that veil was rent from top to bottom, declaring that the barrier had been removed. Man could now be close to God as those who are in Christ have His righteousness imputed to them! Jesus Is Greater Than The Temple! Jesus Is The Greatest!
Jesus Is Greater Than The Prophets (Matthew 12:7, 17-21)…After declaring that He was greater than the Temple, Jesus tells the leaders to go and learn what Hosea 6:6 means when it said of God, “I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice.” Basically He was quoting Scripture to them, Scripture that they claimed to be experts in, and He was telling them that they had missed it! A few verses later in Matthew 12 the Pharisees get so upset with Jesus that they begin seeking how they might destroy Him. In response, Christ withdraws from that region and Matthew cites that this was to fulfill the Messianic passage of Isaiah 42:1-4.
The true Old Testament prophet was one who spoke for God, who could genuinely declare “thus saith the Lord.” Their writings and their teachings were inspired by the Lord Himself and were true in all that they taught. However, although Hosea was seen as a great prophet, and Isaiah viewed as a greater prophet still, it’s one thing to be a spokesman, it’s another to be the Man Himself (of course, the God-Man in this case). It’s one thing to be a prophet who was part of foretelling the coming advent and mission of a Messiah, it’s another level altogether to be the fulfillment of all those prophecies individually and collectively! Jesus Is Greater Than The Prophets! Jesus Is The Greatest!
Jesus Is Greater Than The Sabbath (Matthew 12:8)…Jesus concludes His reply to the Pharisee’s accusations by stating, “the Son of Man (speaking of Himself) is Lord of the Sabbath.” The Sabbath Day was given by God to man. It was a day where man could rest and it also served as a covenant mark between God and His people. The Pharisees, in an attempt to “elevate” the law of God, made all kinds of extra rules regarding the Sabbath. They took it upon themselves and their own wisdom to define what “honoring the Sabbath” would look like. When Jesus calls Himself the Lord of the Sabbath, He is rebuking the Pharisees for overstepping their bounds by adding to God’s law and He is clearly making a claim to be God as only God could accurately make such a claim.
The book of Hebrews teaches us about Jesus being our ultimate Sabbath rest. Indeed, the Sabbath provided in the Old Testament was only temporary. When the holy day was over, work and toil would begin afresh and anew at the start of the next week. Jesus, however, in the salvation that He purchased upon the cross provides an eternal spiritual rest for all who will repent of sin and put faith in Christ. Jesus Is Greater Than The Sabbath! Jesus Is The Greatest!
Jesus Shows His Greatness (Matthew 12:9-16)…After the verbal exchanges with the Pharisees, Jesus comes across a situation where He will show the truth of the words He had just spoken. Christ is attending a synagogue where there providentially happens to be a man with a withered hand. The religious leaders had apparently learned nothing from Jesus’ teaching and rebuke in the first 8 verses as verse 10 finds them asking the Lord if it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath Day? Their man-made tradition taught that it was unrighteous to practice medicine on the Sabbath except in the case of life threatening situations. Now mind you, the Old Testament never made such a prohibition, for it is always the right time to do good.
The Lord knew the hypocrisy of their question for the Pharisees were only looking for an occasion to accuse Him of wrongdoing. He answered their question by asking them who among them would not do the work of rescuing one of their sheep from a pit, even if it happened on the Sabbath Day. Jesus next exclaims that a man is far more valuable than a sheep and declares that it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath. Then, even knowing that healing the man would cause the Pharisees to want to destroy Him, Christ commands the man to stretch forth his hand and it was made whole just like the other! Jesus Showed His Greatness! Jesus Is The Greatest!