Missional Jesus, plain and simple, didn’t follow the rules. And here’s something to think about: there is very little difference at the phemenological level between the Torah and one’s interpretation of the Torah. So, even if we say, “Jesus didn’t really break the Torah; he broke only the interpretation of the Torah,” we are really fudging. Why?
Because our interpretation of the Torah is equated with the Torah. The Pharisees around Jesus thought he broke the Torah. But Jesus thought he was — on the contrary — revealing the heart of the Torah.
1. Missional Jesus distinguished the love of Torah from the Torah of love. The 613 prohibitions and commandments may have been there due to “plenary inspiration” but they weren’t all equal and they weren’t equally normative.
2. For Jesus, the law was here to help humans and not to hinder them.
Here’s our text for today, from Matthew 12:1-8:
Matt. 12:1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 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 and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests. 5 Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath the priests in the temple break the sabbath and yet are guiltless? 6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 7 But 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.”
3. Missional Jesus permitted his disciples to pluck grain on the sabbath; Pharisees didn’t. Missional Jesus did because they were doing God’s work and it is God’s work to feed humans.
4. Missional Jesus knew that the general holiness of the Temple’s food was protected but if humans needed food, then those in need could “common-ate” that food by eating it as food for sustenance. So David and his companions.
5. Missional Jesus summons his followers to know the difference.
6. Missional Jesus knows that mercy — the second half of the Jesus Creed — is the heart of the Torah.