Use one or both of these questions to introduce the lesson:
1. Think of these two sayings: “Rules are meant to be broken” and “Rules are there for a reason.” With which of these do you most agree? Why? What are some situations in which the other saying might be more appropriate?
2. What does it mean to be a “stickler for the rules?” Does that phrase have positive or negative connotations for you? Explain. What damage can a stickler for the rules do?
Read Matthew 12:1-5.
1. Why might the disciples have been surprised when accused of wrongdoing by the religious leaders? Compare verses 1, 2 with Deuteronomy 23:24, 25. If the law did not forbid taking and eating grain from a field, what was the objection to the disciples’ actions?
2. There are times when someone is accused of wrongdoing, and the accused points to someone else and says, “But he did it!” When is that a poor argument? Why was it a legitimate argument in this case, however?
3. Summarize the instances of “legal lawbreaking” Jesus cited. Compare Matthew 12:3, 4 with 1 Samuel 21:1-6 and Matthew 12:5 with Numbers 28:9, 10. How would you say Jesus’ view of rule keeping differed from the view of the Pharisees?
Read Matthew 12:6-8.
4. At this point in history, the Jews lived in occupied territory. They were always surrounded by people who did not know the God of Israel. How does this help explain why they Pharisees wanted to carefully observe the laws of God? Nevertheless, according to verse 7, how did they fail to reflect God’s nature to a watching world?
5. Imagine someone telling Bill Gates that he did not use computers properly. Why would someone have looked foolish trying to explain how an automobile worked to Henry Ford? Refer to verse 8 to explain why it was arrogant for the Pharisees to criticize Jesus’ view of the Sabbath.
Read Matthew 12:9-14.
6. What is meant by the phrase “a loaded question?” Examine the scene described in verses 9, 10. Why was the Pharisees’ query to Jesus a loaded question? Why could they have expected Jesus to be on the losing side of the argument no matter how he answered?
7. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned his disciples about the dangers of figuratively throwing pearls to pigs. How does the reaction of the Pharisees to Jesus’ teaching and healing in verses 11-14 illustrate the truth of that metaphor?
8. The Pharisees seemed to value the keeping of rules more than the care of the individual. Examine your own life. In what areas are you tempted to be legalistic?