This is the typed version of hand written notes on Matthew 12:1-8 so that you can see an example of the Unfolding God’s Word method of study presented through this series in Opening God’s Word. In a journal, the pages are divided into two columns and notes are color coded to distinguish between Scripture, definitions, and personal thoughts; thus, aiding review at a later date.

This is the writer’s personal notes and observations, and does not account for all possible references, definitions and themes that could be considered in Matthew 12:1-8. Each soul may see something different to focus on; that is the beauty in studying Scripture together as it often enhances and brings into view additional evaluations to contemplate.

Page 1

Date of entry

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath, His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they to Him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”

Matthew 12:1-2

Scripture referenced Deuteronomy 23:25.

If you enter your neighbor’s grainfield, you may pick kernels with your hands, but you must not put a sickle to his standing grain.

Deuteronomy 23:25

Bible note (BN). “This commandment guarded against selfishly holding on to one’s possessions. It also ensured that no one had to go hungry…. The Pharisees did not interpret this appropriately when they accused Jesus and the disciples of harvesting on the Sabbath.” NIV, Life Application Study Bible, pg. 1556.

Thoughts: Jesus answered with two stories:

  • David and his companions eating the consecrated bread. 1 Samuel 21:6
  • Priests desecrate the temple on the Sabbath “and yet are innocent”. Numbers 28:9, 10

BN. “The bread, called the Bread of the Presence, symbolized God’s Presence among His people as well as His loving care of their physical needs. The bread, when replaced, was to be eaten only by the priests on duty.” Id. at pg. 428.

[“Presence” stuck out; only certain definitions were recorded. Definition was from Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language]


  • 1. the state of being present, as with others in a place;
  • attendance or company
  • immediate vicinity; proximity;
  • the ability to project a sense of ease, poise or self-assurance;
  • a divine or supernatural spirit felt to be present

Thoughts: Bread of the Presence was symbolic of God’s Presence. Dig into what there is to learn about bread in relation to history and our lives.

BREAD=[root: fragment, morsel]

  • food or sustenance; livelihood;
  • money

[Did a search of the term “bread”]

From Wikipedia (under bread)–informal notes taken:

  • Considered central to the formation of societies;
  • Domestication of wheat led to more sophisticated societies;
  • Used a starter most of the time; white=wealth; whole grain=poor; switched when nutrition was better understood.
  • Was industrialized in 1912;
  • Has special significance in many cultures–represents basic necessities and living conditions

Thoughts: God needs to be at the center of our lives, recognized and loved for His love and constant provision for us.

Page 2

From NPR article: 14,000 Year Old Piece of Bread Rewrites History of Baking and Farming

  • Baking bread is a “labor intensive process”.
    • removing husks;
    • grinding kernels;
    • kneading dough;
    • baking.
  • Discovery at an ancient firepit literally is rewriting history of when and how people settled into towns. [Shows how quickly settled truths can be turned upside down on their head.

Thoughts: If bread was the center of many cultures and daily life, the same labor intensive process is probably necessary in authentic and close relationships…including with God.

Thoughts: If bread in the temple symbolized God’s Presence and care, then it would make sense that God, Himself, would be okay with it being eaten for the right reasons and at the right time. Starvation was not what He wishes. More importantly, David went through the right steps and order by asking the priest rather than taking or stealing it from the temple. He answered the priest’s questions and explained his dilemma. He did not act entitled to it.

Thoughts: Condemnation through rigid application of God’s Word was not what the priest did when considering David and his needs. He was merciful, rather than sacrificing David to maintain an absolute reading of Scripture.

Thoughts: Return back to the definition of Presence and look more at the state of being present.


  • being, existing or occurring at the time now; current.
  • at this time; at hand; immediate;
  • being with one or others…in specified or understood place;
  • being actually here or under consideration;
  • being in the mind; recollected;
  • focused on or involved in what one is doing at a particular moment;
  • mentally alert and calm, especially in emergencies.

Thoughts: In my life, am I “present” with others enough to convey I truly care? By definition, I can see problems with certain relationships in my life who consistently “wait” for me to be present with them. What things might I “feed” to others that indicate I am present and care:

  • my time
  • my thoughts
  • portions of my life
  • my cooking
  • sharing of things important to me

Thoughts: I wonder if God is saying that He does not necessarily want us to sacrifice our presence with others for the absoluteness of rules that we often misapply.

Deuteronomy 28:9-10 spoke to extra offerings of grain, meat and drink sacrifices on the Sabbath in addition to the regular amounts.

Thoughts: Is it possible God asked for that to accommodate unexpected needs? In a way, making our need to judge harshly unnecessary.

I tell you that one greater than the temple is here.

Matthew 12:6

TEMPLE= [root: extended; seat]

  • a church; place of worship;
  • a place in which the divine presence specially resides;
  • Synonyms: house; place of worship; holy place; house of God; house of prayer; sanctuary.
  • Antonyms: none listed at (a first)


  • a sacred or holy place
  • any place of refuge

Thoughts: Possibly a call for humanity? Lives are not buildings, and is it possible that God is reminding us that rules have general applications and also exceptions to when they are applied. Lives are more fluid than a temple/building. Mercy requires more flexibility than the rigidity of their religious structure allowed when the Pharisees felt threatened.

Page 3

[Noticed that there was a notation next to the word “one” in verse 6. Below the Scripture, it mentioned that the word “something” was a possible translation.]

I tell you that [something] greater than the temple is here.

Matthew 12:6

Thoughts: With “something” inserted, it seems to magnify that faith is not about sacrifices and rule following, but instead that “something” is the amazing concept of mercy. We need to allow mercy to gain more of our attention when it comes to others, and not rush to judge whether they are following the rules we think God dictates.

Thoughts: The Pharisees were claiming the disciples had done wrong. But God already gave them permission through Deuteronomy 23:28 to eat grain kernels from a field that was not their own. With David and the priests, the absoluteness of their rigid Scripture interpretation was unjustified and unsupported.

If you had known what these words mean, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice,” you would not have condemned the innocent.

Matthew 12:7

MEAN=[to intend; to relate; to recite or tell; to lament; to think or believe; The primary sense is to thrust forward.]

  • To have in mind, view or contemplation;
  • To intend; purpose; design with reference to a future act;
  • To signify; to indicate.

Thoughts: This definition speaks to how important it is that we truly understand the nature of the words God uses in Scripture, and also–just importantly–how to apply them correctly. The Pharisees thought they knew the Scripture, but they failed to allow mercy into their application. How often do we do the same?


  • That benevolence, mildness or tenderness of heart that disposes a person to overlook injuries or treat an offender better than he deserves; disposition that tempers justice, and induces an injured person to forgive trespasses and injuries and to forbear punishment, or inflict less…In this sense, there is no word precisely synonymous with mercy. That which comes closest is grace. It implies [changes to structure by writer for sake of journal entry]:
    • benevolence–desire to do good to others; act of kindness; considerate; careful
    • tenderness–no hard or tough; young or immature; affectionate; loving; soft; gentle; easily moved to compassion or sympathy; kind
    • mildness–amiably gentle; in speech, gentleness; not color or severe; not serious; moderate in force; soft; pleasant; moderate in intensity
    • pity–sympathetic; leading to give relief; dutifully respectful; sense of duty
    • clemency–showing forbearance; compassion or forgiveness in judging or punishing
  • Pity or compassion
  • Charity
  • Grace; favor
  • Synonyms: charity, leniency, pity, tolerance, forbearance, humanity, relief, softheartedness, ruth
  • Antonyms: disapproval, disdain, ill will, meanness, selfishness, unkindness, disfavor, cruelty, intolerance, uncompassion

RUTH=pity/compassion; sorrow/grief; remorse/contrition.

Thoughts: It is easier to move towards condemnation than to seek to give mercy. This is especially true when we do not like, or are suspect of another, as the Pharisees were towards both Jesus and the disciples. Who do I extend this attitude towards in my life, and why? What can I do to see things differently–to change my heart to mercifully consider whether they are more innocent than I initially thought?

Page 4


  • …free from qualities that can injure; harmless.
  • Free from guilt; not having done wrong or violated any law; not tainted with sin; pure; upright. In this general sense, no human being that is a moral agent, can be innocent.
  • Free from guilt of a particular crime or evil action;
  • Lawful; permitted;

Thoughts: How often am I willing to condemn someone who is doing something lawful or permitted in a rush to judgment? How often am I guided towards that conclusion by wrong heart attitudes or motives?

Thoughts: Recently, who have I judged or come to a conclusion about without truly knowing enough about the situation?

Thoughts: Why am I willing to sacrifice that person or relationship? What is stopping me from extending mercy like I would with others?

SACRIFICE= [sacred and to make]

  • To offer to God…
  • To destroy, surrender, or suffer to be lost for the sake of obtaining something;
  • To devote with loss;
  • To destroy.

Thoughts: Oh, ouch! How often am I willing to destroy, surrender or suffer the loss for the sake of something else? Where does my pride drive that, as it did with the Pharisees?

DESTROY=[to pile; to build; See structure]

  • To demolish; to pull down; to separate the parts…
  • To ruin; to annihilate a thing by demolishing or burning
    • BURN= 3. To feel heart or a physiologically similar sensation; feeling pain from as if fire.
    • ANNIHILATE=1. To reduce to nothing; to destroy the existence of; 2. To destroy the form or the peculiar distinctive properties, such that the specific thing no longer exists, as, to annihilate a forest by cutting and carrying away the trees, though the timber may still exist.

Thoughts: So destruction does not have to be complete to cause great damage. Annihilate is concerning in that our condemnation can morph and change how God’s Word is seen and how another person may see it or themselves or others.

Thoughts: The Pharisees “saw” what the disciples were doing and jumped to the conclusion that they were being unlawful. The actual verses that Jesus quoted stem from Hosea 6:6

For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

Hosea 6:6

Thoughts: It is interesting that the word destroy references burning. How often do our judgments lead to “burning” another soul, and yet, we claim our comments or actions are glorifying God as if it is an offering?

BN. “Religious rituals can help people understand God and nourish their relationship with Him. That is why God instituted circumcision and the sacrificial system in the Old Testament and baptism and the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament. But a religious ritual is helpful only if it is carried out with an attitude of love for and obedience to God. If a person’s heart is far from God, ritual will become an empty mockery. God didn’t want the Israelite’s rituals; He wanted their hearts. Why do you worship? What is the motive behind your “offerings” and “sacrifices”?”

Thoughts: Jesus is clear that their question and conclusion conveyed condemnation. And worse, the disciples were innocent.

CONDEMNATION=Censured; pronounced to be wrong; guilty; worthless or forfeited; adjudged or sentenced to punishment.

closing thoughts
  • We need to know His Word and the scope of where it should be applied and how.
  • We need to watch our hearts to see where we are being guided by a desire to judge and condemn. What is driving that?
  • We must remember that the meaning of His Words are incredibly important with some trumping others: Mercy is what He wants from us in our dealings with others; not condemnation. The law was designed to be followed by each soul, and using it to condemn, in that context, was beyond its purpose.
  • We need to reign in our destructive judgments and move away from condemnation.

Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

Hebrews 4:13

Final details:

  • Timeline–written in about an hour a day, stretched out over approximately two days (contemplated longer); plain, white computer paper (8.5″x11″) was used with notes on front and back for a total of 2 pages.
  • Almost all definitions came from Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language.
  • Personal application of this Scripture, notes and definitions went deeper than shared here. Consider digging deeper into close relationships that surround you, especially with those you may currently be struggling with. Step back and look at yourself to see where you may be harboring a desire to condemn.
  • Remember the disciples were fishermen, not necessarily religious scholars or scribes. The Pharisees felt they “knew” the law better. Check your heart for where you may be feeling the same way about a strong suit of yours.

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing the soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Hebrew 4:12