A Sheep, in a Pit, on the Sabbath


Matt. 12:11 He said to them, “Suppose one of you has only one sheep and it falls into a pit on the sabbath; will you not lay hold of it and lift it out?
Matt. 12:12 How much more valuable is a human being than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the sabbath.”


Jesus had gone into the synagogue of the Pharisees and it was the sabbath.  The rules of the sabbath day had almost taken on a life of their own and instead of understanding the intent of a sabbath rest for the people of God, the Pharisees had made the people of God subservient to the sabbath.  Their worship of the day itself was almost (or was) idolatrous. 

Here, on this sabbath day they confront Jesus with a man with a withered hand and asked him if it was legal to cure on the sabbath.  For Jesus this question was ridiculous so he answers their question with another question.  If one of your sheep falls into a pit on the sabbath, won’t you go and get it out?  Of course an owner would have compassion on their own little lamb who might die if left in the pit, waiting to be saved on another day. 

Remember this is Jesus responding — the good shepherd.  His mission is to save the sheep.  If these Pharisees would have compassion on an animal to save it on the sabbath — why not a human!  It was time to understand the context of the sabbath and God would be appalled if we didn’t do good on that day.  When you find a sheep in a pit on the sabbath — you must take action!


While Jesus thoroughly understood his role and his mission, there may be times when we are challenged to understand ours.  The Pharisees had gotten so focused on the rules that they forgot the purpose.  They had gotten off of their mission and gotten hung up on simply sustaining the structure.  It’s far too easy to slip into that kind of thinking and when that happens, we become more concerned about keeping all the plates of religion spinning than taking care of the sheep that have fallen into the pit on the sabbath. 

Jesus knew that he was the Good Shepherd and that caring for sheep was his business.  We are to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world today.  We are called to care for his sheep and when we find one in the pit, we are to have compassion and pull them out.  Sadly, we may be distracted by trying to make sure everything around us is in proper shape that we forget about looking for sheep in pits.  I believe that we are surrounded by those who need us to open our eyes and leave the confines of our “sabbath” and go into the pit and bring them out to safety.  Jesus was ridiculed for what he did but we are to follow him and to be imitators of Christ. 

Let’s all be willing to jump into a pit to help pull out a sheep on the sabbath.


Lord, please give me eyes to see the sheep!  Amen.


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