Several times, Jesus was confronted by the Pharisees, the teachers of the law. They would come to him to complain that his disciples were eating grains of wheat as they walked along the road. Or they would come to Jesus asking for a sign, despite all of the signs that they had either already witnessed, or knew that he had already done.
But three times, Jesus pointed the Pharisees to a greater reality. There is much more that you are not seeing… he seems to be saying.
You are concerned about the religious things that you look behind you to see. But I am standing right here in front of you. Do you know who I am?
Three times, Jesus said that something greater is here. Something greater than the temple. (Whoa…)
Something greater than Jonah and his work to preach to the Ninevites.
Something greater than Solomon.
And Jesus is saying that he himself is that something. He is greater than all of these things: The temple, Jonah, Solomon. He is greater than all of these things. Each of these things or people that the Jews, and especially the Pharisees held in the highest esteem, he is greater than all of them.
How could it be that he is greater than the temple? That is the place of worship. That is the place where God dwelt. Those must have been at least some of the questions that the Pharisees were asking themselves. They had to have started to hate Jesus for this. He was lifting himself up higher than each of the things that they loved, each of the things that they held dearly, the major symbols of their lives and their faith. And Jesus is saying that he is greater than all of them.
They did start to hate him because they thought that Jesus was just a man. They weren’t able to reason through the fact that Jesus confirmed his words with signs. Jesus could reach out his hand and calm a storm. He could drive out demons with a word. He could heal people’s sicknesses. He could heal their malformations.
In fact, Jesus heals a man whose hand was shriveled right in front of the Pharisees in the synagogue on the Sabbath. Why does he heal the man on the Sabbath? To demonstrate that he is, in fact, the Lord of the Sabbath.
But the Pharisees couldn’t see it. They were so angry about Jesus healing the man on the Sabbath, according to them breaking Mosaic law, that they were blinded to what Jesus was showing and demonstrating for them right in front of their faces.
How many other people are healing on any day of the week? Yet because the man is healed on the Sabbath, you are upset? I am the LORD of the Sabbath, Jesus says. Listen to what I am telling you!
Over and over, Jesus explains to the people that a new and greater reality has entered the world. This reality is that God himself has come in the form of a man. He has come to establish and announce his Kingdom anew on the earth and to call the people to come to him, to be with him, to be his people. To become part of his Kingdom. But many, especially the Pharisees, are blinded and not able to see.
Jesus is the new reality. He is greater than all of the things that have in this world. Greater than business and technology. Greater than religion and governmental powers. Greater than the systems of our world. Greater than all. That is why he told the Pharisees:
I tell you that something greater than the temple is here.Matthew 12:6
For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.Matthew 12:8
The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here.Matthew 12:41
The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here.Matthew 12:42