Two weeks ago (on July 7), Jesus gave the Pharisees homework: “Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’” (Matthew 9:13). Apparently they have not completed the assignment, so Jesus repeats the lesson today.
The lesson comes straight from the Pharisees’ Scriptures, in Hosea 6:6. There God tells the people what God wants: mercy, or in Hebrew, hesed. The meaning of hesed is actually quite complex. Besides “mercy,” it encompasses “kindness,” “steadfast love,” and “compassion.”
Today, Jesus links hesed with the sabbath. God expects us to work hard, but God also knows we need time to rest. So in an act of hesed, God gives us the sabbath. For the disciples, God’s merciful, loving kindness allows them to pick grain and eat. We are coming up on a sabbath ourselves; how is God inviting you to be kind to yourself and rest?