What’s a SOAP study? SOAP is an acronym, meaning: Scripture, observation, application, and prayer. This is one, very helpful way to get more out of your Bible study time. Join us in this short study of Matthew 12:1-14!



Matthew 12:1-14, ESV

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.”

He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

He went on from there and entered their synagogue. And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse him.

He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.


SOAP study taken from the Gospel Transformation Study Bible

Matthew gives two examples of how Jesus’ yoke is easy and his burden light (11:30). In both examples, Jesus opposes the Pharisees’ imposition on others of their burdensome way of observing the fourth commandment (Ex. 20:8–11; Deut. 5:12–15). The purpose of the Sabbath law was to show mercy to human beings and their farm animals by mandating regular rest from the hard labor of agrarian life (Matt. 12:8; Ex. 23:12). If its “observance” somehow made hungry people more miserable by forbidding them from obtaining food, or required a disabled person to remain disabled longer than necessary, then the purpose of the law itself had been violated (Matt. 12:7, 12; Hos. 6:6; Mic. 6:6–8).


SOAP study taken from the Gospel Transformation Bible Notes

Christians of every age and culture have formulated ideas about how the moral teaching of Scripture should be obeyed in their own time and place. Often these ideas become translated into rules for avoiding temptation in basic areas where Christians must interact with a non-Christian culture, whether over clothing, food, speech, or entertainment. Matthew 12:1–14 cautions believers as they engage in such rule-making to understand what they are doing: they are not formulating authoritative Scripture but giving fallible human advice, however prudent (5:29–30; 18:8–9), on how best to obey Scripture in particular circumstances. Whenever the tendency of these rules hinders the basic concern of Scripture for mercy, justice, and kindness, the rules have themselves become a hindrance to obeying God and need to be set aside.


Have you ever struggled with this, putting rules before mercy, justice, and kindness? Take some time today to think and pray about this. Ask Jesus how he would like you to respond.


This SOAP study was taken directly out of the Gospel Transformation Study Bible. You, too, can do quick, easy, and formative Bible studies with these notes.


  1. I really like this; but, the last sentence of the ‘Application’ section would be immeasurably improved by substituting the word, GRACE for the word, “justice”.
    Were we to be dealt with on the basis of “justice”, then None could escape judgement. “But God…” (Eph 2) out of His great love, chose to deal with us on the basis of Love and GRACE. Hallelujah!
    Thank you for this beautiful teaching/study.

  2. An exciting resource! The format is easy to follow and easy to read with plenty of references for additional reading. I ordered my copy.

  3. Neil,

    I love that I am saved by grace. While using ‘Grace’ in place for ‘Justice’ could add meaning to some readers, I think it could also remove tremendous meaning and comfort for others.

    There are so many examples right now in western culture and around the world where people are looking for justice. – minorities, refugees, the stateless, those living in dictatorships, the poor, the oppressed…these people desperately need justice!

    One of the cornerstones of Jesus’ ministry included bringing justice to the oppressed and stood in opposition to the Romans and the religious lawmakers who in their own ways we oppressing the Jewish people.

    When I read the commentary, I think that when you practice real ‘mercy, justice, and kindness’ than it is inevitable that it will lead you to practice grace. I read it as Jesus demonstrating the practical steps that he wanted His disciples to practice. It was easier for Him to say ‘be kind, be just, be merciful’ and have a chance of humans knowing what that means before saying ‘be graceful’ and the same group having a clue what He truly meant.

    I suppose I look at it this way as well. (I’m working through this, so I might have overlooked something…) God proclaims Himself to be love, just, kind, merciful, righteous, truth, holy, spirit, all knowing, all powerful, ever-present, faithful, never changing… these are His core characteristics. He doesn’t state that He is ‘graceful’ as part of His character, but it is also clear that grace is one of, if not His greatest work.

    So, is grace a product of God’s character?
    Since we do not share all of God’s characteristics, can we practice an imperfect grace in our lives by striving to be merciful, just and kind?
    How do the rules I may value look in the light of mercy, justice and kindness? Does that change in light of my concept of grace?

    Like I said, I’m working through this. your comments got me thinking on this subject and I just wanted to share my perspective and where I was at in working through all of this.


    • Roger

      You asked and answered your own question:

      He is ‘graceful’ as part of His character, but it is also clear that grace is one of, if not His greatest work.

      So, is grace a product of God’s character?

      Grace is the product of love, kindness & justice:

      Ephesians 2:8 KJV
      [8] For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

      The Gift of God was Jesus Christ who demonstrated all the love, kindness and justice with Grace at the Cross.

  4. Justice is a loaded word. When I saw the word, I assumed you were speaking of God’s justice on sinners. This is what the Pharisees insisted on for the women caught in adultery. Had Jesus given her justice, he would have thrown the first stone. Instead he gave her grace.

    The way the word it is being used in this passage is “Social Justice”. I did not realize this until after reading the comments. The word Grace, I think, has more meaning for the passage.

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