“But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, ‘Look, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath.'” (Matthew 12:2)
“When (they) saw … they said …”. Seeing, and then being critical, was a mark of the Pharisee. They SAW what Jesus’ disciples were doing — and then proceeded to SPEAK against it, and criticize it. And this was not the only occasion on which they practiced this. Seeing and then criticizing was their “modus operandi.”
The characteristics these Pharisees exhibited should make some of us today very uncomfortable — if we were honest, many of us would admit that we would make great Pharisees! What is your first response to a person, an action, a sermon, a song, a ministry, a question — understanding, or criticism?
Jesus responded to the Pharisees — and to all of us today who are just like them — by saying in :7, “If you had known what this means: ‘I desire compassion and not a sacrifice’ you would not have condemned the innocent.” In other words, He exhorted us to let compassion be our first response, not criticism.
It is interesting that Jesus quoted this same Old Testament verse about compassion (Hosea 6:6) earlier in Matthew 9:13, when they were being critical of His eating with tax collectors and sinners at Matthew’s banquet. So this seems to be Jesus’ “stock answer” to critical people. Maybe it should become our “stock” verse to quote when we are tempted to see others, and criticize. May God’s Spirit use His word to help us have a COMPASSIONATE eye, not a CRITICAL one.