“But I say to you, that something greater than the temple is here” (Matthew 12:6 NAS).
“Behold, something greater than Jonah is here”; “something greater than Solomon is here” (Matthew 12: 41, 42).
The temple, Jonah, and Solomon are three great things, and representing—respectively—worship, repentance, and wisdom. Jesus Christ is undeniably greater than each of these things, both separately and in combination. Each is founded on Him and draws its existence from Him; He is the object of our worship, the ground of our repentance, and the very essence of wisdom itself.
The strain-at-a-gnat-but-swallow-a-camel Pharisaical mind contended with Jesus when His disciples ate grain as they passed through a grain-field. Jesus reminded them that David and his men unlawfully ate consecrated bread and were not admonished for doing so; also, priests worked in the temple in violation of Sabbath law, yet also, they were not admonished for it. Compassion, not sacrifice is the key to understanding how violators remain innocent. The greater law, the greater temple, is the Son of Man as the Lord of the Sabbath; in this role, the innocent are not condemned, but rather afforded forgiveness and grace. The better covenant based on better promises is introduced by and in Jesus, and past examples of great aspects of Judaism are eclipsed by the new covenant made in His blood.
Greater than all that the temple teaches us and represents in both religious form and function, greater than temporary national repentance and fleeting wholesale revival, and greater even than extraordinary wealth and wisdom, is our gentle but powerful Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. So great—and yet so obscure to the mind and heart of man—is this wonderful Lamb, that the apostle Paul was compelled to pray that we “may become progressively more intimately acquainted with and may know more definitely and accurately and thoroughly that mystic secret of God, [which is] Christ (the Anointed One). In Him all the treasures of [divine] wisdom (comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God) and [all the riches of spiritual] knowledge and enlightenment are stored up and lie hidden” (Colossians 2:2-3 AMPC).
But that which is hidden is that which is to be sought and found, and the key, again, is found in the idea that God desires “compassion, not sacrifice.” The Pharisaical mind is a mind bent on the rigidity of rule devoid of life and compassion; being technically right is not the same as being right (as in reference to the spirit of the intent of rule). The Law was given to curb man’s foul behavior and to teach man the parameters of fair behavior (in the context of community). We are all judged by the judgment we meet out to others; if we are rigid and unmerciful, we cannot afford to make mistakes. It is wiser to be compassionate and forgiving than to be perpetually sacrificing according to the strict dictates of law. Jesus came, not to undo law (right parameters), but to broaden our interpretation and application of the law of liberty. Something greater is here!