Here Jesus confronts the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. They claim to be experts in the law, and yet they don’t consider the example of David or the priests when it comes to the Sabbath. And they would have more compassion for a sheep on the Sabbath than they would for a man! By his actions and teaching Jesus shows that mercy and love should rule the Sabbath, and in truth should rule the law:
Romans 13:10 “Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
Jesus is identified by several names here, all of which point to His authority, dominion, and even divinity! First of all, He is the Son of Man, which has several implications, the most important from the book of Daniel:
Daniel 7:13-14 “I was watching in the night visions, And with the clouds of the sky one like a son of man was approaching. He went up to the Ancient of Days and was escorted before him. To him was given ruling authority, honor, and sovereignty. All peoples, nations, and language groups were serving him. His authority is eternal and will not pass away. His kingdom will not be destroyed.”
Jesus is also the suffering servant from the book of Isaiah (the suffering servant songs in Isaiah are found in 42:1-4, 49:1-6, 50:4-7, and 52:13-53:12). Here Matthew quotes from Isaiah 42:1-4 to explain Jesus’ secrecy, but he also shows that the Jewish messiah will also bring hope to the Gentiles! I believe the best understanding of His secrecy is that He has a divine timetable to adhere to, and He’s keeping the Jewish authorities at bay.
Finally, Jesus identifies Himself as the Lord of the Sabbath, which I believe is subtle claim to deity. Yes, He’s claiming authority to declare how the Sabbath should be obeyed, but who has the authority to do that? Only God, because it is His Sabbath (Exodus 31:13; Leviticus 19:3; Ezekiel 20:12 and 12 others)!
The bottom line? We should listen to Jesus when He proclaims the importance of mercy and compassion.