In Matt. 12, this is now the second time Jesus has confronted the Pharisees on this same question – they do not get what Jesus means, that God has said He desires mercy above sacrifice. See: 9:13.
The point of the sacrifices is not the sacrifices themselves, but the mercy they are intended to point to. God doesn’t delight in the practice – He delights in what the practice is meant to display – that there is a sacrifice, an atonement for sin – a blood atonement – the blood of the Lamb of God.
This is what Jesus means when He says something greater than the Temple had arrived. The Temple could only function as a temporary edifice to spotlight the types and shadows. It could support the priesthood, the sacrifices, the table of shewbread, the lampstand and the holy of holies with the Ark, but it was not the substance.
Christ is the substance. And the problem with the Pharisees at that point, is the very same one with all man-made religion: It fails to recognize the authentic that the types and shadows point to. They were not recognizing Jesus as the fulfillment of all these things.
And many is the religionist today who does the very same thing, even in the name of Christianity. Putting emphasis upon rites, rituals and law-keeping – rather than on the substitutionary death of Christ on the Cross as that to which all of these other things can only point. Keeping them in and of themselves, no matter how scrupulously – has no value at all. He alone, is Heaven’s treasure and the provision for our sin.
What a wonderful Savior!