Blessings abundant to all of you, my friends, as this new year begins. May this year find us getting deeper into the Word of God and closer than ever to the Lord Jesus.
Jesus hardly went anywhere without being watched by the Pharisees! Mark records that one day Jesus was walking through the grain fields with His disciples and as they walked, the disciples picked some of the grain for they were hungry. On seeing this, the Pharisees immediately seized upon the opportunity to level an accusation against Jesus, albeit cloaked in a ‘loaded’ question.
The Pharisees were saying to Him, ‘Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath? And He [Jesus] said to them: ‘Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions became hungry; how he entered the house of God in the time of Abiathar the high priest and ate the consecrated bread, which is not lawful for anyone to eat except the priests, and he gave it to those who were with him?
Jesus said to them, The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord, even of the Sabbath. Mark 2:24-28
There was nothing wrong with what the disciples did, because their gleaning was not considered stealing according to the Torah (Deut. 23:25) The issue with the Pharisees was only about the day on which they did it. They had created an extensive list of “dos” and “don’ts” related to the Sabbath, and this action violated one of the items on their list.
Jesus never violated God’s command to observe the Sabbath or approved of His disciples violating God’s command to observe the Sabbath. However, He often broke man’s legalistic additions to the Torah for the same Torah that the Pharisees claimed they followed, commanded that nothing be added or taken away from God’s law:
You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32
By developing a long list of requirements and prohibitions and imposing them strictly on the people, the Pharisees themselves violated the commandment of Deuteronomy by raising their traditions to the level of inspired Scripture! It is THIS which Jesus refuted and refused to tolerate.
And in referring to David’s use of the “holy bread” in I Samuel 21:1-6, Jesus showed an important principle – human need is more important than religious ritual.
This is exactly what many people, steeped in tradition, simply cannot accept: that what God really wants is mercy before sacrifice (Hosea 6:6); that love toward others is more important than religious rituals (Isaiah 58:1-9); that the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart; these, O God, You will not despise (Psalm 51:17
Jesus addressed this problem at another time: He was also saying to them, You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. Mark 7:9
The Lord then went on to declare that He was the Lord of the Sabbath. If He, the very Lord of the Sabbath, was not offended by His disciple’s actions, then these legalistic traditionalists should not have been offended either.
Jesus had already confronted this same issue in Jerusalem as recorded in John, chapter 5. There was a pool by the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem where the sick, the blind and the crippled gathered for there was a tradition that an angel of God periodically came down and stirred the waters and the first person in the pool after the stirring would be healed. Jesus, in obedience to His Father, walked into the pool area one day, stopped in front of one individual who had been ill for 38 years and healed him. Then Jesus turned around and left.
John adds: The man became well, picked up his pallet, began to walk. Now, it was the Sabbath on that day.
And of course, guess who’s watching? The Pharisees said to the man who was healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet.”
Talk about insensitivity! The man had been ill for THIRTY-EIGHT YEARS! Longer than Jesus had been on the earth!!! After such a lengthy illness, should not everyone, including the Pharisees, been rejoicing at the blessing of healing this man received?
Thirty-eight years and this man finally could get up and walk and carry his bed and you, Pharisees, make an issue out of the fact that it’s the Sabbath and you’re not supposed to be carrying something? Seriously! Really!
But he answered them, “He who made me well was the one who said to me, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk.” The point he’s making is “Look, if this man has power over disease, then he has an authority clearly greater than yours. And when he said walk, I walked.”
Now look at vs. 16: For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. Wow! So it’s horrible to heal somebody on the Sabbath?
Sabbath tradition was their domain and they were fanatical, way beyond Scripture. Scripture gives no restrictions for the Sabbath other than refraining from work. But the rabbinical system had invented endless, impossible rules and restraints for Sabbath conduct, and enforced every one of those rules as strictly as possible.
Throughout His ministry, Jesus constantly challenged always people to choose between His gospel of humility, repentance, grace and faith and the legalistic system of self-righteous works and performance that led to pride. The choice is still the same.
The Sabbath was made for rest and blessing and joy and mercy and compassion and the meeting of needs. There wouldn’t be a better day in the week to heal somebody. There wouldn’t be a better day in the week to provide food than the Sabbath.
“The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
He is Lord of the Sabbath because He is God made manifest in flesh. He designed this day. He is the Creator. Doesn’t John say that at the beginning of his gospel? “Everything made was made by Him, and without Him was not anything made.” So it was He, Jesus, who ceased to work, it was He, Jesus, who rested. It was He, Jesus, who ordained this day to be blessed and separated from work. He is LORD of the Sabbath….and of every minute of every hour of every day He gives us to live.
When all is said and done, the fundamental, unchangeable issue is this: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your resources and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Jesus declared that on these two commandments the entire Torah rested. Therefore, it is love for God and love for your fellow man that overrules every tradition created in the minds of men.