Lord of the Sabbath
23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
25 He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”
27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
Let’s break this passage down into two sections, based on Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees – first, “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” When we think about the Bible, what often springs into the minds of non-Believers (and Believers as well!) is that it is a rulebook of do’s and don’ts. This is true to an extent, but the real question is which one was created first? Did God create a bunch of laws, and then create humans to try to fulfil those laws? No, he created us first, and then gave us laws as a blessing, in order to give us structure and encouragement and insight into the Maker’s character. We must realize then that we were not created to simply obey the Law, but rather, the Law was created to help us!
And there is no clearer example of this then obeying the Sabbath. We often take this as an arbitrary and legalistic ritual, but in truth, keeping a Sabbath day is for our OWN good – it gives us spiritual and physical pause, starts our week on firm spiritual footing, gives us time to build relationships with God and one another, and forces us to depend on him for the provision of that week. We need to reform our mentality regarding the Bible and the Sabbath, viewing it as a deep blessing for us, rather than a burden on us.
Next, that “the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” Up to this point, we have seen Jesus as a teacher of the Law, a healer, a Lord who commands, and a forgiver of sins. Now, this passage provides further insight into his identity, this time, in reference to the Law. Although the main focus in the passage is the Sabbath, the issue at heart is really the Law – the Pharisees are just using the Sabbath to test Jesus’ adherence to the Mosaic Law, to trip him up. If the the issue at heart is really the Law, we could rephrase Jesus’ words as “the Son of Man is Lord even of the Law.” And if we extrapolate this further into our own context, we could say that “the Son of Man is Lord even of the Bible.”
We should never forget that the main focus and actor in the Bible is Jesus – the Old Testament leads up to his ministry on the cross, all the New Testament is derived from that ministry, but also looks forward to when he comes again. Practically, this affects how we should read the Bible, always looking at the text in light of what Jesus will/or has done. But additionally, if we want to know Jesus better…we must know the Word. For it’s through the Word that we see most clearly the Lord of the Sabbath.
1. What essential part of your Christian life feels the most burdensome? Why do you think this is? How can you rethink that element as a blessing instead?
2. What does a modern 21st century Sabbath look like?
3. You can personalize Jesus’ statement on the Sabbath, that the Sabbath was created for YOU! In what ways would keeping a Sabbath be good for you in your life?
4. In going through the book of Mark, what have you learned about Jesus that you weren’t aware of before, or perhaps had forgotten?