Mark 2:23-28 23 One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” 27 And 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.”
Mark 3:1-6 1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. 2 And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” 4 And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.
The Book of Mark is the shortest Gospel account describing the Good News- the events of the life of Jesus as He walked upon this earth to provide for our salvation. Jesus is right now seated at the right hand of God in heaven and one day in the future He will return to this earth in full authority to judge the world in righteousness. Already at the end of Mark 2 and the beginning of Mark 3 we see His authority directly challenged to the point of His enemies wanting Him destroyed. The sinful nature in man is such that all of mankind who are not drawn to the cross of Jesus Christ will at some point desire to destroy the One who is Lord over all. Why? Because if God has infinite authority over all of His creation we cannot claim authority ourselves. We are all in subject to Him and we must live our lives according to His desires and not our own. But the greatness of God is that He does not force us to obey Him and to love Him. He is looking for willing subjects who love Him with all their heart. His future perfect eternal Kingdom will only include those who willingly submit themselves to Him and rejoice in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.
The leading religious authority at that time in Israel was the party of the Pharisees. The Pharisees attempted to raise the 613 laws given to Moses to even greater heights to prove their great wisdom and holiness. They added additional traditions- more rules to the Old Testament law by which their greatness could be displayed to all: fasting, long prayers, etc. They were the spiritual elite in Israel at that time and loved to display this by all the rules they followed. This set them above everyone else in the nation of Israel. And so Jesus’ spiritual authority was a direct threat to them and His teaching was very different to what they had taught the people.
The Pharisees had developed strict rules in their traditions to prevent any form of work on the Saturday to the point that plucking heads of grain in a field was a breaking of their man made laws. Their view of their relationship to God was found only in external actions: do this, don’t do that. They had elevated themselves through human effort to be above everyone else and in turn the view of their relationship with God was contingent upon others being less than they were. They did not compare themselves to the perfect standard of God but only how they perceived themselves in relation to others and what they thought God’s law required. There was no way that a “sinner” could have a relationship with God as they did. To be right with God meant that you had to be better than others. And so they challenged Jesus based on their own false beliefs.
Jesus knows the state of their hearts and so He uses an example from the life of David found in 1 Samuel 21. David, when he and his men were starving as he was fleeing King Saul, was provided the bread that only the priests were legally allowed to eat. It appeared that David had broken the law but somehow he was not condemned. How could this be? The Pharisees had a high regard for the Old Testament Scriptures but they had no answer for David’s actions. David’s actions demonstrated the true relationship of all who are in the Kingdom of God of which the Pharisees did not understand. Jesus was teaching the Pharisees what obedience looks like in the Kingdom of God as Jesus is Lord. The Christian does not obey God in order to be saved. The Christian obeys God out of the person of Christ being revealed in the Christian. All of God’s commands reflect His character. His laws exist as a revelation of who He is and what He desires just as the rules of parents within a home reveal the character of the parents. As Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath, the rules related to the Sabbath were not restrictions about works but about true love and worship of God. The priests were only allowed to eat the bread of the Presence as they were set apart to bring the offerings of the people to God. But through Jesus Christ and His finished work upon the cross all who believe in His Name have access to God and can partake of the bread of the Presence. The Christian is united to Christ by His Spirit and enters into union with Christ by faith. This was foreshadowed in the life of David:
Revelation 1:5-6 5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
The entire religious system that the Pharisees believed was based upon rules and not a living relationship to the person of God. By Jesus claiming that He is Lord even over the Sabbath He not only was saying that He was to be worshipped as God but that their entire religious system was flawed. They were not looking for the Christ to save them but believed that they could save themselves through their obedience to the Law. Next, to prove His point, Jesus authenticates the Words that He spoke proving that He is Lord over the Sabbath by healing a man with a withered hand in front of them all.
Do you see the beauty of Jesus being Lord even of the Sabbath or are you trying to stand based upon your own efforts to be greater than those around you? Or do you feel so low that you can never live up to what others expect of you? The greatness of God is that he can take the worst sinner and glorify Himself through them if they will only repent and believe.
Pastor Murray Hack