It happened that one Sabbath day he was taking a walk through the cornfields, and his disciples began to make a path by plucking ears of corn. And the Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing something on the Sabbath day that is forbidden?” And he replied, “Have you never read what David did in his time of need when he and his followers were hungry? How he went into the house of God when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the loaves of the offering which only the priests are allowed to eat, and how he also gave some to the men with him?” And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath; so the Son of Man is master even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:23-28)
The Pharisees were making a very serious accusation here. Listen to Exodus 31:14 from the Old Testament: “Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it must be put to death.” If Jesus was not going to obey Sabbath rules, under the law he deserved to die.
But Christ declares in no uncertain terms that his authority is equal to that of God himself, who instituted the Sabbath at the dawn of man’s creation. Christ wants from the Pharisees nothing less than an act of faith in his own divine person. His heart longs to save them. Christ yearns to bring to salvation everyone he encounters, including his enemies. But the Pharisees did not listen.
And that brings me to a car driving scenario.
Ever been in a situation where you are driving in a 55-mph lane and the car ahead is doing 53mph? Not only is the car doing 53 mph but the driver refuses to yield. Now, here is where we get to ‘fess up. Do you stay behind the car, gritting your teeth, but observing the law? Or, at the first chance, you find a way to pass the car and continue driving at 60 +? So here is my confession. I fall into the group that passes as soon as I can.
Are we like that pickup truck driver on Friday, and the Pharisees who were challenging Jesus? Are we so afraid of breaking the law that we insist on driving 53 miles per hour in a 55 mile an hour speed zone? Do we see ourselves as the guardians of not only the law, but the Christian faith itself, wanting to protect it and keep it pure, on our terms?
Do we think we are keeping the church safe by enforcing the rules, to the exclusion of healing and feeding people who are hungry for life? Are we afraid of the power Jesus might use in our midst, and what that might require of us? Are our hearts hardened to the familiar, the safe, the way we are used to doing things, even if it doesn’t seem to attract people to Christ?
Are we like those worried Pharisees? They had good reason to worry. This Jesus was anything but safe. He was dangerous. He still is.
You see, Jesus came to call us to a different way of living. But many of us still don’t get it. We prefer a dormant God . . . subject to our rules and rituals instead of an active, category busting God.
Christ clarifies that it is not the mere act of observing the sabbath that matters here, it is the intentions of the heart. This is because God wants us to do things out of love and mercy instead of just offering a sacrifice that is devoid of love and mercy. Are we fooling anybody but ourselves if our piety masks anger in our hearts? Are we fooling anybody but ourselves f our piety hides judgementalism in our thoughts? Are we fooling anybody but ourselves when we see people, different from ourselves in looks or actions, as not worthy of equality?
Tradition is useful if it helps us live with one another and to help us meet the needs of others with compassion. Tradition is useful if it helps us live our lives in a way that reflects God’s love. But tradition and laws cease to be useful when they are followed by “blind faith” that rules out living the great command of love. Let us never be prevented from serving God by a technicality created by man. The martyrs rose above the legal and civic technicalities and praised God regardless of the wishes of evil men.
If we follow the Great Command, we will always be living in the spirit that Jesus calls us to.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, may I give you fitting honor in the way I live my life and in the way I treat my neighbor. May I honor the Lord’s Day as a day holy to you. And may I always treat others with the same mercy and kindness which you have shown to me. Free me from a critical and intolerant spirit that I may always seek the good of my neighbor.”
The Sabbath is not one day a week on which we follow certain rules and regulations. The Sabbath is about an experience of God, the remembrance of God, which we should seek for on a daily basis, many times a day, as well as one full day per week. Every day, every moment of every day, can be a Sabbath – if we choose it to be. And the more we choose to Sabbath with God, the more we will know of him in our lives.