Mark 2:23-3:6 contains two stories back-to-back about the sanctity of the Sabbath. In the first story, the Pharisees accuse the disciples of Jesus of breaking the Sabbath. In the second story, Jesus turns the tables on the Pharisees and accuses them of being the real Sabbath breakers.
2:23One Sabbath he was going through the grain fields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 25And 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: 26how 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?” 27And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” – Mark 2:23-28
- The Pharisees ask a real question and they receive a thoughtful answer.
- The Sabbath was extremely important at the time of Jesus. One day a week Jews were to cease their labors.
- After the Babylonian exile, the Sabbath took on even greater significance. Following the reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah, the scribes developed a rigorous code of regulations and restrictions governing the Sabbath.
- A rabbi’s views on the Sabbath were a litmus test on his credibility.
- As the disciples moved along plucking heads of grain, they broke 2-4 different rabbinical laws, depending on your interpretation : the laws against reaping, winnowing, threshing and preparing a meal.
- Thus their actions provoked the a reaction from the Pharisees.
- Jesus refers them to 1 Samuel 21:1-6 and the holy bread (Leviticus 24:5-9).
- Like David’s men, the disciples of Jesus are doing what God wants them to do (following the Messiah) which leaves no time to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.
- It is more important that they obey God than that they follow the religious rituals of the Sabbath.
- If David’s men can violate the laws of the Sabbath because they are obeying the commands of their King, how much more can the disciples violate the laws of the Sabbath because they are serving the Messiah himself who is the LORD of Sabbath?
3:1Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. 2And 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.” 4And 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. 5And 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. 6The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. – Mark 3:1-6
- In this story, the Pharisees are looking for a reason to accuse Jesus.
- Jesus is restoring life while the Pharisees are plotting to kill him. Which acts breaks the Sabbath?
- Does God delight in evil or compassion?
- Jesus has broken their Sabbath-law and yet he has not broken it. The man is healed, but Jesus did not touch him, lift him, move him, or apply any outward force or remedy. The man stretches out his arm and is healed.
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