One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 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.”

Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
(Mark 2:23-28)

Walking on a path thorough a grain field on a Sabbath morning the Lord’s disciples began picking heads of grain to fill their empty stomachs. This was a legitimate action according to the law laid out in Deuteronomy, yet the Pharisees had made this deed a law breaker. The disciple’s were going against the tradition of these elders. The Pharisees regarded Jesus’ disciples as “working” and therefore they were breaking the Sabbath Law. Picky, picky, picky–the Pharisees delved so much in minutia they missed the truth all together. Fencing in the Law of the Sabbath with at least thirty-nine of their man made prohibited activities, they defined this act as “reaping grain.” Their narrow interpretation of the Law blurred God’s intention. The spirit of the Law was a higher priority than ceremonial regulations. Ritual observances must give way to moral obligations. I am reminded of Micah’s words regarding God’s requirements of His servants:

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

Demanding an explanation of the disciple’s behavior, the Pharisees were quick, as well as smug, to point out to Jesus what they considered a trespass. As always, Jesus’ reply comes straight from Scripture. He reminds those who were pointing fingers of the actions of King David and his companions when eating the consecrated bread of the tabernacle. This is an incredibly important point Jesus is making here through example. We must back up what we believe with the truth of God’s Word.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Take It to Heart

The Sabbath was established for man as a divine and sacred institution to be embraced as a most delightful benefit and privilege. It was never intended to be perceived or experienced as a chore or a drudge. Jesus tells us the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. It was a day set forth to replenish, restore, refresh, and repair Who, may I ask, does not have a need for this? God has directed us to rest from his work one day in seven. Jesus here affirms this while at the same time smashing the legalism the Pharisees had poured into its observance. Jesus says He is the Lord of the Sabbath. Jesus is the source of the deep peace we desperately need.

“The word Sabbath means a deep rest, a deep peace. It’s a near synonym for Shalom–a state of wholeness and flourishing in every dimension of life. When Jesus says, ‘I am the Lord of the Sabbath,’ Jesus means that he is the Sabbath. He is the source of the deep rest we need. He has come to completely change the way we rest. The one-day-a-week rest we take is just a taste of the deep divine rest we need, and Jesus is its source.”
(Timothy Keller)

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

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