Meals of Jesus
Lord of the Sabbath
One day Jesus and his disciples were traveling the grain fields. Now this wasn’t any ordinary day this was a Sabbath Day. The Sabbath is special day of rest that the LORD commanded His people to observe. In fact it is so important to the LORD that he made it part of the Ten Commandments. This was a day of rest and a day for sacred assemblies. This is the LORD’s Sabbath that He even took when He finished creating the universe. He even took a rest from providing manna to the people on the Sabbath Day. The importance and history of this day was not lost on the His people. The disciples grew hungry as they walked thru the grain fields. They reached out and grabbed some heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands and eat. To us this may not seem like an act that would violate the Sabbath day but to those of that time it was.
Now some Pharisees where also walking with Jesus. Whether they were genuinely interested in Jesus or just out to make trouble at this point is up to you. “Look!” they said “why are you and your disciples doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” (Matthew 12.2, Mark 2.24 & Luke 6.2)
In Matthew Jesus’ answer is long.
He answered, “Haven't you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread–which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven't you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent? I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, ‘ I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ (Hosea 6.6) you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12.3 - .8)
What is he saying? I think he is saying that mercy is more important that sacrifice. Your inner religious life is more important than your outer religious life. How you are one the inside needs to reflect on your actions. The Pharisees thought they had figured out the Sabbath and were using it as a weapon to condemn people. They knew what God wanted and if people couldn’t see that, they were condemned. Jesus on the other hand says no to that concept. Instead he wants them to sacrifice their preconceived notions of what God wants and have mercy on those who don’t live exactly as them. He also wants them to know that he is God. When Jesus declares himself as Lord of the Sabbath he is basically saying I am GOD. God created the Sabbath as His final act of creation. God commanded that His people observe the Sabbath. God blessed the people with the gift of the Sabbath. No one is lord of the Sabbath but God alone.
Mark includes another quote for Jesus “The Sabbath is for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2.27) I love this verse because it applies to so much in our lives. The Sabbath is a gift but the Pharisees used it as a weapon to draw a line between those who were “holy” and those who weren’t. In our society there are many religious people who draw up lists of how Christians are supposed to live or are supposed to be like. Not to extend mercy but to condemn. Like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time they miss the point. Our righteous life, our holy life, our salvation is a gift of great mercy and sacrifice; it was made for us not us for it. Jesus tells us by quoting Hosea 6.6 that God wants us to have the same kind of grace and mercy He had rather than we get all the external trappings of religion right.
When we read about the Pharisees we need to remember two things. First, not all of these guys were bad. Many became believers and followers of Jesus. They were earnestly trying to live a life that pleased God. Second, we are the Pharisees of our day. They were the good church going people of their day. Now we are those people, so we need to be careful how we live. Do we show mercy like the Father wants? Do we just get the external trappings of religion right? Do we use our righteousness to condemn others or to help them in their walk with the LORD?