MAIN TEXT: MARK 2:23-28
One Sabbath he was going through the grain fields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look,why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 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: how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and atethe 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?” And 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.”
Most of us have seen the ugly face of legalism in Christianity. It is a deadly poison that is a polar opposite of a vital walk with Christ.
- the raising of the level of biblical mandate and command beyond what God has commanded or prohibited in His Word.
- taking our traditions and preferences and imposing them on others even though the Bible does not make such practices universally prescriptive.
- destructive because it breeds death rather than life.
- seductive because we have a natural draw of our flesh to look at ourselves rather than to Christ for our spiritual status before God.
- deceptive because it makes the enforces seem as the spiritually elite when they are actually slaves.
Legalism causes people to:
- look for the shortcoming of others rather than examining themselves.
- look for what is wrong with someone else’s life in order to criticize and condemn rather than encourage.
- feel spiritually superior.
- be man centered rather than Christ centered.
- to be focused on external behavior rather than internal issues of the heart.
In our text, Jesus encounters religious legalism once again. This time the Pharisees didn’t feel that Jesus properly honored and respected the Lord’s Day (Sabbath). Jesus responds to their accusation and sets the record straight by explaining that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.
do not let man-made religious rules make you a spiritual slave
This is the fourth of five controversies that the religious leaders have with Jesus. First, they complained that Jesus claimed to be God and to forgive sins (2:1-12). Second they were offended that he was a friend with sinners (2:13-17). Thirdly Jesus did not fast according to their religious traditions (2:18-22). Now they take issue with Jesus not honoring the Sabbath the way that they believe He should (2:23-28 and 3:1-6).
Here are some facts about the Sabbath:
- It ran from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday.
- Jews were commanded to set it aside as holy to the Lord.
- The Sabbath proclaimed Yahweh as Lord of creation and time.
- It was addressed in the fourth commandment (Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15).
- Jews were to abstain from every kind of work since God Himself rested on the seventh day of creation (Exodus 31:13-17).
- Since no details were given of what this would look like the Jews built an elaborate system of traditions of the Sabbath to assure that it would not be violated.
In our text (verse 23) the disciples were found in double violation of the law; they were walking (traveling was prohibited – anything more than 1,999 steps) and they plucked grain (harvesting). Jesus was held responsible for the actions of His disciples (verse 24). The Pharisees, perhaps with good intentions, had constructed a mountain of rules that enslaved those who tried to follow them. They had taken something that God had meant for good and turned it into evil. The real question at hand is, “who makes the rules?” Jesus will honor the law when it conforms to God’s intentions. When it does not conform to God’s intentions, Jesus challenges the status quo.
Remember that the Lord’s day is to be a blessing, not a burden
In verses 25-26, Jesus reminds the Pharisees of a story in the life of King David found in 1 Samuel 21:1-6. David and his men were in need and hungry, so they went into the house of God and ate “the bread of the Presence” – the consecrated bread of the temple.
This was the twelve-loaf offering representing Israel’s twelve tribes and was set on a table in the holy place. Jesus’ point was simple – although it wasn’t normal or lawful for David and his men to eat, God didn’t want them to starve. God was primarily concerned with caring for his servant and scripture did not condemn their actions. Jesus concludes with the principle that should have guided Jewish observance of the Sabbath all along: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (verse 27). The Sabbath was intended to be a blessing to man, not man to bless the Sabbath. Colossians 2:16-17 brings clarity for us as Christ followers who live under the new covenant inaugurated the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Every day is a blessing from God intended to lift us up and not intended to be a burden that weighs us down. …let the Lordship of Jesus Christ be your anchor and guide.
Jesus combines two terms in verse 28: “Son of Man” and “Lord…of the Sabbath”. He is declaring that He is both. Again, He is declaring deity and divine rights. He puts Himself in the place of God and with equal authority. Jesus determines what is lawful and unlawful on the Sabbath Day. He makes the call and there is no higher authority.
The Pharisees were more concerned with their own traditions for guidance. In so doing, they missed the Lawgiver entirely.
As modern day followers of Christ, Jesus is our anchor of spiritual authority in all things. He is the Lord of all whether we recognize Him or not.
The question to ask is, Have you surrendered to Jesus as your God and the Lord of your life? Man-made rules will never get you to God! Only Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath, the Son of God, will get you there. Trust in His work and not your own. You will not be disappointed.
Jesus is our anchor and our guide!
APPLY TO LIFE
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing as you open God’s Word together.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
Read: Mark 2:23-28
Do you have more of a tendency to find faults in other peope or to find ways to commend and encourage them? Is there any situation where it is our right and duty to find fault in others?
Was the Sabbath law meant to be punitive or celebrative? Was it meant to be a restriction or a benefit? How should that affect the Christian view of the Sabbath?
How can a person honor the Sabbath without becoming legalistic?