Trinity 1 - 2nd June 2024 Mark 2.23-3.6

2.23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the cornfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some ears of corn. 24 The Pharisees said to him, ‘Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?’ 25 He answered, ‘Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 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.’ 27 Then he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.’

3.1 Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shrivelled hand was there. 2 Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. 3 Jesus said to the man with the shrivelled hand, ‘Stand up in front of everyone.’ 4 Then Jesus asked them, ‘Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?’ But they remained silent. 5 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. 6 Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.

I have an app on my phone that tells me how many steps I take. There are also smartwatches that do this. You set yourself a daily goal and try to exceed this.

In Jesus days they had no such technology so they had to count, especially on Saturdays, the sabbath. This was because one of the sabbath rules that the Pharisees oppressed people with was that on a sabbath you could only walk a sabbath day’s journey of up to 2000 cubits, 1200 steps, or 3000 feet. We can assume that Jesus’ disciples exceeded this on the sabbath in question. Can you imagine? You find yourself lost or in the middle of nowhere and you are at 1199 steps!!

The Pharisees also decreed that picking a handful of grain, rubbing them to separate the grain, then eating it was prohibited because it was harvesting.

Here the actions of the disciples were within God’s law. Deuteronomy 23. 25 If you enter your neighbour’s cornfield, you may pick the ears with your hands, but you must not put a sickle to their standing corn.” However, the Pharisees stuck to their traditions which did not bless, but enslaved.

Breaking the sabbath could be fatal. Exodus 31. 14 ‘“Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it is to be put to death; those who do any work on that day must be cut off from their people. 15 For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day is to be put to death.

The Law of Moses gave only a few specific examples of forbidden Sabbath work. On the Sabbath, Jews were not to build a fire for cooking (Ex 35:3), gather fire wood (Nu 15:32), carry burdens (Jer 17:21), or do business (Neh 10:31).

Jesus showed his divine, supreme knowledge and authority, opposing the errors of the Pharisees by correctly interpreting the Bible. You remember that in the Sermon on the Mount he said. “You have heard it said... but I tell you...” showing the true meaning of the scriptures.

It is a reminder and challenge that we ought to know God’s word well enough to identify what is wrong and challenge it. Jesus responded to the devil in this way during his temptation.

Jesus reminded the Pharisees of the time David and his men ate the forbidden bread (1 Samuel 21:3-6). Only the priests were to eat that bread (Lev 24:5-9), but because of their hunger, God allowed it without penalty. God was more concerned about meeting the hunger need of His people than He was about a narrow interpretation of that law.

27 Then Jesus said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 

The sabbath was part of the creation order. On the seventh day God rested and made the day holy, or set apart Gen 2.2f.

After he had delivered God’s people from Egypt, where they were working 24/7, God restored the important provision of a day of rest for people, animals and the land. It is a blessing from Jesus who created everything. It is for the good of humans, humans were not created for the good of the sabbath. Therefore, we should beware of working too hard ourselves or causing others to do this. We were made to need rest.

The Sabbath was created as a rest day, not as a worship day, though the Jews worshipped on the sabbath. Exod 31.13 ‘Say to the Israelites, “You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so that you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy.

In the new covenant, Christians worshipped and worship on Sundays because Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday, and this replaced Saturday as a day of rest and worship because the resurrection is central to the faith.

Jesus then said  28 “So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” “Son of Man” was one of the terms that Jesus used of himself. He had just pointed out his purpose in creating the sabbath, that he did so for the benefit of humankind, as well as the animals, plants and land. He was telling the Pharisees that he is God, greater than the priest who allowed David to eat the holy bread. He is also a descendent of David, one of the qualities of the Messiah, and will bring in a kingdom greater than King David. One that is heavenly and eternal.

The Pharisees additional rules declared that you could only administer first aid to someone who may die. If a building collapsed on someone on a sabbath and they were unlikely to die you had to wait a day to remove the stones that had fallen on them.

Jesus went to the synagogue as usual and there was a man with a withered hand and the Pharisees, according to Matthew 12.10 asked Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?’ Jesus asked the man to stand up and asked the Pharisees 4 Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?’ But they remained silent.

Jesus looked around with an intense anger at the Pharisees legalism which ignored human suffering. He was grieved at the hardness of their hearts. Their hearts were calloused so they did not feel God’s ways. This grieved Jesus. I wonder how often God has been grieved by the hardness of my heart?

Jesus commanded the man to stretch out his hand. He did and immediately his hand was as healthy as the other. Jesus had not done any “work” as such, though this man had been healed from what was not a life threatening disease. Jesus did miracles like this for authentication, to prove His divine power and to show His Lordship over everything.

Instead of rejoicing that the man was healed, the Pharisees hardened their hearts all the more. They then plotted with the Herodians on how to kill Jesus. The Herodians were Jews loyal to Herod and the Roman government. Though politically opposite, they joined forces against their common enemy Jesus.

Jesus is Lord of all, God, creator, redeemer, and friend.

This should lead to our following his ways. We cannot ignore all rules. Jesus commanded us to love one another John 13.34-5 May 5th 2024. To love and pray for our enemies Mt 5.44. Not to judge others or we would be judged Mt 7.1. To speak truthfully, Mt 5.37. To be generous secretly, Mt 5.38-42, 6.3. To forgive others or God will not forgive us Mt 6.15. To store treasures in heaven and not on earth Mt 6.19ff. Many of these teachings are found in the sermon on the mount.

At the end of this, Mt 7.21 Jesus said Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. We are to show that we are citizens of heaven by living according to the values of God’s kingdom.

So, we cannot ignore Jesus teaching and think we are free to do what we like. But we are to follow his teaching because He is God, creator, redeemer, and friend Jn 15.15. At the heart of his commands is love for all of His creation. For you, me, fellow believers, our neighbours, families, friends, colleagues, fellow citizens of the UK and the world, and the world itself.