THE GOSPEL OF MARK – THE SABBATH, RULES OR REST?

THE SABBATH, RULES OR REST?

23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain-fields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 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.”ose

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.” Mark 2:23-28

Because of the waywardness and hardness of the human heart, God gave them His “ketubah” – His marriage covenant, expressed in the ten commandments, to establish the boundaries of acceptable behaviour so the His people would know how to protect and promote love in their communities… The Sabbath was part of the ketubah, teaching them that they needed a day of rest, including their servants, the aliens who lived among them, and their animals. Their value as humans lay, not in what they could produce, but in who they were, God’s children created in His image.

The Pharisees had become so fanatical about Sabbath observance for its own sake that they had forgotten its purpose, turning law-keeping on its head. Now they were serving the Sabbath; the Sabbath had become a slave-driver. They attacked Jesus every time He expressed God’s compassion on the Sabbath by bringing heaven to earth. Since the gift of the Sabbath was the expression of God’s love for His people, providing them with a regular rest-day so that they could pause every week to re-connect with one another and with God, it was intended to serve them and not the other way around.

But the Pharisees had got it all wrong. The Sabbath was about God loving them, not God regimenting them. God’s case against them in the past was that they ignored the Sabbath to serve themselves, and not because they showed mercy to those who needed it on the Sabbath. They actually insulted God by flinging His gift back in His face.

How did Jesus keep the Sabbath? He attended the synagogue for prayer and instruction in the Word. He had compassion on whoever needed Him, healing individuals who crossed His pathway. He did not deliberately go out to violate the Sabbath but neither did He ignore need nor dodge an opportunity to show mercy. Most of all, He fulfilled the Sabbath through His death and resurrection, inviting anyone who wanted to, to enter His rest by believing in Him. Sabbath is not a slave-driver to beat on us, but a permanent state to experience and enjoy because Jesus had opened the door for us to rest.

Luella Campbell


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