WHAT JESUS TAUGHT ABOUT THE SABBATH
Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” Luke 6:5
Throughout His public ministry, Jesus was hounded by the Pharisees. They had issues with Him because He did not fit into their idea of what a rabbi should be teaching and doing.
On this occasion Jesus and His disciples were walking through a field of grain on the Sabbath. Because the disciples were hungry, they picked some grain and rubbed it between their hands to get rid of the husks before eating it. The Pharisees pounced on them. “Why are you doing that? Don’t you know you are not allowed to do that on the Sabbath?”
Jesus quickly came to their defence. “Don’t you people remember what David did when he was hungry? He took the bread off the Table of Showbread in the tabernacle and shared it with his companions.” Now if that wasn’t breaking the law, what was?
Jesus had been explaining to them that you cannot pour new wine into old wineskins. You cannot put the new wine of relating to God as sons into the old wineskin of law keeping as a way of trying to please God.
The disciples were ordinary human beings with needs. Were they to squeeze their natural physical hunger into their religion? Is that how they were to interpret God? Was their Father more interested in their obeying a rule – and not even His rule but something the ancient rabbis had invented which did not give them more freedom but rather robbed them of it – than in meeting their need?
Jesus’ challenged the Pharisees’ right to enforce rules He did not make. He was not only a rabbi with authority; He was also the Son of God. Who made the rules that would protect His people’s freedom? He did, therefore He had the right to apply those rules in such a way that they revealed the heart of the Father.
God had given them the Sabbath law so that they would be able to take a day off. God did not value them by the amount of work they could do but by their status as sons of God. Rules that are made to control and restrict people do not come from a heart of mercy. Rules that protect, ensuring safety and freedom from slavedrivers, and the happiness that comes from doing the right thing, flow from a heart of love.
Every time the Pharisees attacked Jesus for “rule-breaking” they exposed their own hearts. They were satisfied with their own performance and critical of all those who failed to come up to their standard. If they performed according to their laws, they were content with themselves.
Jesus is concerned about the attitudes of the heart. He refused to bend to their demands and defended the men who were in the process of learning how to live like their rabbi. He was entrusting to them the task of teaching people what the Father is like by living like Him.