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Keeping the Sabbath

Mark 2:23-28

Keeping the Sabbath for me as a young boy meant that after my dad’s Saturday night rally in Times Square, I had to make sure that I had my coins to buy a copy of the New York Daily News before the bewitching hour of 12 AM. Unlike my Jewish friends, whose Sabbath ended at sun down Saturday evening, ours began at 12 Sunday morning, ended at 12 Sunday night, and we weren’t allowed to buy anything on the Sabbath. These rules also meant that I couldn’t play an organized game of football at the park, but I was allowed to listen to Yelberton Abraham (that’s why they called him Y.A.) Tittle throw touchdown passes to Frank Gifford on the radio up in my room Sunday afternoon as the N.Y. Giants headed for another NFL Championship game. 

All this was hard for a young boy to keep straight, and I would have been surprised to discover that Jesus, himself, would want to loosen up the strict Sabbath rules and make it more of a joyous time of relaxation, time with family and friends, because of the sheer pleasure of being graciously forgiven by God.   I would have been more surprised to discover that his conflict with the religious leaders over this would cause them to get so angry with him and that they eventually handed him over to the Romans to be crucified.  Mark introduces this conflict over the Sabbath like this:

“Now it happened that on the Sabbath Jesus was going through grain fields and on the way his disciples began to pluck off the heads of grain. And the Pharisees said to him, ‘Look, why are they doing what is illegal to do on the Sabbath?’ Jesus answered, ‘Haven’t you read what David did when he had need, when he and his companions were hungry?  How he entered into the House of the Lord upon Abiathar’s high priesthood and he ate the loaves of showbread, which were illegal for him to eat because only priests were permitted to eat these loaves, and he gave some to those with him?’ Then Jesus said to the Pharisees, ‘The Sabbath was made for man’s sake, not man for the Sabbath. And finally, the Son of Man is the lord also of the Sabbath.’”    Mark 2:23-28

It wasn’t smart to get in an argument with Jesus about the meaning of the Old Testament accounts. Jesus used the story in 1 Samuel 21 when David and his men were fleeing from Saul’s murderous anger. He came to Nob and Ahimelech, Abiathar’s father, had no other provisions--only the sacred loaves from the table in the holy place of the Tabernacle. Recognizing the extraordinary situation where David and his men were fleeing for their lives and needed food to sustain them, he gave the forbidden food to them. Later Saul murdered Ahimelech for helping David, and his son, Abiathar, escaped, came to David, and took on the priestly duties. This explains why Jesus only mentioned him and not his father Ahimelech. 

Jesus uses this story about David and his men to reveal that he is the greater David, the Son of Man. In fact he is the Lord who gave the Sabbath command at Sinai and the rules about how it should be kept. Like David, he has the authority to care for his men, but as the Son of Man he has the right to decide how and when the Sabbath will be celebrated. Jesus concludes with the reminder that the Sabbath was ordained by a gracious caring Lord because human beings need to have a complete day off from work once a week and time to celebrate their love for God. It was never meant to be a day with complicated, conflicting rules that little boys could never figure out. 

Lord, protect me from becoming like the Pharisees who were so particular about their religious regulations that they argued with you instead of recognizing you are the Messiah. How in the world they had spies who knew what you and your disciples were doing out in the fields you’ll have to explain to me when we are face to face. For now, thanks that you allowed your men to do what a good country boy does when he is walking through a mature field of wheat.

For more from Dave Wyrtzen please visit TruthEncounter.com!