One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, 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 ate the 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? Mark 2:23-26 ESV
“Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.” Matthew 12:5-7 ESV
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.” Mark 2:27-28 ESV
Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. Deuteronomy 5:12-15 ESV
Some years ago in villages in Vietnam, many children were not getting enough food to eat. They were very hungry and not growing well. But there were a few children in the villages whose parents were also very poor, but their children were not going hungry and were growing well. People who were trying to help the hungry children wanted to find out what the difference was. They discovered that the children who had enough to eat had parents who were breaking some rules about what everyone thought was good for children. The villagers thought that the tiny crabs and shrimp that grew in the rice paddies weren’t good for children to eat, and also that the green leaves that grew above sweet potatoes weren’t good. There was also a rule that children should only eat twice a day. But a few parents were breaking all these rules. They were cooking crabs and shrimp and sweet potato greens for their children, and feeding them three or four times a day. Seeing that their children had enough to eat so they would grow strong and healthy was more important to them than following the rules.
God had given the Sabbath to his people as a gift to them, so that everyone could have a rest from the hard work they did every day, especially those who worked for others. But the religious leaders made all kinds of rules about the Sabbath that turned it into a heavy burden instead of a gift. When Jesus and his disciples were walking through a field of grain and the hungry disciples were snacking on the grain, the Pharisees thought they were doing something wrong. But Jesus reminded them of a story of a time when a priest gave David and his hungry men some bread that was only for the priests to eat. Jesus also reminded them that priests worked on the Sabbath to keep up the temple sacrifices. Jesus said that he, more than David or the temple or any priest, is the lord of the Sabbath, and that means he is the one who sets the rules for it. God’s laws are meant to give people life and health, and are there for our benefit. The Sabbath was made for people, and not the other way around.
Even though all of God’s laws are holy and good, we break them all the time. We don’t do the things that bring life and health to ourselves and to other people. Instead, we are often like the religious leaders who misuse God’s laws to hurt and blame others and to shut ourselves away from the Lord’s blessings. But Jesus came to keep God’s laws perfectly for us. He went to the cross to pay for all the times when we break God’s commands. Because of Jesus, we have blessing and forgiveness and life, now and forever.
Dear Jesus, thank you for coming to bring us life and forgiveness. Amen