In Mark 2, the Pharisees raise a question about the Sabbath; in which Jesus responds, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” The Sabbath was one of the most distinctive elements of Judaism. Not only did the Scriptures legislate about it, it was the subject of an entire section of the Mishna (an ancient commentary on Scripture used by the religious leaders). Whether Christians should observe it was a problem throughout the apostolic era, and Mark needed to record pronouncements of Jesus on the subject. Jesus defied the traditional expectations of the religious pundits over what behavior God expects from the devout. Sabbath is not just a day to worship God. Above all, the Sabbath is a day for God’s people.
The Pharisees approached sin from the preventive side. They wanted to make and enforce rules that would safeguard people from becoming impure and immoral; whereas, Jesus approached sin from the creative side, seeking to reclaim the impure and immoral. He recognized that the Sabbath law was burdening people beyond God's original design of a day of rest. The Sabbath was more than just a matter of obedience to rules. Sabbath observance was regarded as a way to honor the holiness of Yahweh. It also marked the joyful entry into sacred time, the time of the beginning before human work.
Jesus forced the Pharisees to confront the real issue. Is God for health or for death? If God is for health, how can he deplore the working of good in people’s lives even on a holy day? Which is more important, rules or people? Jesus stresses the universal aspect of the Sabbath and ignores any other significance it might have. God gave the law for the benefit of humankind. Its intention is summed up in love for God and a love for neighbor.
In our culture, we have lost this gift of a
to reconnect with the holy and recharge our spiritual batteries. Our daily struggles may produce economic triumphs, but they can also make our lives a spiritual wasteland. Do you recognize the importance of the Sabbath as a day for you to gain spiritual recharge? Make time for that however it looks this Sunday.
Expecting His Best,
Stephen V. Allen