Brad Libolt speaking on Mark 2:23-28. He spoke about how Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath and asks us if we are letting Jesus be Lord of our own life.
- There are four gospel accounts: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They all talk about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus from a slightly different angle. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the Synoptic Gospels and are similar in their storytelling, but John is a bit different.
- John says right off the bat who Jesus is. In John 1, right at the beginning he says, “in the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.” The word is Jesus, and he is saying that Jesus is God. Matthew, Mark, and Luke believe Jesus is God also, but they take you there a different way. Instead of stating right off the bat Jesus’ divinity, they let him reveal himself as God throughout the narrative. And today, this Sabbath story is a key moment in Jesus revealing who he is. The statement that Jesus makes at the end of this story packs a punch. It says a lot about who Jesus thinks he is. We will see next week how the Pharisees responded, but today you are going to be asked to consider how you respond to the claim that Jesus is making. Because if what Jesus is saying in this passage is true, then you and me have a decision to make that could change our life forever. Let’s dive in and see what Jesus has to say.
23 One Sabbath he was going through the grain fields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?”
- So on the Sabbath, Jesus was going through some grain fields with his disciples, and they start plucking heads of grain. The Pharisees see this, and start to question Jesus on why they are doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath. So, what is the Sabbath, and why is it such a big deal?
- The Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments that God gave to the people of Israel at Mount Sinai. These Ten Commandments were the core of the Law for the Israelites. And one of these core laws was to remember the Sabbath, and keep it holy. The Sabbath was one day a week, and on that day everyone stopped working and rested. It was a very very important law. It was a sign of the covenant between God and his people, in Leviticus it says that the Sabbath will be permanent for all people for all generations. It is a rest for the land and the people, it must be kept holy, and the penalty for working on the Sabbath is death. It is a big deal, a really important law.
- But it is more than just a law. This law, the Sabbath, didn’t come out of the blue, it is engrained in creation itself. Remember that God created for six days, then on the seventh day he rested. This is the example of the Sabbath rest that the Israelites were supposed to take. God himself, in the creator of the universe, took a Sabbath rest.
- It’s kind of like the laws we have in the United States. We have a constitution, and in that constitution are amendments that are very important. These amendments are freedoms that we have as U.S. citizens. For example, the first amendment is the freedom of speech, religion, and the press. This is a very important law, and it is one that is still valued and followed today. In fact you hear it often, when people are protesting or speaking out against something, they are using their freedom of speech. There is also a lot of debate in our country right now about the freedom of religion, and how far that goes if the religion is “intolerant.” But these are apart of our law as United States citizens, and they have been since the beginning. But like the law of the Sabbath, these amendments go back even further. They aren’t just laws because they thought they would be a good idea, they are ideas that are engrained into the formation of our country. The way the colonists spoke out against the British led to the freedom of speech, the way the colonists fled Britain so they could practice their own religion led to the freedom of religion. The second amendment is the right to bear arms. There is a lot of debate about that one today, but it is engrained into the formation of our country as well. If the colonists didn’t have firearms, they couldn’t have raised up militias to fight the British.
- See how it is similar to the Sabbath law? We have these amendments that are kind of like the core of our law as United States citizens. You hear people talk about them all the time. But they are much more than just laws. They are engrained in the foundation of our country. They are a part of our formation, and therefore apart of our identity. It was the same way for the Jews. The Sabbath wasn’t merely a law to follow, and was part of not only their formation as a nation, but apart of the formation of the universe.
- Do you see how important the Sabbath was to the Jews? It was one of the Ten Commandments, a major part of the Sinai covenant, and God himself took a Sabbath rest when he created the universe. It is a big deal. Now the Jews took this law, the principle of the Sabbath found in the Old Testament, and expanded on it. They knew it was a big deal, so they treated it like one. Different groups of Jews had different ways of following the law, some restricted any physical work at all. Some prohibited cows from walking more than 3000 feet on the Sabbath. There were lots of different ways Jews tried to obey the law to keep the Sabbath, but the point is that they all saw it as extremely important. So when Jesus is messing with the Sabbath, he is messing with something big. He is messing with the core of who the Jews are, the core of their identity.
- So the Pharisees are seeing Jesus do something that they think is against the Sabbath law, most likely against the specific ways they thought the law should be followed, so they have an issue with it. They think Jesus is doing something that is not lawful, so they confront him about it.
25 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: 26 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?”
- Jesus responds by reminding them a story of David. It is kind of an ironic statement, he says, “Have you never read?” and the Pharisees are people who claimed to be experts in the law, so he’s taking some personal shots here. But he asks if they have ever read the story of David, when he and his soldiers went into the Temple and ate the bread of the Presence. You can read this story in 1 Samuel 21. David and his soldiers are hungry, so they go into the Temple, and the High Priest lets them eat the bread of the Presence. This was a big no no. Jesus even says, it is only lawful for the priests to eat that bread, but David and his men eat it.
- Why does Jesus tell this story? In this story of David, the law was broken to fulfill the basic need of David and his men. David and his men were hungry, so the priest allowed them to eat bread that was only for the priests to eat. It is an example of the law being broken for the basic need of David and his men. What Jesus is saying, is that if that law was broken for David’s basic need, a really serious law, how much more can the law of the Sabbath be broken by the maker of the law? The story of David is an example of an exception to the law, illustrating Jesus’ next statement.
Look at what he says.
27 And 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.”
- He says the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. The law was made for man, not man for the law. He is saying that the law was given to man for their benefit. Man wasn’t created to follow the law just to follow it, the law was given to man to guide them towards a life of blessing and flourishing. The story of David illustrates this. The laws concerning the Temple and the bread of the Presence were put in place for man. For man to connect with God. It was for the benefit of man. And so if man needs food to live, the law can be broken because it was made for man. And Jesus is using this example and this statement to justify what he and his disciples are doing on the Sabbath.
- The Sabbath was made for man. The Sabbath was God’s loving provision to man so that we could rest and worship him. It was put in place for man’s benefit. It wasn’t meant to restrict daily activity or to demand slavish obedience from people, but to provide something for man that would bless them and give them rest.
- And the same goes for us today. The laws that God has put in place, the commands that Jesus has given us, are not just so we have something to obey. They are given to us because when we follow them, we will be blessed and flourish. God has our best interest in mind, he wants to bless us and help us live a life that is glorifying to him and full of joy. The commands he gives us aren’t to take those things away from us, but to move us towards those things.
- Often we can look at the commandments Jesus has given us and think that we are missing out. Because of all the restrictions we are missing out on joy or happiness. But this isn’t the case. In fact it’s the quite opposite. He has given us those commandments to do some things and not do others because he knows what true joy is. He is pointing us in the direction for us to live a life full of joy and blessing with the commands.
- So if you see the Christian life as restrictive, as a list of rules you have to follow that will make life less fun, that’s not what it is. The Christian life isn’t restrictive. You might miss out on temporary pleasures or happiness, but the Christian life will provide lasting joy, peace, and fulfillment that nothing else can.
- The law isn’t meant to tell you you can’t do good things, it’s meant to point you to the best things.
- Now look at the last statement of Jesus, when he says the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.
28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.
- Jesus makes a very bold claim here. Jesus refers to himself as the Son of Man a lot, especially in Marks gospel. So he is saying that he is lord of the Sabbath. But given all that we just said about the Sabbath, Jesus is saying much more than this isn’t he? Jesus is saying that he has authority over the Sabbath, but not just the Sabbath, over the Law. He is saying he has authority over the divine calendar, the calendar God gave the Israelites in the Old Testament that included the Sabbath. But remember how far back the Sabbath goes, Jesus is also saying he is lord of creation.
- Jesus is claiming to be God with this statement. Remember his story about David, if the law could be broken to fulfill the basic need of David and his soldiers, how much more can the law be broken by the one who made the law. Jesus is claiming to be the one who made the law. He is claiming divinity, to be God, the lord of all of creation.
- So that begs the question, if Jesus is claiming to be lord of creation, are you letting him be lord of your life? Are you submitting to him as God and king of the world? If Jesus is your lord, are you obeying all that he has commanded, not just to give you rules to follow, but so you can live a life full of joy and fulfillment and peace?
- If you do not believe that Jesus is lord of creation or maybe you do, but you have not yet put your faith in him as lord of your life, today is the day to do that. Because Jesus isn’t a lord that sits on a throne far away and bosses you around, he is a lord that came down and lived the life you and I live. He suffered, was tempted, lived our human life with no sin. But he took our suffering to the next level, and died on a cross, bearing the punishment for our sin. He went to the grave, then rose again victorious over sin and death and offering to you and to me and to all of creation a new life. A life full of joy and peace and fulfillment and purpose if we believe that Jesus is Lord of creation, and that he can be lord of our life because of his death and resurrection. Choose today to let Jesus be lord of your life.