Keepoing The Sabbath


Keeping The Sabbath
   In Sunday’s Gospel Lesson, we find Jesus and the Pharisees discussing Jesus and his followers disregard of the Sabbath, in the eyes of the Pharisees. When the law of Moses was given, the Sabbath was to be a day observed forever. The law stated that you were only to rest or worship and never work on the Sabbath. This law was taken so seriously that people were stoned for gathering wood (working) on the Sabbath. When the people of Israel did not keep the law, they were punished, sometimes by being sent into captivity. The Pharisees did not want that to happen again.
   In Mark 2:23-3:6, there are basically three ways the disciples disregarded the law, but the focus was on the Sabbath and obeying the law. First, the disciples were hungry, and as they walked through a grain field, they plucked heads of grain and ate them. Second, they were eating with unwashed hands, and third, they were walking more than a Sabbath’s journey. I don’t know the distance they walked, but it was more than likely further than two thirds of a mile or about a kilometer. Imagine what people would say today who walk more than a Sabbath day’s journey or eat with unclean hands. Jesus seemed to focus on the eating because the disciples were hungry. Jesus argued the point regarding the bread that David ate when he was with his men, fleeing from King Saul. David went into the house of God and was given the bread of Presence to eat, which was only to be eaten by the priests. David told them to give him “‘five loaves of bread, or whatever can be found.’” The priest answered David and said, “‘There is no ordinary bread on hand, but there is consecrated bread’…So the priest gave him consecrated bread because there was no bread but the bread of Presence” (1 Samuel 21:3-6 NASB).
   Mark 2:27 states, “Jesus said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.’” God told people to rest on the Sabbath because God created the world in six days and rested on the Sabbath. Therefore, it is to be hallowed or made holy. When people do not cease from laboring on the Sabbath, we find that they pay the price. It brings on heart attacks and strokes. It causes a lot of stress, and people try to find comfort by taking drugs and drinking alcohol or by eating comfort foods. God wanted it to be a time of rest or worship and a time for families. Some day it will be that way again.
   The next words Jesus said sound like blasphemy. “The Son of Man is Lord, even of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28). Jesus was alluding to himself as being the Son of Man, and he was claiming his authority.
   We are told that Jesus entered the synagogue again, and “a man was there who had a withered hand.” The Pharisees were watching to see what Jesus would do since this too happened on the Sabbath, and they wanted to accuse him of breaking the law. Jesus said to the man who had the withered hand, “‘Come here.’” Then Jesus turned to the Pharisees and asked them, “‘Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?’” The Pharisees were silent. Jesus “looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.” After the man’s healing and Jesus making his point to the Pharisees, they started to join forces with the Herodians to find a way to destroy Jesus (Mark 3:1-6).
   Today, churches around the world will be praying to heal people with all kinds of ailments. Some will lay on their hands and witness healings before their eyes. Those healed will be giving glory to God for the miracles that they will witness. Other churches who do not practice healing will make up all kinds of reasons why their sick were not cured or healed. I have heard some say, it was due to a lack of faith. Others will say that God heals, but he does not always cure. Even though we are all in the same ministry, one side will discredit the other. As Christians, we need to be working together to glorify God, not seek all the ways we can prove that we alone are right in the way we worship and condemn all who do not worship and believe the same way.
-Rev. Jim Behrens, Retired Pastor – Susquehanna Conference United Methodist Church