THE SON OF MAN IS LORD OF THE SABBATH
Key Verse 6:5
Then Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."
Today’s passage is about the law of the Sabbath. The Pharisees thought that they were keeping the Sabbath law very well by not doing anything on the Sabbath; they accused others who seemed not keeping it. But Jesus told them how they must keep the Sabbath, by saying, "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." May God bless us to grasp what Jesus is talking about so that we can keep the Sabbath in the way Jesus desires.
First, "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath" (1-5). Look at verse 1. One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. We can imagine how the disciples acted when they were going through the grain field. They were hungry because they did not have any regular meal time due to their busy life as the disciples of Jesus. Probably, it was after the 11 am Sabbath worship service was over. They knew very well that it was forbidden for them to harvest some heads of grain on the Sabbath and eat them. But because they were so hungry, and because they were not bothered by that kind of religious regulations any more, they shouted for joy when they saw the harvest filed of grain. So without having any hesitation, all of them, like one man, attacked the heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands, blew the chaff away, and ate them. It was really delicious, a little chewy and sweet. Levi had lived as a selfish and rich tax collector; Simon Peter was already married. But they were like little children who rejoiced over some free heads of grain in the field. The rich can buy fancy and comfortable beds, but they cannot buy sweet sleep. The rich can have all kind of delicious and gourmet food, but it does not mean that they really enjoy it. But the disciples of Jesus are different. They do not have anything in the world, but they act as if they have everything. When the disciples followed Jesus, even the raw grain in the fields was so sweet to their taste, and they were satisfied. To their mouths, even one crunch taco bell taco is so sweet. The disciples of Jesus were enjoying their new life in him fully. When you live as Jesus’ disciples, I can tell you two things guaranteed – sleep will be sweet and food will be sweet.
But the Pharisees did not see this point. They challenged the disciples, saying, "Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?" According to Deuteronomy 23:24,25, it is okay to enter others’ vineyard and eat all the grapes you want, but you must not put any grapes in your basket – it is stealing. It is okay to enter your neighbor’s grain fields, and pick kernels with your hands, but you must not put a sickle to the standing grain. God is a merciful God that he is so concerned about the poor people; also by exercising this law, those who had fields and vineyards could learn God’s merciful heart for the poor. Our God is a merciful God. But now, the Pharisees’ point was that the disciples did this on the Sabbath and accused them as the lawbreakers.
When the disciples ate the kernels of grain, the Pharisees were right next to them. As the Jews themselves, the disciples had been trained about the Sabbath laws and they knew that such activities were prohibited on the Sabbath. Then, how come, they did such activities on the Sabbath, even while the religious cops were watching them? It was all because, as they had been dedicated to God by following Jesus and having life together with him, they came to understand what was really important and what God really wanted, that was, loving God really and serving God's work wholeheartedly, not tedious observation of all kinds of rules and regulations. When they saw it, they were free to love God and serve Him in any circumstances, and as they really obeyed God's will and purpose upon their life, they were not bothered by any rituals. Again, what was their secret of such great revelation of what God really wanted? What was the secret of freedom they enjoyed? It was their true dedication to God by following Jesus, by having life together with Jesus. This is what those whose hearts and lives are truly dedicated to God come to know and enjoy. Jesus said to his disciples, "The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12 so that, "'they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!'" (Mar 4:11-12) This is what Jesus said in John 8:31,32. He said to those who believed in him, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free." Be real disciples of Jesus by holding on to his teaching, by really living according his will and purpose, by really dedicating yourself to God. Then, because of such life of devotion to God, eventually you will come to know the truth. Then, there, you enjoy freedom.
Look at verses 3 and 4. Let’s read these verses together:
3Jesus answered, "Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions."
Actually, it was the disciples’ mistake; only because they did what was unlawful on the Sabbath, Jesus was blamed. He could have been angry with them and rebuked them, saying, "Why couldn’t you endure your hunger?" But he did not do that. It was an obvious violation of the Sabbath law, but Jesus defended his disciples, saying that they had not violated the Sabbath law and that they were innocent and thereby, the Pharisees should not accuse them as law-breakers. He came up with an episode based on 1Samuel.
When David was fleeing from Saul, the situation was really urgent that he had no chance to eat or prepare some food. He came to Nob and asked the priest there if he had anything to eat. The priest had nothing but the consecrated bread and gave it to him. David ate it, and gave it to his soldiers. According to the Pharisees' view, David violated the law by eating the consecrated bread, but the Bible never talked about it; God never made an issue of it; it was not a problem at all in God's eyes. Why? Jesus said to them, "Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry?" His point was, "when he and his companions were hungry." When God gave them the laws and regulations, his purpose was not to restrict them, but to teach them the way of God so that by obeying his laws and regulations, they might live an abundant life. They were living their lives however way they desired - very sinful, violent, and wicked; as a result, they were terrible, and their life was miserable, and their society was barbaric. Now God wanted to show them how they must live their lives as humans, and how they could become holy and righteous as children of God, and how they would live a truly beautiful and fulfilling life. Surely, by giving them the laws, he showed them the way of life - it was God's way; God revealed his heart's desire and good intention for them. David loved God and God's law; he meditated on it day and night; he struggled hard to keep the laws, saying, "I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is flawless." (Ps 40:8) But he did not become legalistic, because he knew God's heart; he understood why God gave the laws - he said, ""Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,... burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require." (Ps 40:6)
The Pharisees' challenge was about the Sabbath laws. But in his answer, Jesus came up with an episode that was not related to the Sabbath. What was Jesus showing them through David's episode? Jesus was showing them God's real intention, God's heart's real desire in giving them the laws, that was, for their wellbeing, for their flourishing life.
"Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry?" The Pharisees missed what God was really talking about, even if they read the passage and even studied it many times; maybe, they passed the written test, but they would never pass an interview with God. Even if they memorized the Sabbath laws and kept them absolutely, they missed the real point of God's laws; as a result, instead of growing up in maturity, humility and beauty, the more they knew and kept the laws, the more legalistic, proud and self-righteous they became - simply, they became mean and evil people. Through all our struggles to serve God's work, and through all our knowledge of the Bible, we must come to know God more and more, and we must grow to be beautiful children of God, so humble, so obedient, and so holy, not mean, legalistic and stubborn people.
As a conclusion, Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." At their challenge about the Sabbath laws, Jesus answered them with an episode that was not related to the Sabbath laws. Then, he concluded his answer with the Sabbath, showing that actually he had been talking about the Sabbath laws. "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." This is Jesus' proclamation that he is the purpose and focal point of all the Sabbath laws. The expression, "The Son of Man," shows who Jesus is: He is God in flesh who came into the world to die on the cross as a ransom sacrifice for people. That person, the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath. The Sabbath is about him and for him - the Sabbath is there for us to remember him, what he has done for us, how much he sacrificed for us, how much he loved us; the Sabbath is for us to praise and thank him and worship him, by remembering all these things. Keeping the Sabbath is not the matter of doing nothing on Sunday, but coming to him, thanking him, and worshiping him by remembering his love and grace for us. When you keep the Sabbath this way, there, you are overjoyed, and your heart is refreshed and your spirit is renewed; there in keeping the Sabbath with Lord of the Sabbath and worshiping him, you find true rest for your souls. Then you are ready to go and do God's work continually. For this, we make wholehearted struggle to keep the Sabbath absolutely, because Jesus, Lord of the Sabbath, is the most important figure in our life - the lover of our soul. Without him, no one can keep the Sabbath properly.
Who can keep the Sabbath with him this way? Only Jesus' disciples who live with him, and who do God's work together with him. Only those whose hearts and lives are fully dedicated to God as Jesus' disciples can keep the Sabbath this way. And others cannot, even if they are determined not to study on Sunday for finals on Monday. The Pharisees failed to keep the Sabbath even though they kept all the laws and regulations meticulously according to the word of God. Only Jesus' disciples, even though they harvested and threshed on the Sabbath, kept the Sabbath properly, because they were with Jesus. As they were with Jesus, even such harvesting and threshing and eating carried real divine value and meaning - they needed to do so to do God's work continually. This is how we can keep the Sabbath really. Be with Jesus as his disciples, and you will keep the Sabbath very well.
Second, "Stretch out your hand" (6-11). Look at verses 6 and 7. On another Sabbath, Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was sitting there. According to the Jewish tradition, this man’s occupation was a stone cutter, but because of an accident, his right hand was wounded, and then, shriveled. When he could not use his right hand, he became limited greatly – he could not keep his occupation any longer; he could not play basketball any longer; he even had to figure out how to do his signature with the other hand. Moreover, when his right hand was shriveled, he became very self-conscious. He did not want his badly shriveled hand exposed to others; so even during hot summer, he wore long sleeves; when people wanted to shake hands with him, he quickly stretched out his left hand. He was always conscious of it; he was afraid if people would talk about it; because of this shriveled hand problem, he was always self-conscious. His way of thinking, his words, and actions were so bothered and influenced. It was just his hand that had a problem and the rest of his body was sound. But this shriveled hand problem was now controlling his entire life, making him so nervous, fearful and self-conscious. Because of his shriveled hand, his heart was shriveled, and his life was shriveled. This man, a poor soul, now was sitting in the synagogue, perhaps vaguely hoping some help from God.
Many people have this shriveled hand problem. They carry this shriveled hand problem secretly, so that it may not be seen by anyone. To some people, it is their secret immoral sin they committed long time ago. To some others, it is their gloomy and fatalistic childhood they never want to talk about. To one student, it was his illegal residential status. To some others, it is their physique. Usually, it is just a small matter that no one will concern about, once it is exposed. But they are self-conscious of this shriveled hand problem all the time and try to hide it. As a result, this shriveled hand problem influences and controls every aspect of their day to day life. It is a local problem, but it becomes a universal problem to them.
The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were waiting for Jesus to heal him so that they would be able to find fault with him and accuse him as a law breaker. They were supposed to be good shepherds for God's flock. But they were not interested in God's will or God's mission; they were not concerned about this poor man either; they were only concerned about their tiles, positions and reputation as leaders in Israel. Then, when Jesus was rising as a spiritual leader in Israel doing God's work powerfully, they considered him as a threat, as their enemy and hoped to find fault with him so that they damage his reputation, even by utilizing this poor man; they were really evil, not like God's servants at all. When they lost God's mission, they became evil.
Verse 8 says, "Jesus knew what they were thinking." When he sent his disciples two by two on their mission journey, he said to them, "Be as shrewd as snakes," so that they might not suffer unnecessary persecution. So he could have dealt with the situation wisely, such as waiting for the evening to come and then, healing him, or tell him to come to his place later. But instead, he chose to deal with them openly; he said to the man, "Get up and stand in front of everyone." Then, Jesus asked the Pharisees, "I ask you, which is lawful: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?" Outwardly, it seemed that they were not doing any work on the Sabbath; they did not use their muscles at all; they did not sweat at all, but just sat down and watched what Jesus was going to do. So they thought that they were keeping the Sabbath very well, not working at all. But Jesus showed them that they were doing evil positively on the Sabbath.
Looking for a reason to accuse someone on the Sabbath was evil. Moreover, their intention was to kill someone, and it was really unthinkable for God’s chosen people to do. They thought that they were keeping the Sabbath Law very well, but Jesus showed them that they became law breakers by doing what was evil positively. Moreover, Jesus showed them the true purpose or meaning of the Sabbath. The Sabbath is the day when we must do good positively and save souls. What should we do on the Sabbath? How can we keep the Sabbath right or lawfully? Instead of talking about whether we can do our homework or not on Sunday, we must think about doing good and saving souls positively. God gave us the Sabbath law not so that we become lazy or unproductive, but so that we can do what is good and save souls positively. When we accept this will of God and offer our life to saving souls, we can enjoy true rest in Jesus Christ on the Sabbath even while being so busy to do God’s work on Sundays.
Look at verse 10. Jesus looked around at them all, and then said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He did so, and his hand was completely restored. For this man with the shriveled hand, Jesus' instructions were: "Stand in front of everyone," and "stretch out your hand." Mainly, his instruction for him was to expose his shriveled hand to others. That's the beginning of his healing for him. Ephesians 5:13-14 says, "But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."" Whatever is exposed belongs to the light because in the light, everything is visible. But whatever is hidden belongs to darkness because in darkness nothing is visible. When people try to hide their shriveled hand problem, it has power to control their minds, words and actions; ultimately, their life is controlled by it. But when people expose it openly, it loses its power to control; moreover, they find that actually, no one cares about whether they had that kind of shriveled hand problem or not. Then, their shriveled hand becomes just a local problem that gives them just some inconvenience, which they can overcome easily.
Jesus encourages us to stretch out our shriveled hand of selfishness, the shriveled hand of lust, and the shriveled hand of fatalism, so that we can be healed and become sound.
In conclusion, Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath. He is the reason and purpose why we have the Sabbath, and the Sabbath laws. People wonder how they should the Sabbath. But without having life together with Jesus, no one can keep the Sabbath really, even if they do all the things the Sabbath laws require. When we love Jesus with all our hearts and strength, when we follow Jesus with all our hearts and strength, we are already keeping all the laws he has given us. May God bless us to have life together with Jesus as his disciples all the days of our life.
One Word: Jesus Is Lord Of The Sabbath
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