Summary: This sermons aims to clarify the Christian’s relationship to the Sabbath Day.
The Sabbath Day Controversy
Text: Mark 2:23-28
Introduction: The last time we met we considered the criticism of the Pharisees and the disciples of John surrounding the issue if fasting. Now comes another criticism, this time surrounding the issue of the Sabbath Day. For many believers this is still an area of dispute. Some churches consider Sunday to be the Sabbath. They don’t speak of Sunday School, but Sabbath School. For others Sunday is a day when I may allow myself some pleasures as long as there is no exchange of money involved. Some refer to Sunday as the Lord’s Day, a phrase only used once in Scripture, and not in relation to a Sunday. And for others Sunday is a day like any other, with no obligation placed upon us, but to meet with the people of God and worship the Lord through the local church. Unfortunately believers have tended to judge one another on these matters, yet the Bible explicitly cautions us against such judgment.
Writing to the Romans Paul said, “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it.” (Romans 14:4-6)
“Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” (Colossians 2:16-17)
So these event is Mark’s gospel are really relevant to us.
I. The Act That Was Observed – vs 23.
A. We should not assume the verse 23 picks up where verse 22 left off in terms of their chronology.
1. Although both passages relate to the criticisms of the Pharisees it must not be assumed that Jesus and His disciples having left Matthew’s feast, and having debated with th Pharisees there about fasting then went out and further provoked their angst by the actions of verse 23.
2. As we said before, it is likely that Matthew’s feast was held on a Thursday or Monday, and obviously being the Sabbath the event that provoked debate at the close of Mark 2 occurred on the Sabbath.
3. The Sabbath being observed in Judaism from sun down Friday night until sundown Saturday, roughly from 6pm Friday to the same time Saturday.
B. Now there was nothing in the behaviour of either Jesus or His disciples that was offensive to the Sabbath Day law.
1. Whilst the law prohibited work, it did not require a fast.
2. So it was not the eating of the corn that was the issue, but the act of plucking it.
3. So we find the Pharisees taking issue with the Lord and His men.
II. The Accusation That Was Thrown – vs 24.
A. By time of Christ many traditions had grown up around the Sabbath Day law that had no basis in Scripture.
1. The day had become a burden to many instead of the blessing it was meant to be.
2. Whilst the Law prohibited servile work - Pharisees prohibited all work - even good work.
a. As one writer puts it, "The observance of the Sabbath was strictly observed and strictly enforced. Whereas, they took God's command to rest on the Sabbath seriously, as the years passed they added their own rules and regulations about the Sabbath. There were approximately 1,521 things that were not permissible on the Sabbath. For example: you could not rescue a drowning person on the Sabbath. Untying knots that needed only one hand was permissible, but if two hands were required, it was forbidden. If a man's ox fell into the ditch, he could pull it out, but if the man fell in, he had to stay there. One could take a sup of vinegar for food, but if he took a sup in order to help his aching toothache, he had broken the Sabbath. If a man was bitten by a flea on the Sabbath, he had to allow the flea to keep on biting. If he tried to stop the flea from biting or killed it, he was guilty of hunting on the Sabbath."
3. Tthe issue for them wasn’t the eating, but the plucking.
a. According to the Law one was both permitted to pluck and eat grain on the Sabbath.
b. See Deuteronomy 23:24-25.
c. So what was the Pharisees’ complaint?
d. Well, by the time of Christ rabbinical tradition had decided, as it often did, that it would be best to err on the side caution in order to prevent Sabbath breaking and so plucking an ear of corn was defined as reaping, this making it work, and rubbing away the husk was deemed as threshing it, so it was double offence.