Summary: Jesus changed the Lame, Lepers and Legalists. Well, almost. Here we find the Pharisees burden and the Lord’s blessings regarding the Sabbath.
Now it happened that He went through the grain fields on the Sabbath; and as they went His disciples began to pluck the heads of grain. And the Pharisees said to Him, "Look, why do they do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?" But He said to them, "Have you never read what David did when he was in need and hungry, he and those with him: "how he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the showbread, which is not lawful to eat except for the priests, and also gave some to those who were with him?" And He said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath."
Jesus dealt with a lot of difficult people. The lame and lepers were brought to Him and Jesus radically changed them both physically and spiritually! Now it was quite obvious the changes made physically. One could walk and run while the other person could touch and be touched by family and friends. Both were witnesses to the work of the Master! They were accepted back into society and righteousness. But Jesus could not and would not change a human heart that refused to believe in Him. The legalistic Pharisees refused to trust Him. They had their religious ways established. He was a threat to them and wanted Him destroyed.
As we examine this passage, I do not believe it was an accident that the Pharisees “saw” His disciples eating the wheat. They were spying on Him and needed a report to discredit Him. That is how it is with legalistic people. They don’t want to know the truth or anyone else to know the truth. They want to detroy those who don’t agree with them. But Jesus cannot be held down.
Introduction – Divorced in your sleep
Sohela Ansari told friends that her husband Aftab had uttered the word "talaq", meaning "I divorce you", three times in his sleep. Saying "Talaq" three times is the way Sunni Muslim husbands can divorce their wives. But it was just a bad dream. The couple really didn’t want to divorce. But when local Islamic leaders heard about the dream, they said Aftab’s words constituted a divorce. The couple, married for 11 years with three children, were told they had to split. The religious leaders ruled that if the couple wanted to remarry they would have to wait at least 100 days, and Sohela would also have to spend a night with another man and be divorced by him in turn.
It is not uncommon for many people to practice a form of legalism. It is our perverted way of thinking that God will accept our works. People in the church do this as well. We think that only one style of music, one liturgy or even one church denomination will please God. However, there is only one way to please God and that is through faith in His Son, Jesus.
Today we are considering the Sabbath principle. Established in the Old Testament, Jesus was presenting a new idea to many. The Sabbath, or Shabbat, was made for man. It is intended to help refocus man on his relationship with God. The word Shabbat means to rest, to cease or to be in a state of inactivity. But the religious rulers of the day had made it a day to dread! The rules for the Sabbath were rigid and cumbersome. The joy of being refreshed was gone!
Because the regulations for Sabbath had been made unyielding, we catch a glimpse of…
The Pharisee’s BURDEN 23-24
What should have been a day of rejoicing, relaxation and reflection in the Lord became a time of condemnation. The Pharisee’s were joy killers! They wanted one to follow their rules and regulations to the letter of their law! Notice three thoughts given in verses 23-24.
First, we hear their COMPLAINT. They didn’t like what Jesus’ disciples were doing! They were working on the Sabbath. They complained to Jesus because He was their leader. He should’ve known better!
Then we observe their CONSTRAINTS. Condemning Jesus and His disciples had become an obsession for them. What they were doing was not unscriptural. But in their minds, the disciples were not obeying the Pharisees regulations. Funny though, the Pharisees would find ways to circumvent their own rules! Jesus warned His disciples to obey the religious rulers but not to behave like them.
Third, we notice their CONTEMPT. They hated Jesus. He was a threat to their religious “life”. Honestly, the Pharisees had a simple philosophy: Get all you can, can all you get, sit on the can and poison the rest! They had man-made rules that would choke a horse. David Hewitt, in his commentary, Mark: Free to Follow Jesus, listed several forbidden work items. Finger nails were not to be cut; a bucket could be tied to a belt but not on a rope. It was also forbidden to wear heavy shoes on the Sabbath. Each time you lifted your foot you would be guilty of carrying a burden. You could not look into a mirror for you might be tempted to pull a gray hair out and that would be working on the Sabbath. It is also stated that a person could not spit on the Sabbath because one might hit the ground creating a furrow…and that was work!