Mark 2:23-28

One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain.

The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.”

Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.” Mark 2:23-28

Yeah, but that was different.” We’ve all heard that one. We’ve all said it. Back us into the corner and we’re bound to get defensive. “Yeah, but that was different.” You can almost hear the Pharisees saying that to Jesus. If not saying it, you know that is what they are thinking.

Jesus is right. David did get the holy bread reserved in the tabernacle for his troops. Why? They were hungry. You can read the story yourself in 1 Samuel 21. And the Pharisees would have been right in saying “Yeah, but that was different” – it was different. What David did was far worse than the disciples plucking a little roadside snack as they walked.

Technically, the Pharisees were also right. Harvesting grain was forbidden on the sabbath. (Not to mention theft from whomever owned the field.) Still Jesus challenged them. As Jesus saw it, the problem wasn’t that the disciples broke the rules, the problem lay in how the Pharisees had come to applying the rules. They had turned the rules into something they were never supposed to be.

The Sabbath echoed the creation story where God rested on the 7th day – and therefore commanded – for their own good! – that people also set aside one day of rest per week. Here is where I appreciate a common sense understanding of the first three commandments.

1 – You shall have no other gods before me. “You’re going to have a god, everyone does. Don’t waste your time on the wrong one.”

2 – You shall not take God’s name in vain. “Giving you my name is like giving you my phone number so that you can get in touch with me. Use my name, don’t abuse it.”

3 – Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. “Set aside a day for rest, you need it, and while you’re resting, I’d like to have a word with you. Spend some of that rest time hanging out with me and a few other people.”

Jesus challenges the Pharisees to reconsider how they understand the sabbath – not as a constrictive code but as a gift for busy people. AND he lets the Pharisees know that they aren’t the ones making the rules, God is.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, as we begin another week of busyness at home, at school, and at work, we pray for opportunities to give it our best, to use our gifts to the fullest. And when the work is over, we thank you for inviting us to a day of rest. You create us, may we be mindful of the ways that you recreate us, including gathering us for worship. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


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