A Question about
(Matthew 12.1-8; Luke 6.1-5)
23 One Sabbath Jesus and his disciples were walking through some wheat fields. His disciples were picking grains of wheat as they went along. 24Some Pharisees asked Jesus, “Why are your disciples picking grain on the Sabbath? They are not supposed to do that!”
25 Jesus answered, “Haven't you read what David did when he and his followers were hungry and in need? 26 It was during the time of Abiathar the high priest. David went into the house of God and ate the sacred loaves of bread that only priests are allowed to eat. He also gave some to his followers.”
27Jesus finished by saying, “People were not made for the good of the Sabbath. The Sabbath was made for the good of people. 28So the Son of Man is Lord over the Sabbath.”
A Man with a Paralyzed Hand
(Matthew 12.9-14; Luke 6.6-11)
1The next time Jesus went into the synagogue, a man with a paralyzed hand was there. 2The Pharisees wanted to accuse Jesus of doing something wrong, and they kept watching to see if Jesus would heal him on the Sabbath.
3Jesus told the man to stand up where everyone could see him. 4Then he asked, “On the Sabbath should we do good deeds or evil deeds? Should we save someone's life or destroy it?” But no one said a word.
5Jesus was angry as he looked around at the people. Yet he felt sorry for them because they were so stubborn. Then he told the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did, and his bad hand was healed.
6The Pharisees left. And at once they started making plans with Herod's followers to kill Jesus.
The Christian life is difficult, even with God’s Word to guide us. Not only does our own sinfulness get in the way, but his guidance is so easily abused by those we look to as leaders.
This was certainly the case in ancient Israel as the Pharisees, zealous to lead the people of God, distorted the meaning and purpose of Scripture. Sabbath observance was at the core of Jewish faith. The Pharisees controlled Sabbath observance. After all, Scripture is clear as to what should and should not be done on the Sabbath, right? It’s debatable whether or not Jesus offers a radical break with current understandings, but his view is clear and the Pharisees have missed the point. Making themselves the “Sabbath police,” they turn the Sabbath from a blessing to a burden, and the Scripture from the revelation of God’s heart and purpose into a catalogue of religious dos and don’ts. Jesus said the Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath. God’s intention for the Sabbath was for our good, thus doing good on the Sabbath is never wrong, no matter what the rules say. The passage ends by noting that, “right away (on that Sabbath) they started making plans… to kill Jesus.”
How easy it is to look to the Old Testament to find rules for how we are to live rather than recognizing it to be a pointer to Jesus, who is the life. How hard it is to read its dos and don’ts without forgetting that they point beyond themselves to something much more important.
Gracious God, thank you for our life in Jesus. Thank you for the signposts that point us to him. By your Spirit, help us not to confuse the signposts for rules that lead to death rather than life. Amen.