Lord of the Sabbath

When Christ says the sabbath was made for Man, and not Man for the sabbath (Mk 2:27), we might conclude the same about the rest of Torah, that it was made for us: we weren’t made for it. We might also conclude there might be times when it’s OK to break certain parts of God’s law, as when we’re in danger or have an emergency.

The immediate context is about harvesting on sabbath when we’re famished: the disciples were plucking grain (23) and the Pharisees accused them of breaking Sabbath. (24)

Christ counters with David eating bread he wasn’t allowed to eat; David and his men were famished and there weren’t any good options. (25-26) Christ seems to be saying there are times when God mercifully overlooks certain kinds of Torah violations: it isn’t that they aren’t violations; God just doesn’t call them out or hold us accountable for them in the same way.

What shall we say of god-fearing people who lied during the Holocaust to save innocent lives? Do we really see ourselves standing up on Judgment day condemning them? (Mt 12:41) We might be quite alone if we do; while God doesn’t officially approve of this kind of behavior, neither does He explicitly call it out as evil (Ex 1:19); He does seem to overlook it. (20-21)

The fact that plucking grain on sabbath actually doesn’t violate Torah at all, just Jewish tradition, may then not be the point; perhaps the point is that God is free to mercifully overlook certain kinds of sin without being unjust. (Ge 19:21) Perhaps it’s also about us being overly scrupulous in evaluating others’ behavior, especially in difficult, unusual or trying circumstances.

In reminding us He’s Lord of the Sabbath (Mk 2:28), Christ wasn’t telling us it’s OK to violate sabbath, or any part of Torah (Mt 5:19), but that He knows best when and how to show mercy when we break it.

It’s one thing to appreciate the mercy of God (Ps 136:1), yet it’s another matter altogether to presume He will be merciful when we deliberately choose to break Torah for our own welfare and comfort. (He 10:28-31) When obeying God will bring suffering and difficulty, how committed should we be to honoring and respecting God’s Law? Should we break sabbath to keep a job? Or lie to save a loved one? Would we rather starve than eat unclean food?

Every one of us will give account of himself to God, and we’re all at different stages of maturity; some have faith to suffer for minor Torah violations, while others may not yet be grounded, becoming bitter and resentful in premature sacrifice. We should not create burdens for ourselves and others (Ac 15:10) which we’re unable to gladly bear. (He 10:34) Sorting this out is no small matter.

Whether God will slam us to the mat if we happen to break His Law under duress may not be the right question. Would Jesus break God’s Law to convenience Himself? or to accommodate someone He loves? Even to spare His own life? He never did sin like this (1Pe 2:22) and we’re to follow His steps. (21)

A better question might be, What kind of Resurrection do we want? (He 12:35b) What kind of testimony? (Re 12:11)

It’s a matter of faith to trust God to work out the details when we’re in a bind, to give us the strength to walk in joy, honoring Him as we suffer. Staying alive isn’t the ultimate priority (Php 1:21-22); neither is comfort or pleasure – ours or anyone else’s. We’ve not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. (He 12:4) The goal of God’s love is holiness: it makes no room for sin.

Shall we be so delighted in God’s ways that as the pressures of life mount up and threaten us (Ps 119:61), closing in about us until our very life hangs in the balance (109), we’ll not neglect or forsake His precepts? (87) Clinging to them as unto Him? (31) If we’ve yielded our body a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God (Ro 12:1), we’ve already decided.

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2 thoughts on “Lord of the Sabbath”

  1. Tim,

    I liked your point: “Perhaps it’s also about us being overly scrupulous in evaluating others’ behavior, especially in difficult, unusual or trying circumstances.”

    Reminded me of lawyers from Luke 11:52

    Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.

    Especially the them that were entering in ye hindered.

    May we be careful to not throw stones!

    stephen

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