At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. 2 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”
3 He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests.5 Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? 6 I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
(Mark’s telling of the story ads that following line to the story: )
Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. (Mark 2:27)
The short episode in the gospels, where Jesus is criticized for plucking heads of wheat on the Sabbath, is powerful because Jesus is turning the idea of what the Sabbath is on it’s head. In addition, this is one of the first times that Jesus reveals who he is. Traditional thinking is that the Sabbath of a day that is all about resting because it honors God. However, Jesus tells the Pharisees two things first He says that something greater than the temple is present, meaning He is sent from God. Jesus also states in Mark that the Sabbath was created for man, not man for the Sabbath.
What does is mean that Sabbath was created for man? It simply points out the reason why the Sabbath was created. It was created as a day of rest for man. Since God rested on the 7th day man also needs to rest. But over the course of time this meaning was lost in centuries of traditions.
Sometimes we have to look beyond the traditions we were handed and look to God and the scriptures for understanding. Tradition is a great thing. It allows us to preserve important truths. However, we must always reflect on whether or not our traditions alight with biblical truth.
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