Mark 2:18-28 (ESV)
18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 19 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. 21 No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. 22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.” 23 One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” 27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”
Mark records an occasion when Jesus and his disciples were going through grainfields on the Sabbath. One of the Ten Commandments concerned the Sabbath and instructed God’s people to refrain from work on this day. This was an important time for the Jews, marking them off from the nations around them. The Sabbath ran from Friday at sundown to Saturday at sundown, and the 24 hours in between these sunsets were the official Sabbath. The reason God’s people were to stop working was because God himself “rested” from his work on the seventh day of creation and set the pattern for humanity of six days of work and one day of rest. The Jewish people were to do no work on the Sabbath, unless it was necessary to save life. Now, Jesus and his disciples plucked grain and ate as they passed through the grainfields, on the Sabbath. There was nothing wrong with plucking and eating leftover grain. But the Pharisees complained that Jesus and his disciples were “working” on the Sabbath. Jesus responded with Scripture and reminded them that in the Old Testament David entered the tabernacle court and asked for the consecrated bread, which was only for the priests. David gave this bread to his men as they were hungry and in desperate need. The ceremonial laws about tabernacle practice were important, but human life took priority over ceremony.
Jesus finished by saying, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (v. 28) In other words, people weren’t made for the purpose of holding fast Sabbath regulations, but rather the Sabbath was instituted to be a blessing to people. Then Jesus added, “The Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” Wow! Now Jesus declared that he had authority over the Sabbath. God set the Sabbath in motion for the benefit of man, and Jesus had supremacy over it. Jesus put himself in the place of God. Jesus never discarded the Law of God, but rather, he came to fulfill the Law. God has provided the Christian with ultimate rest through his Son. Jesus is our Sabbath! If you are a Christian, choose to live like one who is free from the bondage of work so that you may embrace the blessing of work. For those who are in Christ, work provides a wonderful opportunity through which we might express our gratitude to God for all he has done.