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The Gospel of Mark #9 - The Lord of the Sabbath

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The Gospel of Mark #9:

The Lord of the Sabbath

Text: Mark 2:23-3:6

Thesis: To stress that the Lord gives us commands for our benefit.


(1)      After discussing the need for new wineskins, the Pharisees attempt to go back to the old wineskins of observing the Sabbath according to their traditions.

(2)      Jesus now points out that even their concept of the old wineskins completely missed the mark.


I.                   The Story:

A.    In scene one, Jesus and His disciples are walking through some grainfields on a Sabbath day and His disciples pluck some heads of grain.

1.      The Pharisees come and complain to Jesus about the actions of His disciples.

a.       “Among the scribes it was assumed that a teacher was responsible for the behavior of his disciples. For this reason the Pharisees address their protest directly to Jesus” (Lane 115).

b.      “According to Deut 23:25, picking a little grain by hand from a neighbor’s field was legal” (Brooks 65).

c.       However, the Pharisees viewed this as a violation of Exodus 20:8-11.

1)      “The scribes enumerated 39 kinds of work that were prohibited, and the third of these was reaping. The Pharisees interpreted picking a few heads of grain as reaping” (Brooks 65).

2)      “One wonders what the Pharisees were doing in the cornfields themselves: their sole purpose may have been to criticize the disciples of Jesus” (Cole 128).

2.      Jesus responds by citing the example of David from 1 Samuel 21:1-6.

a.    “The ‘consecrated bread’ was 12 loaves that were put on a table in the tabernacle (the ‘house of God’ of v. 26) each Sabbath, probably to symbolize God’s presence and provision or to represent Israel before God (Exod. 25:30; Lev. 24:5-9), and which were eaten only by the priests at the end of the week” (Brooks 66).

b.   “He cites David’s violation of the Torah not as an excuse for his action but as a precedent” (Edwards 96).

c.    “Jesus’ arguments is this: ‘David, when hungry ate the showbread, an admittedly unlawful act. And yet, you Pharisees justify him. My disciples picked grain on the Sabbath day because they were hungry, something which the law of God permits, and you condemn them. You stand convicted by your own logic” (Schubert 39).

d.   “Since King David ate forbidden consecrated bread to meet his need, so it was alright to meet one’s need on the Sabbath” (Hughes 1:80).

3.      Jesus continues to respond by discussing the true purpose of the Sabbath.

a.    “Jesus meant that human beings were not created to observe the Sabbath but that the Sabbath was created for their benefit. The Sabbath is not an end in itself or the greatest good” (Brooks 67).

b.   “The Sabbath was originally given to give man rest and recreation. Properly observed, it would be a joy. But the Pharisees had so ringed it about with their thousands of hair-splitting interpretations of what it meant to cease work on the Sabbath that they had made it a terrible burden to bear” (Schubert 38).

c.    “None of God’s laws were intended to be interpreted in ways that hurt men rather than help them” (Schubert 39).

d.   “The authority of Jesus as the Son of Man extends over the Sabbath itself” (Edwards 97).

e.    “This statement boldly affirms that as Lord the Son of Man is the one who decrees what is lawful and unlawful, permissible and impermissible, and any customs ordained by the Pharisees or their traditions are thereby rendered null and void” (Garland 107).

B.     In scene two, Jesus heals a man in the synagogue on a Sabbath day.

1.      “The scribal rule the Pharisees followed permitted healing on the Sabbath only where life was in danger, which certainly was not the present case” (Brooks 68).

2.      The Pharisees were there to watch what Jesus would do.

a.    “The condemnation of the Pharisees is that they utterly failed to see in this man a case of need. All they saw was a possible ground of accusation against Jesus” (Cole 131).

b.   Instead of worshipping God, the Pharisees were at His house to condemn Him.

3.      Jesus then “deliberately called the man into the center and turned the spotlight on him, as it were, and said, ‘Look! I do not want any of you to miss this. I want all of you to see what I am about to do” (Schubert 40).

4.      Next, Jesus asks a question in order to stress that “where good needs to be done, there can be no neutrality, and failure to do good is to contribute to the evil” (Edwards 99).

a.    “It must be right to do good and save life. To heal is to do good; to do nothing is to do evil. To heal is to ‘save’ a life; not to heal is the equivalent of killing” (Brooks 68).

b.   In their (i.e., the Pharisees) concern for legal detail they had forgotten the mercy and grace shown by God to man when he made provision for the Sabbath” (Lane 123).

5.      No one responded to Jesus’ question. He then becomes angry because of the hardness of the people’s heart.

a.    He “was angry not only at insensitivity toward suffering but at the entire system of legalism where the letter is more important than the law” (Brooks 68).

b.   “The greatest enemy of divine love and justice is not opposition, not even malice, but hardness of heart and indifference of divine grace” (Edwards 101).

c.    “Hardness of heart thus had a moral and religious meaning and referred to a lack of understanding – a hardness of mind that made one calloused to any spiritual truth – as well as scornful disobedience to God’s will” (Garland 108).

6.      Next, Jesus heals the man who had the withered hand.

7.      As a result of the healing, the Pharisees and Herodians plot against Him.

a.    “The authorities deny Jesus the right to do good on the Sabbath while they conspire to do evil on the Sabbath” (Edwards 98).

b.   “The Herodians are not a well known group. They only appear here, in Mark 12:13, and in one reference in Josephus … They would not seem to be natural allies of the Pharisees, but a common enemy often brings even former enemies together” (Black 78).

c.    “Jesus and his followers are now clearly perceived by those in power as a new and subversive movement” (France 142).

d.   “The decision to seek Jesus’ death is not the result of a single incident; it is the response to an accumulation of incidents. It is therefore appropriate to see in Ch. 3:6 the conclusion to the whole section on conflict in Galilee (Ch. 2:1-3:6)” (Lane 122).

II.                The Application:

A.    We must not get so caught up in things that we forget to show mercy.

1.      “If you had known what these words mean, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent” (Matt. 12:7, NIV).

2.      “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others” (Matt. 23:23, NRSV).

B.     The Lord’s commandments are meant to be helpful, not hurtful.

1.      “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full(John 15.11).

2.      “But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20.31).

3.      “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8.32).

C.     God is concerned about us and our needs.

1.      “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:19, NLT).

2.      We must seek Him first and He will take care of us (cf. Matt. 6:33).


(1)   Jesus Christ is the Lord of the Sabbath, but is He the Lord of your life?

(2)   If not, would you crown Him as your King today?

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