THE SON OF MAN IS LORD OF THE SABBATH
Key Verse: 2:28
“So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
In the previous passage we learned that Jesus is our bridegroom and we are his guests. We also learned that we must become new wineskins to accept Jesus’ new teachings with repentance and learning mind. Christian life should be filled with joy and excitement. Today, Jesus declares himself as the Lord of the Sabbath. When the religious leaders accused his disciples of violating the Sabbath law, Jesus defended them by saying that the spirit of the law is not to burden men but to meet their needs. He demonstrates his authority as the Lord of the Sabbath by healing a man with a shriveled hand in front of them. Jesus used the Sabbath to do good for a poor suffering handicapped man. Ultimately, Jesus had to give his life to do so. Jesus became the target of the religious authorities and the politicians. Let’s accept Jesus, the Son of Man, as Lord of the Sabbath. When we honor Jesus as Lord of the Sabbath we find real rest and peace. We find life in God. Let’s come to Jesus and stretch our hand so that we may be freed from our suffering. I pray that God may use us to do good and save lives at UMCP. May God bless us to find spiritual rest through today’s message!
PART I. LORD OF THE SABBATH (23-28).
One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields with his disciples. The gospels mentioned that the disciples were very hungry. Many important events are linked to some sort of eating like eating at Levi’s house and wedding at Cana and feeding the five thousands and eating the Passover meal, and etc. Perhaps they had skipped breakfast; they frequently missed meals as they traveled. So, they reached out their hands and began picking some heads of grain to eat. They rubbed the grains and tossed the grains in the air to remove the coverings and then ate it like a wheat cereal. They were munching the grains in their mouths. Then, suddenly, they heard some noise and it was some Pharisees. They said to Jesus, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” We don’t know how they found out what the disciples were doing. Maybe they watched every movement of his disciples with telescope. Now they acted like religious police accusing his disciples. They issued a Sabbath-violation ticket to his disciples and demanded Jesus’ explanation. But they were wrong. Deut. 23:25 says, “If you enter your neighbor’s grainfield, you may pick kernels with your hands, but you must not put a sickle to his standing grain.” According to this verse, it is ok to pick kernels of grain as long as they do not put a sickle for harvesting. The disciples did not violate the Sabbath law. But the Pharisees regarded picking grain as harvesting, an act of work forbidden on the Sabbath. The Pharisees were legalists and saw no difference between the act of plucking one head of grain, or harvesting their whole grain field. Obviously there is a difference. Jesus and His disciples were not doing anything unlawful on the Sabbath by picking a few heads of grain. They were more concerned about enforcing legalistic ideas than loving God or loving man. With this mindset, they attacked the disciples to discredit Jesus.
How did Jesus deal with the Pharisees? In response Jesus appealed to Scripture and a precedent set by David and his companions when they were hungry and in need. Jesus referred to a specific incident in 1 Samuel 21:1-6, when David ate the consecrated bread which was lawful only for priests to eat (25-26). At that time David was running for his life from King Saul. He was hungry and his companions were starving. He knew that it was unlawful to eat the consecrated bread. But he asked for that bread because he cared about his companions. David was a good shepherd for his people. David saw the need of his companions and asked for the bread which was designated only for priests to eat. The priest gave the bread to David and his companions. As a result, David lived and became the greatest king in Israel. God did not see David with legalistic eyes. Rather, God wanted to protect David and to feed him when he was hungry. David and his men were hungry and here was an exception to the rule. The exception to the rule was that there was a human need, they were very hungry, and on a rare occasion, this human need can take precedence over the law. This does not set the law aside, it is an exception to the rule.
God was not upset at the disciples for eating heads of grain on the Sabbath. Jesus defended his disciples with the word of God so they could find rest on the Sabbath instead of criticism from the Pharisees. Jesus made the point in this case. Jesus was in the position of David and his disciples were like David’s companions. Jesus, the Messiah who came as the descendant of David, concerned about his disciples and allowed them to eat the heads of grains. Jesus protected his disciples who were the new wineskins from the vicious attacks of the Pharisees. Jesus was good shepherd to his disciples.
Jesus also restored to the people the true meaning of the Sabbath. Look at verse 27. “Then he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.’” In the clutter of detailed rules derived by the Pharisees, the original purpose and meaning of the Sabbath had been lost. With this one word, Jesus restored to them God’s purpose for the Sabbath (Gen 2:3; Ex 20:8-11). God did not give the Sabbath to burden man. God gave the Sabbath to bless man. The Sabbath is a gift from God, a day of rest to restore his body, mind and spirit after a week of hard work. It was not given to oppress man, but to edify and heal and encourage man. The Sabbath was made for man.
Most importantly, Jesus taught that he is the Lord of the Sabbath. Look at verse 28. “So the Son of Man is Lord, even of the Sabbath.” Jesus refers to himself as the Son of Man. This is a messianic title that is rooted in Daniel 7:13,14. Jesus is our Lord and Master. He is the Creator God who created the Sabbath at creation (Genesis 1-2). Since Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath, that makes the Sabbath the true "Lord’s Day." As the Lord of mankind, Jesus is also the Lord of the Sabbath. So Jesus can use the Sabbath as he sees fit.
The Sabbath is one of the greatest gifts that God and Jesus have given man. It is a day of freedom from work and the daily burdens of life. It is a time when we can focus on God in extra prayer and Bible study. It is a time of fellowship with other mission coworkers and fellowship members. The Bible admonishes us: "let us not to give up meeting together" (Heb 10:25). The Sabbath is a time to worship God in singing songs of praise to Him and hearing the Sunday worship messages. We should not feel burdened by the Sabbath. We should realize the privilege of the Sabbath and eagerly come to our Father God who wants to give us true rest and peace. Jesus can give us true rest. S. David B. is a hardworking professional with demanding job. He had a knee surgery last week. God knew that he needed rest from his busy work. His key verse during his recovery is Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God…” There is time to work, and there is time to rest. It is time for him to rest meditating the word of God. Matthew 11:28 says, “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” We should keep the Sabbath to be holy and blessed. It is good to refrain from mundane activities to worship Jesus from our hearts.
PART II JESUS HEALS THE MAN WITH A SHRIVELED HAND (3:1-12).
Jesus not only declared, but demonstrated with power that he is Lord of the Sabbath. Look at verse 1. “Another time he went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there.” Who met Jesus in the synagogue? It was a man with a shriveled hand. Mark did not mention which hand was shriveled but Luke said that it was his right hand. (Luke 6:6) This man suffered a lot due to his handicapped right hand. As we know, man’s hand is a symbol of prestige and power. This man could not play tennis or basketball. He could not shake hands. He could not clap his hands during the praise. He could not hug others well. He could not work properly; perhaps he needed government help. He must have been self-conscious, doing his best to hide his deformity. In his shame, his inner man began to shrivel also. He did not have confidence in himself. The Pharisees watched carefully to see if Jesus would heal the man. If so, they would immediately charge Jesus with healing on the Sabbath. They could accuse Jesus of being a Sabbath-breaker, an offense punishable by death. Jesus knew their plot. Jesus could have avoided the controversy by healing him later. However, Jesus wanted to show that he is Lord of the Sabbath.
What did Jesus do in this dangerous situation? Look at verse 3. “Jesus told the man with the shriveled hand, ‘Stand up in front of everyone.’” Why did Jesus command the man to stand up in front of everyone? Did Jesus want to embarrass him publicly exposing his ugly hand? No! Jesus first wanted to challenge him to have faith in Jesus. He wanted to hide his shame from people especially from girls. But Jesus exposed his shame in order to heal him. Nothing is hidden before Jesus. He had to make a decision to stand up or not. Something about Jesus words moved his heart. He felt the love of Jesus and the holiness of God in Jesus. He knew it was right for him to stand with Jesus. Jesus really wanted to help this man to begin a new life. This man showed his courage by standing in front of everyone. Now, Jesus wanted to help the Pharisees.
Look at verse 4. “Then Jesus asked them, ‘Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?’ But they remained silent.” Jesus’ question made the issue simple and clear. It was really all about the purpose of the Sabbath in the Mosaic Law. The purpose of the law is to save lives. Let’s me ask you a question. What is the purpose of traffic law like speed limit? Is it to save lives or to increase government revenue? I think it is to save lives. But it can be used to issue traffic tickets and increase government revenue. The Pharisees abused the law for their own selfish desire as some cops used the traffic law to burden people. The Pharisees acted as if they were religious police accusing Jesus and his disciples with their narrowly applied legalism. We know law cannot save people but God’s grace saves lives through Jesus. While Jesus was doing the work of salvation, the religious leaders were doing the work of the devil by disturbing Jesus’ ministry. The law of the Sabbath could be used for good or for evil. It was the moral issue of saving lives and doing good not the legal issue of lawful or unlawful. There is no neutral in the spiritual world. There are only two sides: good and evil; God’s side and Satan’s side. God is the giver of life. Satan is the destroyer of life (Jn 8:44). Jesus, with the Spirit of God, wanted to save life. These Pharisees wanted to kill. The answer to Jesus’ question was obvious, but the Pharisees were not going to answer. They refused to debate the vital issue of the true meaning of the Sabbath. They had their own hidden agenda. They were driven to kill Jesus at any cost. They remained in darkness without repentance. They did not listen to Jesus due to their pride.
Look at verse 5a. He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’” Jesus was angry because the Pharisees intentionally hardened their hearts. Jesus rarely expressed his anger. But this time Jesus expressed his anger with deep sorrow at their hardening hearts to God’s mercy and human suffering. Then they became evil instruments of Satan who were willing to plunge their nation into darkness. Later, they would crucify Jesus. Jesus knew this. Yet Jesus did not draw back. Jesus would honor and glorify God on the Sabbath at the cost of his life. Jesus would rescue one helpless man on the Sabbath at the cost of his life. Jesus did not calculate the cost of healing this man. He was willing to pay any cost. This same life-giving spirit compelled Jesus to die on the cross for the sin of the world (Mk 10:45). Life-giving work requires life-giving sacrifice. If we calculate the cost of helping one sheep, we can be a good store manager, but we cannot become a good shepherd. The Pharisees did not sacrifice anything but they wanted to enjoy power and glory. As a result, they became useless leaders and hired hands with false motives. They were selfish and nailed Jesus on the cross later. We are preparing the Purdue international conference. It is not easy to invite one student. But we must sacrifice our time and money to invite one soul to Jesus. We can be good shepherd like Jesus.
How did the man with shriveled hand respond to Jesus command? Look at verse 5b. “He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.” His obedience was remarkable. Not only he stood in front of everyone but also he stretched out his shriveled hand. It is important to bring our shame to Jesus. Why? 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Healing and forgiveness come when we bring our problem to Jesus. We share testimonies and bring our problem to Jesus and we receive his healing. Let’s think for a moment about the man who was healed. It was not easy for him to stretch out his shriveled hand. No one wants to expose his weaknesses publicly. But he did so when he believed the love of Jesus. He trusted Jesus in a tough situation. As he stretched out his hand, it was completely restored. Wow! It was a miracle. This was the beginning of a new life for this man. He could once again work hard to support his family. He could hug his wife with two strong hands, as a husband should. He could teach his children how to play baseball, not only soccer. More than that, he knew the love and saving grace of Jesus. He would never again have to withdraw and live in the shadows of darkness. He could live with confidence in the love of Jesus. Jesus gives healing and everlasting victory to those who trust in him.
In verses 7-12 Jesus withdrew to the Sea of Galilee after confrontations with Pharisees because he just began his messianic ministry. Because of his shepherd love towards one poor sheep, people came to him from all over Israel plus the Gentile territories. Sheep smell a good shepherd and comes to him with instinct. Once we are recognized as good shepherds, there is no problem to find sheep because they come to him us seeking help and counseling. Jesus’ ministry was known nationally. Jesus served all people who came to him with the word of God and healing. Though Jesus was the Lord of the Sabbath, he did not use his authority to oppress people. Instead, he served them with compassion and love. Jesus knew their need and became their good shepherd. But he also realized that he could not serve them by himself because there were so many people who need the word of life. In the next passage he called the twelve apostles to serve his flocks.
In this passage we learned that Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath. We must come to Jesus on the Sabbath day. We must recognize him as Lord and honor him and worship him with all our hearts. Jesus forgives our sins, heals our diseases, and drives out evil spirits. Jesus gives us real rest and peace. Let’s pray for our sheep who are suffering from past shame and guilt. Let’s show compassion and love of Jesus when we see any needy sheep around us. Let’s read the key verse 2:28.