More Sabbath Controversies
AUGUST 17 - Nº 229 Matthew 12:1-14; Mark 2:23 – 3:6; Luke 6:1-11
The Pharisees were extremely upset with Jesus. They wanted to kill him. But first they would have to discredit him. His popularity—due to his miracles—was getting in the way of their plans. So, they kept a close watch on Jesus and his disciples, looking for a chance to ruin his reputation. One day, Jesus and his disciples were walking through the grain fields. The disciples were hungry, so they began to pluck the heads of grain that grew along the path. Then they ate them. This was perfectly acceptable, since God had commanded farmers to leave some of their harvest behind for the sake of hungry travelers and the poor (see Leviticus 19:9-10). However, the Pharisees had an issue with the timing—this was the Sabbath! There were over 1500 regulations the religious leaders had added to God’s one commandment to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Picking and eating grain violated several of them. The Pharisees confronted Jesus, “Look, your disciples are doing something unlawful on the Sabbath!” Jesus immediately challenged their interpretation of his Father’s commandment. He asked, “Do you remember what David and his men did when they were hungry? David entered the Tabernacle and took the bread that was only for the priests. He gave it to his men, and they ate it (see #99 - April 9). God is more interested in mercy than in ceremonies.” “And don’t you realize that the priests break your rules every Sabbath when they work in the Temple?” he added. “Obviously, you are not aware that I am the Son of Man and Lord of the Sabbath. I have authority over whatever goes on in the Temple.” By calling himself the “Son of Man,” Jesus was making a huge statement. Daniel had used this term to refer to the Messiah (see Daniel 7:13-14), and the Pharisees were well aware of this prophecy. They knew what Jesus was saying. On another Sabbath, Jesus entered a synagogue. There was a man in the audience with a withered hand. The Pharisees may have planted him there, since they were looking for ways to catch Jesus breaking their laws. They asked the young visiting rabbi, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” Jesus replied, “If you have a sheep and it falls in a ditch on the Sabbath, would you lift it out?” No one answered him. “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath or to do evil; to save life or to kill?” Still no answer. “How much more valuable is a man than a sheep!” Jesus exclaimed. Still silence! Jesus looked around with anger in his eyes. Then he told the man with the withered hand to stand up. “Stretch out your hand!” he commanded. The man obeyed, and his hand was completely healed. The Pharisees were furious. They stormed out of the synagogue. From then on, they began to plot with the Herodians, a political party they had previously despised because of their allegiance to Rome. They were so desperate to kill Jesus, that they were now willing to partner with anyone!
Although most religious activities have great value, when they turn into routines or rituals they get in the way of our relationship with God. List some of the “religious activities” you participate in. Then ask yourself, “Does this activity help me know and love God better?” If the answer is “No” to any activity, reevaluate how and why you are doing it. Don’t settle for a mediocre relationship with such an amazing God!