Once again we find the religious leaders criticizing Jesus and His disciples over a trivial matter. These learned men did not understand the true significance of the Sabbath. The wisdom of the Son of God destroyed their false notions.
The formalists and the fault
“And it came to pass, that He went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and His disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn. And the Pharisees said unto Him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?” (Mark 2:23-24).
The formalist’s religion consists in ceremonies, rituals and unscriptural traditions. They think that fasting, long prayers and special clothes make them right with God. The Pharisees probably would not have condemned the disciples over a moral issue, but breaking their traditions was considered to be heretical. Such “blind guides” will always “strain at a gnat” (Matthew 23:24).
Christendom is overflowing with denominations that put on a show of pomp and ceremony while having an almost total disregard for the teachings of Scripture. They love their saint’s days, holy days and rituals but have no time for repentance, faith and separation from the world. The spirit of the formalist is death since it replaces the Word of God with man-made rites. “Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain” (Galatians 4:10-11).
The Spirit and the Scriptures
“And He said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him? How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the showbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him?” (Mark 2:25-26).
The Pharisees used traditions to support their views, but Jesus continuously pointed to Scripture as the only authority for faith and practice. He reminded them of the conduct of David when he was hungry (1 Samuel 21:1-6). They would not condemn David since God called him “a man after mine own heart” (Acts 13:22 & 1 Samuel 13:14) and had faithfully obeyed Him throughout his life, except in the matter of Bathsheba. Were they going to denounce David for eating the holy bread? His actions proved that some requirements of God’s law might be relaxed in times of necessity, for instance, the Jews have always resisted invading armies on the Sabbath. Jesus’ words of wisdom both silenced them and shattered their teachings. The “sword of the Spirit” had found its mark (Ephesians 6:17).
The believer’s duty is to live according to the Scriptures. We must let it be our guide especially when debatable questions are raised. The world and false religions have their opinions but we have the solid foundation of the word of God. The adversary will always be defeated by the sword of truth, but if we are going to use this weapon then we must acquaint ourselves with its contents. We must read and study the Bible diligently, prayerfully and perseveringly or we will never find relief in times of need.
Blessing or burden?
“And He said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath” (Mark 2:27-28).
Exodus 20:11 tells us, “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it” (see also Genesis 2:1-3). Jesus makes it clear that God made the day of rest for Adam’s benefit, but the religious leaders had turned a blessing into a burden. Notice that the Sabbath was made for man (the descendants of Adam), therefore it is not, as some suggest, for the Jews only. All of Adam’s race can benefit from this blessing if they obey God. The Sabbath rest was instituted for man’s own good, that is, for his spirit, soul, mind and body. The commandment, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8) was never intended to be a burden or for occasion to be unmerciful and unloving. The Pharisees had buried the truth under a mountain of traditions and false interpretations of Scripture.
There are some who say that Jesus did away with the fourth commandment, but they prove themselves to be as spiritually blind as the Pharisees. The Lord plainly speaks of the Sabbath as a privilege and a gift from God. He shows that acts of kindness and works of necessity enhance the beauty of the Sabbath.
The Sabbath has become just another day in the modern world, but we of all people need to be obedient to God if we are to benefit from its blessing. There is always the danger of extremism when trivialities are raised. Let us be careful not to become too strict or too lax. We must distance ourselves from foolish notions that do not pertain to godliness, “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself” (1 Timothy 6:3-5) … “But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes” (2 Timothy 2:23).