Mark 2:23-3:6 The Message (MSG)
One Sabbath day he was walking through a field of ripe grain. As his disciples made a path, they pulled off heads of grain. The Pharisees told on them to Jesus: “Look, your disciples are breaking Sabbath rules!”
Jesus said, “Really? Haven’t you ever read what David did when he was hungry, along with those who were with him? How he entered the sanctuary and ate fresh bread off the altar, with the Chief Priest Abiathar right there watching—holy bread that no one but priests were allowed to eat—and handed it out to his companions?” Then Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made to serve us; we weren’t made to serve the Sabbath. The Son of Man is no lackey to the Sabbath. He’s in charge!”
Doing Good on the Sabbath
Then he went back in the meeting place where he found a man with a crippled hand. The Pharisees had their eyes on Jesus to see if he would heal him, hoping to catch him in a Sabbath infraction. He said to the man with the crippled hand, “Stand here where we can see you.” Then he spoke to the people: “What kind of action suits the Sabbath best? Doing good or doing evil? Helping people or leaving them helpless?” No one said a word.
He looked them in the eye, one after another, angry now, furious at their hard-nosed religion. He said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” He held it out—it was as good as new! The Pharisees got out as fast as they could, sputtering about how they would join forces with Herod’s followers and ruin him.
Jesus regards the Sabbath positively, while the Pharisees saw it negatively and made up of rules and restrictions. The Sabbath does not exist for itself. Theology does not exist for itself. The Sabbath was made for mankind, not mankind for the Sabbath. Keeping the Sabbath holy affords opportunities for reflection, for thought, for worship, for celebration, for us to step away from our daily tasks to make something special. The Sabbath provides us opportunity to exercise compassion and love. Isaiah 58 links the Sabbath with compassion and social justice in the service of God and suggests that the Sabbath is most fully used as a day of worship by practicing compassion, sympathy, and justice, much as a remembrance of God’s justice and compassion delivering Israel from slavery.
Sabbath day reflection, thought, and worship mean little to the man who is hungry, who has no shoes, who is broken and cold and suffering. The Sabbath gives us space for our worship of God to manifest in social compassion, care, and love. We honor and serve God by serving man, by extending our hand to our neighbors, by meeting deficiency needs. Our worship on the Sabbath flavors our work during the week. We honor God on the Sabbath by giving our time, our thoughts, our reflections, and we honor him every day by giving others what they need, be it food, clothes, a warm place to stay, or a listening ear. Ministering to others on the Sabbath and on all days treats the days as days of joy, as holy days of celebration, and the encouraging and the affirming gift given to man.
Lead us back to you God, through each other. We seek to serve God through the service of man. If we lose contact with man—suffering, lost, sad, confused men—then we too are lost because we will be negligent shepherds who have done everything but the one thing necessary. Help us stay in contact with our brothers, to give food and clothing and comfort on the Sabbath and on the Mondays and all days after. Help us be good shepherds tending the flock with what the flock needs and not simply with what we want to give.