Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
The Jewish Talmud (a rabbinic commentary on the Law of Moses) listed 39 kinds of work that were not permitted on the Sabbath. Of those 39, the third one barred reaping and the fifth one outlawed threshing grain on the Sabbath. So in the eyes of the Pharisees, Jesus’ disciples committed two sins. They picked heads of grain (reaping), and then they separated the grain from the heads (threshing, by rubbing them in their hands) in order to eat the grain.
Jesus also healed many sick people on the Sabbath. The Pharisees thought that was a terrible violation too.
Jesus moved his followers to think in new ways about the Sabbath, not to dishonor it but to understand its real purpose. For he said, “The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).
The Sabbath points to full life in God’s presence forever, in which we rest from toil and struggle but also live fully, as God intended (see Genesis 2; Hebrews 4; Revelation 21-22). This means we not only work hard all week but also take a break to thank and worship God, and to pray together, and to give to people in need, and to do good. Each day we are also to rest from our sinful ways and seek to live God’s way, as his Spirit guides us. (See Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 103.) Keeping Sabbath is not obeying man-made rules. It’s a new Spirit-led, transformed life!
Father, we know that true observation of the Sabbath comes not from the world but from you. Help us to find true rest in you and to become more Christlike each day. In Jesus, Amen.
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