Mark 2:23-28 (NASB)
²³And it happened that He was passing through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples began to make their way along while picking the heads of grain.
²⁴The Pharisees were saying to Him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?”
²⁵And He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions became hungry; ²⁶how he entered the house of God in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the consecrated bread, which is not lawful for anyone to eat except the priests, and he also gave it to those who were with him?”
²⁷Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. ²⁸So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
Now let us see what these verses are telling us.
Again the disciples lay under attack from the Pharisees, and again Jesus justifies them for picking the heads of grain on the sabbath day. Something, which I guarantee you, a disciple of the Pharisees would not have dared to do; for it was contrary to an express tradition of their elders.
And again, like before, they act upon the Christ and His disciples as if they were not doing the right things because they were not as strict as they were, and they lacked discipline.
How common it is for those who follow strict self made rules, based on their own understanding, to look down on others who don’t follow their rules.
● What a poor meal Christ’s disciples had on this sabbath day, they just plucked the heads of the grain, and that was it. The Jews made it a piece of religion, to eat dainty food on sabbath days, but the disciples were content with anything.
● How even this was grudged on them by the Pharisees, on supposing that it was not lawful to pluck the heads of the grain on the sabbath day, because that could be considered as the same work as reaping (Mark 2:24).
Why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?
Note, that if Christ’s disciples do that which is unlawful, it would reflect on the Christ, as he was here, and dishonour would redound to his name.
It is observable, that when the Pharisees thought the Christ did something wrong, they told the disciples (Mark 2:16); and now when they thought the disciples did something wrong, they spoke to the Christ, as trying to set them up against each other. They did what they could to sow discord between the Christ and his disciples, and make a breach between them.
● How Christ defended them in what they did.
▪︎ By example.
They had a good precedent for it in David’s eating the show-bread, when he was hungry, and there was no other bread to eat (Mark 2:25,26); Have ye never read?
Note that many of our mistakes will be rectified, and our unjust censures of others corrected. We should make sure to recollect what we have read in the scripture, which appeals to that. Like here most convincingly. “You have read that David, the man after God’s own heart, when he was hungry, made no difficulty of eating the show-bread, which by the law none might eat of but the priests and their families.” (See 1 Samuel 21).
Also note that ritual observances must give way to moral obligations; and that may be done in a case of necessity, which otherwise may not be done.
▪︎ By argument.
To reconcile them to the disciples’ plucking the ears of corn, let them consider, for whom the sabbath was made (Mark 2:27); it was made for man, and not man for the sabbath. (This we had not in Matthew). And by Whom the sabbath was made (Mark 2:28); “The Son of man is Lord, also of the sabbath; and therefore He will not see the kind intentions of the institution of it frustrated by your impositions.’’
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The sabbath is a sacred and divine institution; but we must receive and embrace it as a privilege and a benefit, not as a task and a drudgery.
First, God never designed it to be an imposition upon us, and therefore we must not make it so to ourselves.
▪︎ Man was not made for the sabbath, for he was made a day before the sabbath was instituted.
▪︎ Man was made for God, and for his honour and service, and he just rather die than deny him; but he was not made for the sabbath, so as to be tied up by the law of it, from that which is necessary to the support of his life.
Secondly, God did design it to be an advantage to us, and so we must make it, and improve it. He made it for man.
He had some regard to our bodies
In the institution, that they might rest, and not be tired out with the constant business of this world (Deuteronomy 5:14); that thy man-servant and thy maid-servant may rest.
Now he that intended the sabbath-rest for the repose of our bodies, certainly never intended it should restrain us, in a case of necessity, from fetching in the necessary supports of the body; it must be construed so as not to contradict itself for edification, and not for destruction.
He had much more regard to our souls.
The sabbath was made a day of rest, only in order to its being
▪︎ a day of holy work, a day of communion with God,
▪︎ a day of praise and thanksgiving;
▪︎ and the rest from worldly business is therefore necessary, that we may closely apply ourselves to this work, and spend the whole time in it, in public and in private; but then time is allowed us for that which is necessary to the fitting of our bodies for the service of our souls in God’s service, and the enabling of them to keep pace with them in that work.
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▪︎ What a good Master we serve,
all whose institutions are for our own benefit, and if we be so wise as to observe them, we are wise for ourselves; it is not He, but we, that are gainers by our service.
▪︎ What we should aim at in our sabbath work,
even the good of our own souls. If the sabbath was made for man, we should then ask ourselves at night, “What am I the better for this sabbath day?’’
▪︎ What care we ought to take
not to make those exercises of religion burthens to ourselves or others, which God ordained to be blessings; neither adding to the command by unreasonable strictness, nor indulging those corruptions which are adverse to the command, for thereby we make those devout exercises a penance to ourselves, which otherwise would be a pleasure.
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Note that the sabbath days are days of the Son of man; He is the Lord of the day, and to His honour it must be observed;
▪︎ By Him God made the worlds, and so it was by Him that the sabbath was first instituted;
▪︎ The Jews who started to follow the Christ kept the sabbath, and went on the last day of the week to the synagogue (as Jew). Besides that, they were meeting with the other followers of the Christ on the first day of the week (as Christians), in remembrance of His resurrection, and therefore it was to called the day of the Lord (Revelation 1:10)
The heathens who turned to the Christ only attended the house meetings with the other Christians on the day of the Lord, the first day of the week (as they were converted to Christians and not to Jews).
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