“The Sabbath was made from man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” – Jesus, Mark 2:27-28 (ESV)
Honor the Sabbath was among the ten commandments, with additional explanatory laws added later. The Sabbath was the seventh and last day of the Hebrew week. It was a day where God’s people were to take a rest from their regular routine of work.
By Jesus’ day, different religious leaders had added so many regulations to the idea of Sabbath, beyond what the Law said, almost to the point that it would be hard not to break the Sabbath. Over-burdensome commands were not the point.
In Mark 2:23-28, we see Jesus and his disciples walking through the grain fields on the Sabbath. The disciples were hungry, so they plucked heads of grain along the way to eat. This irritated the Pharisees. Jesus replied by reminding them of the time that David and his companions ate bread they should not have eaten. His point: Even where law exists, there is still room for mercy, and the point of the Law was not to overburden people but to help them. So, with the Sabbath: God did not create the Sabbath and then create man to honor it, no, he created man and gave them Sabbath for their benefit.
Yes, Jesus’ disciples were to refrain from work on that day, but picking a few heads of grain to meet a need wasn’t work.
More than this, Jesus himself was Lord of the Sabbath. Not only did this mean he determined what was proper or not for the Sabbath’s purpose and regulations, it also pointed to a greater truth that Hebrews would later explain: Jesus is our Sabbath rest. We are not burdened by our failure to keep God’s Law perfectly, because Jesus gave us his perfect obedience.
So, instead of worrying and fretting about displeasing God, we are able to freely live a life that pleases him. This is not a license to sin, but the freedom to live as God-honoring as we can with his mercy and grace covering our shortcomings as we make our journey toward eternal life.
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