Photo by Angelina Odemchuk

Lord of the Sabbath – Mark 2:18-3:6

Jesus’ actions and teachings continue to confound the religious leaders of Israel. If he’s truly the long-awaited Messiah, shouldn’t he be following the law just like the Pharisees did? If he’s really the Son of God, why does he seem to break tradition? He continues to defy expectations, causing the rift between him and the spiritual guides to widen.

In Mark 2:18-3:6, Mark presents us with three episodes of Christ breaking societal norms, revealing his uniqueness and authority. The first situation (2:18-22) recounts a different perspective on fasting; the second situation (2:23-28) recounts a different perspective on working and eating on the Sabbath; and the third situation (3:1-6) recounts a different perspective on healing on the Sabbath. In each of these “clips in the docudrama of Jesus’ ministry,” the Pharisees’ frustration grows, culminating in Mark 3:6, “The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.”

The Son of God, of course, knew that this conflict would arise; in fact, it would ultimately lead to his necessary death. This impending doom doesn’t stop Jesus from teaching truth with authority, however. In the first event about fasting, Jesus answered their aggravation with the curious statement, “No one puts new wine into old wineskins (2:22).” Dr. R.C. Sproul says that Jesus “was warning them that their King had come, and they would not be able to deal with this King unless they got rid of the structures that made it impossible for them to receive Him.” In the event about the Sabbath, Jesus declares that he is “Lord of the Sabbath.”

In these two audacious proclamations, Jesus makes it known that God is doing a new thing in Israel. The old is passing away. The regulations that the Pharisees had set around the law were cracking, and the grace of God in Christ was about to burst through.

We may not be able to relate to the Pharisees but in a sense we all value our traditions. Their traditions were created out of a desire to be faithful to God’s law. However, no one can fully obey God’s law. We’re all sinners and we’re all lawbreakers. What we need is not more interpretation and regulation. What we need is grace! Only Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath, has fulfilled the law completely, and he offers us the grace of God through faith. Only in following Christ can we truly follow the Law of God, as Paul says in Romans 10:4, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”