Rules for the Sabbath: Mark 3:23-28

Focus Passage: Mark 3:23-28 (NCV)

23 One Sabbath day, as Jesus was walking through some fields of grain, his followers began to pick some grain to eat. 24 The Pharisees said to Jesus, “Why are your followers doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath day?”

25 Jesus answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and those with him were hungry and needed food? 26 During the time of Abiathar the high priest, David went into God’s house and ate the holy bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And David also gave some of the bread to those who were with him.”

27 Then Jesus said to the Pharisees, “The Sabbath day was made to help people; they were not made to be ruled by the Sabbath day. 28 So then, the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath day.”

Read Mark 3:23-28 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

While walking through a grain field on the Sabbath, the Pharisees catch Jesus’ followers picking grain to snack on. While eating grain was technically okay to do on the Sabbath, picking and preparing it (i.e. rubbing it in your hands to remove the husk) was not. Picking and preparing the grain to eat was considered work, and the Sabbath day was a day for rest.

In response to the Pharisees’ challenge, Jesus first responds with an even worse example of someone breaking the law. David and his group of outlaws ate bread that was only for priests to eat. This was way worse of an offense than simply snacking on some grain.

However, after Jesus makes this counterargument, He then zeros in on the intent of the Sabbath commandment. Jesus tells the Pharisees, as well as all of us living today, “The Sabbath day was made to help people; they were not made to be ruled by the Sabbath day.” (v. 27)

God’s Sabbath day was not meant to be a day that was filled with “can not’s”, “do not’s”, and “should not’s”. God’s Sabbath was supposed to be a day where God’s people could rest, remember, and reflect on Him. God’s Sabbath was to be the high point at the close of every week rather than something that was to be dreaded.

Jesus even tops off His statement by saying, “So then, the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath day.” (v. 28)

Jesus used the phrase “Son of Man” as a way of referencing Himself. I think He also used it to draw our attention to His mission of coming as a representative of God. Jesus places Himself ahead of the Sabbath day, and in a similar way, He places us ahead of the Sabbath day as well. “The Sabbath day was made to help people.” People “were not made to be ruled by the Sabbath day.” (v. 27)

These statements do not change the validity of the Sabbath commandment. Instead, they enhance the meaning behind it. While it is easy to turn the Sabbath into a series of rules, do’s, and don’ts, Jesus tells us that the Sabbath was meant for so much more. Jesus tells us that the Sabbath is His day, and it should be a day when we focus and reflect Him to others.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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