Have you ever seen the film called, "The Chariots of Fire?" It's the amazing story of Eric Liddell who forfeited his opportunity to run in the 200 meter dash at the 1924 Paris Olympics. And he refuses to participate. Why? He's an excellent runner. He could probably win. And he refuses to participate because the qualifying meet would be held on the Sabbath. Now, that's amazing. That young man had a backbone. I like young people, and I like young people with a backbone. That's why Daniel couldn't be eaten by the lions. They sniffed his backbone and he was too tough. He chose go and stand for God rather than to get their gold. I think God is more important than gold. He stood firm for his convictions! He chose to keep the Sabbath rather than win the gold.
Now, some people think he was a little bit legalistic. Maybe, you know, just this once he could have done that. What would that have hurt? and a lot of people are like that. they say, "Well, you know, "If you are going to stand for something, is the Sabbath really the mountain you want to die defending?" Is that really where you want to make your stand? And I hear a lot of people say. "Well I think, you know, just this once. I'm going to go to this antiques show. I'm going to go to this car show. I'm going to go to this steam engine show (Pastor Gettys loves steam engines), this airplane show, whatever it is." By the way, for you show-goers, when is the biggest day of the show? It's always on a Saturday, isn't it. "Oh, it won't hurt just this once. Will it?" Likely it will. I believe it will kill your witness. I believe it does something to dishonor your Creator. And I believe it diminishes your viability as a Christian. And I believe it hurts Jesus Christ.
I will tell you why. We're going to study this. We're going to study Mark 2. We're going to pay special attention to verses 23 to the end of the chapter. This is an experience that happened to Jesus.
Before we read this, I want to define what the Sabbath is. You can read a lot of commentaries, you can hear a lot of radio programs and they will tell you that the Sabbath is Sunday. You can read that. Often times they'll say, "Well, on the Sabbath, on Sunday somebody did this..." That's not true. The Sabbath is the seventh day of the week, and that is Saturday. It is a time in which we worship our God. It is the seventh day of the week. For Jesus and His disciples, and for the Jewish people today, and for all Christians today who really desire to follow the Bible Sabbath, Saturday is the day, the seventh day of the week. It's still the true Sabbath. It is a holy 24 hour period of time beginning Friday at sundown and extending to Saturday at sundown. No where in the Bible will you find even one verse changing that holy time, from seventh-day holiness to first-day holiness. I'll give you five hundred dollars if you can show me one verse which makes the change. It isn't there. One verse which says that we should stop keeping the seventh day of the week and we need to start keeping the first day of the week. The Seventh day still is the true Sabbath Day.
Now, lets read this experience of Jesus in Mark 2:23. One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. Now, that's kind of exciting, isn't it. Here they are on a Sabbath afternoon walk, and what are they doing? They are walking through the grainfields
Please do not get the picture that 13 men, Jesus and His disciples, were taking a short-cut through the farmer's wheat field and trampling it down as they walked on top of it. Can you imagine thirteen people walking across your garden? That's not what is happening here. There were no freeways in Palestine. People, when the walked, they walked on, mostly a path. A wide path sometimes, and these paths went down through the fields. The path and the field were right beside each other. As they walked on these paths it would be very easy and simple thing to reach out and pick some grain. And, this was not corn (maize) like it says in some versions of the Bible because corn was first grown in the Americas. And so there they were.
Mark tells us that they were walking through the grainfields. most of the time. Matthew says in Matthew 12:1, which was a parallel experience to this says that the disciples were hungry. Ellen White suggest that they were coming from church. So they had attended church. And they were going some distance and that is the only food they would have and so they were hungry and they were going to eat this food and that's where they were. So they reached out and picked some grain.
Now, was this wrong? If you go to Deuteronomy 23:25 If you enter your neighbor's grainfield, you may pick kernels with your hands, but you must not put a sickle to his standing grain. Now, you can eat it. You can gather enough in your hands to eat, but just don't harvest his field. Respect him. He's trying to grow it for some purpose. You can snack on it, you can eat it Sunday through Friday. But the Jews said,: Not on Sabbath. Now, does the Bible say, "Not on Sabbath?" No. So where doest his rule come from? It comes from the Jews, not from God.
Look at Mark 2:24 "The Pharisees said to him, "Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?" Was it unlawful? No. Who made it unlawful? The Jews did. Not God.
These "pious" Pharisees were furious! They had so hedged the Sabbath with their rules and their regulations that it was very difficult to keep the Sabbath. Now, apparently they had caught Jesus and His disciples red-handed stealing grain on the Sabbath. But I have a question. How did these Pharisees just happen to be out there in that grainfield at that moment? They should not have been there. They were snoopervising. They had traveled over the legal distance because their own rules said that you could not travel more than three thousand feet on the Sabbath Day. You'd have to take a tape measure with you to be sure you kept the Sabbath. You can't do that.
Notice carefully their question, "Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath." Unlawful by who? Not by God. They were equating their rules as the same as God's rules. That they had elevated their traditions to full equality with God's law.
By the way, did the disciples ever break the Sabbath? Did Jesus ever break the Sabbath? Was this Jesus' first sin? In their sight it was. It was not. He was not sinning. Were the disciples working or stealing? No. Did Jesus disciples ever break the Sabbath? No. They did violate the man-made amendments to the Sabbath called the Traditions of the Jews.
They were simply out on a Saturday afternoon walk, enjoying nature, God's second book. Do you do that? A lot of you take a hike. I go out Sabbath afternoon a lot and take a walk. It's a good thing to do. It's God's second book out there. The snooping Pharisees just happened to notice the group eating a little grain. To them Jesus was sinning openly and dreadfully. They probably considered this as Jesus' first sin. They considered:
So, the Orthodox Jews could stone to death an individual who broke the Sabbath in this manner.
Well, this was a very serious charge. Jesus and His disciples were in big trouble. Now put your bookmark right here in Mark and we'll go to Luke 4:16, because over here it indicates that Jesus was not a Sabbath-breaker. It says, Luke 4:16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. It was Jesus' habit to be in church on the Sabbath Day. I will tell you that if it's good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for us. You'll never find a change in the Bible. It's not there. So, we need to be in church on the Sabbath Day.
Jesus kept the law fully. He said in Matthew 5:17 (NIV) "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them."
You can scour the Bible in vain to find one instance where Jesus ever kept Sunday holy or ever broke the true Sabbath. Jesus' custom was to be in church every Sabbath.
And the fourth commandment says in Exodus 20:8, Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Can I keep my mother's floor clean if it's dirty? Can I keep a day holy that was never made holy? There's no way. Verse 9 says, Six days you shall labor and do all your work. For six days you do all your work. Verse 10, but the seventh day is the a Sabbath to the Lord Your God. On it you shall not do any work. So we're supposed to labor five days a week. Is that what the commandment says? It says we're supposed to labor six days a week. Five days at work and one day at honey-do jobs. One day fixing around the house and repairing and washing the windows and doing all those home things. Where does it say in the fourth commandment that we should go out and have fun? Is the Bible against that? Is life all work? I don't think so.
And so to the Jews God does not define in the fourth commandment what work is. He said we should not do any work, but he does not define work. So, the Jews thought, 'We can do better than that. We could improve on what God has here.' And so we're going to make some rules and some regulations. God does not give a list of illegal Sabbath work. The Jews wanted to improve on God's law. So, in their Mishnah, an ancient Jewish rule-book, they listed thirty nine categories of work. Not just thirty nine things you couldn't do on the Sabbath, but thirty nine categories of work that could not be done on the Sabbath.
Why thirty nine? They were called, the "Forty less one." Even the Romans figured that if you were going to beat somebody, that you could give them thirty nine stripes, but forty would likely kill them. So, they withheld the one. That's forty minus one. Even Paul, in 2 Corinthians 11:24 says, Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. That's thirty nine. And they had thirty nine categories of work. I guess if there were any more it would likely kill the Sabbath-keeper. You could never do all those things.
That ancient historian, Josephus, said that when Roman general Pompey captured Jerusalem he did it by building a mound outside the city wall on the Sabbath. He knew they were Sabbath keepers. So on Friday night, right after sundown, they came and started building a ramp against the wall. The Jews didn't do anything about it. And the Romans built on it until the Sabbath hours were almost over, just a few minutes before sundown, Saturday, they stopped. And then they continued the next Sabbath. The Jews did not bother to defend themselves because their weapons weighed more than one dried fig. Many a time they must have prayed, "Lord, help us to grow bigger figs." Guess what happened? Pompey conquered Jerusalem!
No wonder Jesus said: Matthew 11:28, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." With so many man-made restrictions it was harder to "rest" on the Sabbath than to earn a living through the week. It was difficult.
Jesus gave three reasons to justify the actions of His disciples in picking and husking and eating grain on the Sabbath.
(1) - The example of David and his followers. Mark 2:25 "He answered, "Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need?"
Had they read about David? Absolutely! They were scripture scholars. They had memorized a lot of the scriptures. David was the great hero of the Jews. He was like a Jewish "Abraham Lincoln" or "George Washington!"
Mark 2:26 "In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions."
Jesus gave them a short refresher course on David. He said that if it was okay for David to do it, it is okay for us to do it. Hundreds of years before, David was the anointed king but he was persecuted by Saul. He fled for his life. When David came to the priest Ahimelech, he was hungry. The priest gave him the holy bread from the temple. Both David and his followers ate the holy bread. And neither God or the high priest punished them which appears to indicate their actions were proper. Jesus' answer really puts the Pharisees in a predicament. If they fault Jesus then they also criticize David. So he silenced them.
David actually entered the holy temple. For the Jews this was exceedingly sinful. Here Jesus is comparing His authority to that of King David.
So, the key issue in this experience here in Mark 2 is, "who is Jesus?" Jesus is saying, "I am God. I had the authority." And we will get that more even later. Here they were, questioning Jesus. We never do that, do we? Have you ever said, "Lord, why do I have to have all this back pain? I've prayed about this. You don't take it away. Why don't You do this?" Have you ever questioned God? "Why do my teenagers have to be like they are? I've raised perfect children and now what has happened?" We question God. That's what they were doing. Actually, Jesus was the Messiah, a person far greater than David. Imagine the Pharisees questioning God Himself.
David and his men ate the holy Show bread. That shewbread was never so holy as when it was consumed by starving needy people. When Jesus' followers were busy doing God's work, they had the right to eat. Sacred things are best used to help others. Shame on a church who excludes children from its sanctuary because the place is too sacred for such as they. God forbid that we concern ourselves more with elaborate church services than with helping the simple needs of our desperate people.
(2) - The second justification for their actions was the example of the priest working on the Sabbath. Let's come to the parallel to this in Matthew 12:5. "Or haven't you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent?"
There is a lot of work running a Temple. You have to kill all those animals, you have to sacrifice the animals, you have to light a fire to burn the animals. That's illegal. You have to lift that heavy carcass up onto the altar. There's a lot of work. People have even criticized for working on the Sabbath day. "You are the minister. You're breaking the Sabbath more than anybody because you're working on the Sabbath. Jesus is saying it is not wrong for the priest to work on the Sabbath. That's his job. "He is appointed by Me to do that."
Matthew 12:6. "I tell you that one greater than the temple is here." Jesus was indeed greater. His holy presence authorized the disciples to do religious work on the Sabbath.
And, you know when David went in there and ate that shewbread, now think about this. He ate the shewbread, and I think that shewbread was holy, and it was never so holy as when it was consumed by starving needy people. That's the best use of the shewbread. When Jesus followers are busy doing God's work, they had a right to eat that bread. Sacred things are best used to help other people. And I think, Woe is that congregation, shame on that church that excludes children from its sanctuary because the place is too sacred for such as they. "We don't want them around. They're too noisy." I notice that when little children get too noisy, their mothers have the good judgment to carry them out and then bring them back in when they're quit, but the sanctuary was to be used for people. Where is a mother supposed to go? How are you supposed to train up your children? So, Jesus was trying to stop these rules and these regulations.
Matthew 12:7. "If you had known what these words mean, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent." Jesus correctly quotes from memory Hosea 6:6 which shows that the judgmental attitude of the Pharisees was the real violation of the Sabbath. They had missed the whole point of the Sabbath commandment of God. The sin here was not the disciples' snacking on grain, but the nit-picking attitude of the Pharisees.
(3) - The third reason Jesus gave was that He is the Lord of the Sabbath. "I am the Lord of the Sabbath. I have a right to do what I want to do on this day because I made this day." This is a very big claim.
Mark 2:27,28 Then he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for Jews..." No! It doesn't say that. What does it say? "The Sabbath was made for people." "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." The Sabbath was made for people.
Now, I guarantee that this statement shocked the Pharisees. What Jesus is saying is this: "If you people are really interested in honoring the Lord, you should join the disciples and follow Me. Because I am the Messiah."
The real issue here is, "Who is Jesus?" The Lord of the Sabbath means that He is the one who established the Sabbath in the first place. Jesus is actually the Creator God Himself! When did Jesus make the Sabbath? Genesis 2:1-3 (KJV) "Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made."
There are many mighty miracles in the Bible, but the greatest of all miracles is the creation itself. Where He made everything. God exhibited His formidable power by speaking material things into existence. Something came from nothing... nothing but God's word.
The Sabbath is in honor of that day. The Sabbath is the birthday of the world. You can't change your birthday. You might like to change your birthday. Instead of saying I was born in 1950 or 1930 or 1080, you might like some other date. You can't change your birthday. It's an historical fact, the day you were born. The Sabbath is the birthday of the world and who can change it? Not even the pope. Not Billy Graham. Not even Don Gettys. Nobody can change the Sabbath. He ordained the seventh day as a day of rest for mankind to enjoy and appreciate God's beautiful creation. A day to learn more about the Creator. A day to praise Him. A day to worship Him. That's what the Sabbath is for. The seventh day of the week is a permanent reminder of our Creation.
Had the Sabbath always been kept there would be no evolutionists, there would be no atheists today. What a great thing. And Jesus is saying, "I'm the Creator. I have jurisdiction over this day. You can't tell Me what to do on this day. I made this day."
There are basically two camps of people who try to keep the Sabbath:
One camp says, "Well, I don't know. It really doesn't make any difference. I can go out to that show. I can skip church today. It really won't hurt." Many others who shop and play and work on the Sabbath. God is second and work or pleasure are first.
In the other camp, like Eric Liddell, and other Christians who zealously try to keep the Sabbath, not in a legalistic way, but because they love the Lord of the Sabbath. They put God first: way ahead of pleasure. Jesus said: John 14:15 "If ye love me, keep my commandments." I love my Savior. I'm glad He set us a proper example.
Hymn of Praise: #393, Lord of the Sabbath Scripture: Mark 2: 27,28 Hymn of Response: #522, My Hope is Built on Nothing Less 010303Gettys#493
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last updated 3/7/2001 by Bob Beckett.