Mark 2:23-28 “One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, ‘Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?’ He answered, ‘Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 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.’ Then he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.'”
This great claim of Christ came out of a grumble from some of his observers. The Pharisees were in effect building up a file entitled “Offensive Things Said and Done by Jesus of Nazareth and his Followers.” This record would be the basis of the indictment they would eventually bring against him. He had cleansed the leper – but he offended them. He spoke, and the winds obeyed him – but he offended them. He preached the Sermon on the Mount – but they found some things he said deeply offensive, and they decided they had to kill him. All this was early on in his ministry – he cannot have been preaching more than a few months – and the Pharisees “began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus” (Mark 3:6). We must always remember that the Lord Jesus was crucified for what he said.
The Pharisees had been around for two hundred years as a political and religious pressure group. In other words when Jesus began his ministry the Pharisees had been in existence longer than Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud and Charles Darwin and their followers have existed in our own day. The Pharisees were men who didn’t have the authority to make laws or enforce laws, but they did have a following in the country. Many individual Pharisees were respected men; they were considered religious experts and defenders of the old religion. In fact, they were self-appointed guardians of public morality. So when the Lord Jesus emerged and began his preaching, drawing vast crowds, the Pharisees were out in force checking up on Jesus, watching and listening to his every word.
One Sabbath day Jesus and his disciples were walking along a country path through the cornfields and the young men with him began to pluck some of the ears of corn, rubbing them between their hands and chewing the seeds. They did this because they needed food. It was not with the casual interest we take in doing the same thing as we walk along a path to church through the fields and wonder how ears of wheat taste. Matthew tells us that the disciples were hungry, and Jesus was not multiplying loaves and fishes to feed them. He was in charge of this situation teaching them to trust in him, and to depend on his provision. He was encouraging them to use the means God had provided for poor people not to starve. Men were legally permitted to take some heads of grain from the edges of a neighbour’s field, but the Pharisees’ viewpoint was this: it was wicked to act in this way on the Sabbath because this activity effectively was reaping, and all such work was forbidden on the Sabbath day. If it had been anyone else behaving like that then the Pharisees wouldn’t have opened their mouths, but this was the number one preacher and healer whom everyone was talking about. So the Pharisees came right up to our Lord and they asked him why he was encouraging his followers sinful behaviour.
Here again Mark is introducing us to people who thought they knew all about religion. For the Pharisees religion meant adding certain things to your life like fasting, or refraining from doing certain things, especially on the Sabbath. For them the essence of religion was ceremonies and abstinences, but except for baptism there was none of that in Jesus. Didn’t he care about the Sabbath? What was this kingdom of God he was speaking about all the time? So this grumble from the Pharisees about religion was all set up by the Lord in order for him to give this memorable response, a self disclosure of the living Christ. Who were the Pharisees dealing with? The Lord is showing them that from now on true religion is knowing the truth about Christ, the Son of God, believing in him and following him. Let’s examine Jesus’ answer and see what it tells us about him.
1. WHO IS TO ARGUE WITH A KING?
Christ answers first of all by appealing to the Bible, and challenging the Pharisees about their ignorance of Scripture: “Have you never read?” (v.25). “You Pharisees know very well your own traditions and laws and rules and regulations. Don’t you have thirty-nine principal works, each one subdivided into six minor categories, 234 categories in total, describing all the activities that are prohibited on the Sabbath Day? You Pharisees excel in reciting all those prohibitions. Religion for you consists of doing all the things written down in your books, but have you never read the Book?” And in a very simple way I want to say that this is the first challenge the Lord Jesus is issuing today. Have you never read the Bible? Why not? You’ve all been to school and some of you to university and you’ve read Chaucer, and Shakespeare, and the Welsh language, and science text books, and manuals on how to operate your motor bike or computer. Have you never read the Scriptures? You think you know about Christianity. Have you read the Bible? If you haven’t you don’t know, because if you’re not growing in understanding the Scriptures you aren’t growing in understanding Christianity.
Then the Lord Jesus asks these Pharisees, “Here’s a Bible knowledge question: What did David do when he and his companions were weak with hunger? You don’t know? Then I will remind you of what happened during the time Abiathar was high priest when Ahimelech his father was also priest. This is what occurred: David ‘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’ (v.26).” King David could do that couldn’t he? He was the King. Jesus’ inference was this: “Because the great King David did that I can authorise my servants to pluck ears of corn today.” No apology for his disciples’ behaviour. Quite the reverse. He knew that picking ears of corn on the Sabbath and eating them would be provocative behaviour for the Pharisees, but Jesus encouraged his disciples do this in order to speak here as he does.
The Pharisees didn’t know the Scriptures, and what they are now thinking is something like this: “We cannot believe what we are hearing. This man, Jesus of Nazareth, is actually putting himself on a par with King David” At that period in David’s life, when jealous King Saul was searching for him to murder him, David was the anointed one – anointed by the prophet Samuel to become King – but not yet the crowned one. The foxes had holes, and the birds of the air had their nests, but there was no royal palace for David yet. He had nowhere to lay his head. He was being hunted like a partridge in the wilderness, with a ragtag bobtail group of supporters scurrying across the countryside, keeping a mountain between themselves and Saul’s soldiers. One day in the future his enemies would all be scattered and he would reign with mighty power. So here is the parallel, homeless, opposed, poor King Jesus and his followers were awaiting the time when he would be recognised and enthroned.
Remember, the Lord Jesus has appeared and has been preaching on this theme, “The time has come. The kingdom of God is near.” The kingdom is near because the King himself is near. He has been marked out by God at his baptism. The heavens have been opened and the Spirit has come upon him and the Father has cried, “You are my Son whom I love; with whom I am well pleased.” But King Jesus has not yet been enthroned. He is now despised and rejected of men, as Isaiah prophesied. He identifies with the poor, surviving on ears of corn taken from the edge of a field. He has to die and rise and ascend to heaven. Until then he is the servant-King in the world. He has the right as a hungry God-man from heaven to take from his creation and eat and let his followers eat too. God save the King! Eating ears of corn on a Sabbath was not civil disobedience. It was not even a cry for religious reformation. This was a sign from heaven of the glorious humiliation of God. Like Jesus’ refusal to teach his followers to fast was a sign that the Sovereign King was there in their midst. The kingdom of God had arrived and was spreading and his disciples were amongst the first members of it. Christ was giving birth to a new creation, and it was appearing in the old groaning world. That is Jesus’ first illusive and provocative answer to these Pharisees: “Who are you to argue with what the King and his followers do?”
2. WHO IS TO ARGUE WITH THE SON OF MAN?
But Jesus has not finished with these Pharisees. He tells them once again that he is the Son of Man. In other words he is claiming that he is divine. I remind you that this is the second time he has made that claim. He had already done that in Capernaum when he had pardoned and healed the paralytic. There he had turned to the Pharisees who had entered his own home and he had said to them, “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Mk. 2:10), and he had then performed this miracle. Perhaps the Pharisees thought they had misheard him on that occasion, maybe it had been a one-off remark, and certainly they had been overcome by the greatness of the miracle. Whatever the reason we aren’t told that they picked up on his words then. Now again he reaffirms the claim to be the Son of Man (v.28). Indeed on no less than fourteen occasions in Mark’s gospel Jesus refers to himself as the Son of Man. In the whole New Testament this phrase ‘Son of Man’ occurs only on the lips of Jesus. Well, let us be specific, there is only one real exception and that is when Luke tells us in the book of Acts that the dying martyr Stephen could see the heavens opening and there he sees the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:56).
Who or what is this ‘Son of Man’? This title is not simply the counter-poise to the title ‘Son of God’. It is not that the first describes Jesus’ manhood and the second his Godhood. No. It does not refer to his human nature at all. Far from emphasising his humiliated and lowly state the title ‘Son of Man’ refers to a figure of pre-existence and majesty. Where do you find this figure? In the Bible. It was not a newly minted phrase of Jesus, but he put it to this special use. The Son of Man appears in the Old Testament in the book of Daniel where we read these words of that prophet (which seem particularly fine in our NIV translation), “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory, and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshipped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed” (Dan. 7:13&14). This figure is divine; he is superhuman, not ‘a son of man’ but ‘like a son of man’. He is permitted to come into God’s presence – the Ancient of Days – and he is not destroyed. He exercises authority and sovereign power. His influence is international and eternal. He is worshipped. He is indestructible, and he appears, we are told, coming with the clouds of heaven, and where do we read of the clouds of heaven? In a number of places; when God’s glory is being revealed – at Sinai; in the pillar of cloud that led the people through the wilderness each day; in the cloud of glory that filled Solomon’s temple, and in the New Testament at the Transfiguration and again at the second coming when Christ will appear in the clouds of heaven.
Jesus of Capernaum is claiming to be that Son of Man, royal, superhuman, divine, pre-existent. Has that Scripture of Daniel actually been fulfilled? The Pharisees are incredulous at the thought; they know all about Jesus. He is the carpenter’s son from Nazareth. He was born in a stable. He may be a healer and a teacher, but he hasn’t two pennies to rub together. He and his followers are surviving with paupers’ fare – grain gathered from the edge of a field. As he himself acknowledged, “The Son of man has nowhere to lay his head”:
“But Thy couch was the sod,
O Thou Son of God
In the deserts of Galilee” (Emily Elizabeth Steel Elliott).
The Pharisees were scandalised at the thought of Daniel’s divine Son of Man strolling through a cornfield with his followers while the land was still under the Roman yoke. This Jesus actually thought of himself as the Son of God? Blasphemy! Then what would these Pharisees think of him when they saw him hang between two thieves on a cross and suffer and die there? Daniel’s Son of Man being crucified and killed by the Romans at the decree of their own supreme court? Impossible! He was a charlatan. They couldn’t see it. They couldn’t see that it was God’s extraordinary grace to sinners that had not spared the very Son of Man from the cross in order that hypocrites and Pharisees who repent and believe in him might be saved by his precious blood.
A Jewish survivor of Auschwitz concentration camp named E. Wiesel wrote a book called “Night” in which he recalled this incident: “The SS hanged two Jewish men and a youth in front of the whole camp. The men died quickly, but the death throes of the youth lasted for half an hour. ‘Where is God? Where is he?” someone asked behind me. As the youth still hung in torment in the noose after a long time, I heard the man call again, ‘Where is God now?’ And I heard a voice in myself answer: ‘Where is he? He is here. He is hanging there on the gallows.'” How could Daniel’s Son of Man be given glory and power? How could the nations bow down and worship him? By the cross. “And I, if I be lifted up will draw all men unto me.” There was no other way. There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin. That Christ of the cross is with us today, and he is with those who suffer in their own pain or witness those they love suffering. He has been hungry and met opposition too. He is God with us.
The Pharisees had this blinkered view of Jesus. They hadn’t been with the shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem when the glory of the Lord was revealed, when suddenly there was with the angels a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the Highest.’ Nor had they seen at his baptism heaven open and the Spirit descending upon him without measure. They hadn’t heard the voice of God saying, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” They were not to encounter the resurrected glorious Lord. But in the tremendous day yet to come they will see him and cry to the mountains and rocks to cover them.
This Lord Jesus who walks through the cornfields on this Sabbath day knows who he himself is. Many of you have no idea who you are let alone who Jesus Christ is. He is from another world. He is great David’s greater son. He is the Lord from heaven. He has been sent here by his Father and willingly he has come. He is to return to that heavenly world when his mission is accomplished. His whole life is pervaded by the uncanny and the invincible and the crudely supernatural. It is often so unsophisticated and primitive! Suddenly he will rebuke a demon . . .he will curse a fig-tree . . . he will walk on water . . . he will raise a dead boy to life in a tiny community called Nain. Then he will go on and preach the most sublime ethics ever heard on this planet. This is how incarnate God behaved in Galilee 20 centuries ago. His realm is the Ancient of Days; “his status symbol, the clouds of heaven; his jurisdiction, universal; his dominion, everlasting; his destiny, glory and sovereignty; the proper response to him, worship” (Donald MacLeod, “Jesus is Lord”, Mentor, Fearn, 2000, p.68). He has come from heaven and taken human nature and human consciousness. When he thinks of himself, of his home and his most primal relationships then it is to his Father in heaven that he naturally refers because he takes his identity from that. The scene of the Son of Man in the book of Daniel had informed the reading Jesus most fully as to who he was and what he was destined for. When he later was to claim that all authority in heaven and earth had now been given unto him Christ was thinking of Daniel’s vision. Jesus had a special relationship with God, and a special relationship with man. This resistance and hostility beginning in the cornfields of Galilee were going to increase in hatred and result in death but one day would be followed by glory, not man’s glory but the glory of the Son of Man. He would enjoy it as the Man, and the Servant who would be exalted very high.
3. WHO IS TO ARGUE WITH THE LORD OF THE SABBATH?
The Lord has not finished answering these Pharisees: “The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (v.28). Who is this? Once a man from Nazareth stood still in a field of corn surrounded by his friends and opposed by a group of religious men, and he told them that He was Jehovah even of the Sabbath. Now those were the words of a megalomaniac or they were the words of God incarnate. What does he mean by this claim?
i] Jesus is referring first of all to the Creation Sabbath. The fourth commandment begins with the words, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy” (Ex. 20:8). Remember it! The Sabbath did not originate in the book of Exodus. Recall what you’re in danger of forgetting. What were they forgetting? How God made the heavens and the earth! The fourth commandment in Exodus 20 tells us: “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” (Ex. 20:11). Who was that Lord who made the heavens and the earth in six days? Who was that Lord who rested on the seventh day and blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy? What’s his name? His name is Jesus! John tells us at the beginning of his sublime gospel, “He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (Jn. 1:2&3).
The idea of the Sabbath didn’t originate with the Pharisees or any group of men, but with this Lord Jesus. The Sabbath is not Moses’s Sabbath, or the Jews’ Sabbath, or our families’ Sabbath. It is the Lord Jesus’ Sabbath. Christ made it holy. When our Lord completed making the heavens and the earth he rested from all his work and he invited the man and the woman whom he had created on the sixth day to join with him in his celebration of what he had made. The Lord Jesus had made the atmosphere, the oxygen which the Pharisees were breathing. He had designed the corn seed. He made the earth and the cycle of seed-time and harvest. He is the Lord of the Sabbath.
The Lord had not blessed the day for his own sake, but for the man and woman he had created. The Sabbath was appointed for their benefit – for their happiness, joy and refreshment. So Jesus says here to these Pharisees – with his own disciples listening in attentively, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (v.27). He is speaking like a designer of some super-sophisticated device who is explaining its purpose – what he had in mind when he put it together – to a group of students. So the Lord says “The Sabbath came into being for the sake of man.” That is why it was introduced and instituted. Mighty God didn’t need it – he doesn’t need to rest, or be refreshed. The Lord Jesus wasn’t tired after six days of creating. It wasn’t that he needed to sit down and catch his breath. The Sabbath was God’s gift to us, to the man and woman he had prepared to be his servants and workers on the earth. It was Jesus who invented it. It was Jesus who set it apart from all the other six days of the week and so made it a holy day. It was not simply a day full of negatives but a day to enjoy Jesus Christ, and that is exactly what the disciples and their Lord were doing as they walked together through the cornfield. We need some regular quality time to spend with the Lord. Of course we can and do enjoy the Saviour every day, but sometimes our days are full, and our work is frustrating so that our days are not very enjoyable. The Sabbath was made for man so that for a whole day in every seven we can pause and spend more time with our Lord. He dominates the whole day. So in the book of Revelation John tells us that, “On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit . . .” (Rev. 1:10). Jesus is Lord of the creation Sabbath.
ii] Again, when Jesus says that he is the Lord of the Sabbath he is referring to the Exodus Sabbath. You know that the ten commandments are found twice in the Old Testament, in the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy. The wording of the fourth commandment is different in these two records. Moses quotes the commandment like this in the book of Deuteronomy: “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy,” and then he points this out, “Remember you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day” (Deut. 5:12&15). You cannot observe the Sabbath unless you remember you once belonged to an enslaved people. You were in bondage through sin, and you could not deliver yourselves from that slavery, but the Lord in his mercy destroyed your enemy. He provided a way of deliverance from judgement and gave you victory over your foes, and you remember how the Lord did it, by the Passover Lamb. One night all the firstborn sons of Egypt died in their beds, but if you sacrificed a lamb, and sprinkled its blood on the droopiest your families were spared and out of captivity you came and off to the land of promise. There was a great range of faith amongst God’s people that night. Some of them had weak faith, and after they had sprinkled the blood and eaten the meal they spent a sleepless night of worry longing for the first light of dawn. Others had strong faith. They sprinkled the blood and ate the meal and turned in for a solid night’s sleep. But in the morning both families found themselves redeemed because they had done what God had told them to do with the blood.
Now you ask the question as to how could the blood of mere animals redeem men and women made in the image of God? There is no way it could! Think of all the gallons of animal blood shed that Passover night in a hundred thousand homes in Egypt, and not one person was made one spot cleaner by all that flowing red sea. Not one stain of sin could be removed by mere sheep’s blood.
“Not all the blood of beasts on Jewish altars slain,
Could give the guilty conscience peace, or wash away the stain.
But Christ, the heavenly Lamb, takes all our guilt away;
A sacrifice of nobler name and richer blood than they.” (Isaac Watts 1674-1748)
Those lambs were types, that is, they were symbols and teaching devices all pointing forward to the one great Lamb who at the Passover Feast in Jerusalem around 33 AD would become the Lamb of God who, all by himself, would take away the sin of the world in his royal death on Golgotha. Only his blood can make the foulest clean. That Lamb of God is Lord even of the Sabbath. So the Sabbath day was a time for Old Testament Christians to rejoice in experience and hope of redeeming mercy. The promise was that one day someone would come who would be bruised for their iniquities. The Lord would lay on him the sins of us all. We know who this is.
“Ask ye, Who is this same?
Christ Jesus is His name,
The Lord Sabaoth’s Son;
He, and no other one,
Shall conquer in the battle.” (Martin Luther, 1483-1546).
So who is this Jesus who claims to be a King and tells us that he is the Son of Man and the Lord of the Sabbath?
A] Christ is Lord Over Time.
We gathered here today and began our praise by singing together these words of Henry F. Lyte:
“My times are in Thy hand: My God, I wish them there;
My life, my friends, my soul I leave entirely to Thy care.
My times are in Thy hand, whatever they may be;
Pleasing or painful, dark or bright, as best may seem to Thee.
My times are in Thy hand, why should I doubt or fear?
A Father’s hand will never cause his child a needless tear.
My times are in Thy hand, Jesus the Crucified;
The hand my cruel sins have pierced is now my guard and guide.”
Those words are based on Psalm 31, verse 15, “My times are in Thy hand.” If Jesus Christ is the Lord of the Sabbath then he is Lord over time and our use of time. Now I have little idea what time is. It was Augustine who said that if no one asked him then he knew what time was, but if he had to explain time then he didn’t know. Time and space are always linked, and for us, both are created by the Lord of the Sabbath. There is the cycle of t he year and people talk of the ‘four seasons’. There is the change in the shape of the moon and out of that came ‘moonths’ or months. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west and so we have days. But the week? There is no explanation for a unit of seven days. There is no earth or space origin for joining the days together in groups of seven. Yet any attempt to change it – like Napoleon’s – has been doomed to failure. We go to Christ for the origin of the week. He designed a seven-day cycle for this world. The week and the keeping of one day special is a proof of the existence of God.
God is not tied to days, months and years as we are. He does not grow older as we do. We are made from the dust of this earth, and all who live everywhere on this earth in 2003 find themselves bound by this strange seven day cycle. “We are able to extend our working day by using electric lights, but we cannot extend the day. We cannot make it either longer or shorter. We are subject to time and have no authority over it. My digital watch goes right on flashing as a persistent reminder that God’s time progresses independently of me and my wishes. No matter how hard I might try, I can’t make tax day come later or Christmas come sooner. God made time, and his sovereignty over it is total” (Bruce A. Ray, “Celebrating the Sabbath,” P&R Publishing Co. Phillipsburg, NJ, 2000, p. 16).
All time is now Christ’s time. He sustains all the world. We live and we die not by accident but at his will. He times the death of the sparrow and has made the appointment for the time every one of us will meet him. He is going to call us to account for our stewardship of time. Your time is not yours to use as you please. It is a gift from the Lord Christ to whom you are answerable, for time as well as for all his gifts. I urge you to spend your time in nothing which you know must be repented of; in nothing on which you might not pray for the blessing of God; in nothing which you could not review with a quiet conscience on your dying day; in nothing which you might not safely and properly be found doing if death should surprise you in the act. Times goes, you say. Alas, no, time stays, and we go.
Great men never complain about the lack of time. Alexander the Great and John Wesley accomplished everything they did in units of seven day weeks. We are always complaining that a week flies by, that Saturday arrives before we know it, and yet at the same time acting as if they would never end. Whatever the Lord of the Sabbath wants you to do with your life he will enable you to do. Whatever mountains he wants you to climb, what burdens he wants you to bear, whatever service he wants you to give, whatever achievements he wants you to attain then the living Lord can enable you to perform them all. How can you go on a day longer without his strength mightily working in you?
B] Christ is Lord Over Our Work.
“Six days shalt thou labour,” the Lord of the Sabbath has said. If we are unemployed then we will find ways to use our minds and bodies in serving our neighbours. If we have taken early retirement than while we have health and strength we will still serve our neighbours. You must keep working. We are made to work. We are made in the image of God. He worked creating the world in six days and then he rested. We are made to do the same. All work can be done to the glory of the Lord of the Sabbath.
“Teach me, my God and King,
In all things Thee to see;
And what I do in anything,
To do it as for Thee.
A servant with this clause
Makes drudgery divine;
Who sweeps a room, as for Thy laws,
Makes that and the action fine.
This is the famous stone
That turneth all to gold;
For that which God doth touch and own
Cannot for less be told.” (George Herbert, 1593-1532)
If I am a Baptist Counsellor or if I work in Burger King’s, whether my sphere of labour is in the Scriptures or on the seas, whether I am a plumber or a preacher or a pensioner my work, whatever it is, is a calling and a stewardship. My work comes under the immediate authority of Jesus Christ. Consider Paul talking to the Christian slaves in Colosse. Obviously work done by certain slaves was highly responsible as treasurers and teachers, but much of it would have been mundane, repetitive and unrewarding. Paul tells them that Christ makes a difference to their work. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Cols. 4:23). It is as if in every task you are doing that work for Jesus Christ. It is as if you are being paid by the Saviour. Then he turns to their Masters who are Christians and he says that Christ makes a difference to their attitude to those who work for them: “Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven” (Cols 4:1). The Master in heaven is our role model. For years he worked with his father as a joiner in Nazareth. He was the Son of Man but he washed the feet of his followers. So Masters remember your Master in heaven. He is Lord over our work.
C] Christ is Lord Over Our Rest.
The Lord Christ appointed the Sabbath as a day of rest. It was not an oppressive day but a blessing. It was rest for parents, children, servants, guests and visitors. The animals got to know that every seven days they didn’t bear burdens or pull carts or a plough. Even the land itself enjoyed a Sabbath rest every seventh year. The fields lay fallow and uncultivated. The Sabbath is the Lord’s holiday. “The King of the Universe gives all his subjects one day off every week to celebrate his creation, to interrupt their daily work and to rest in his, and thereby be refreshed” (Bruce Ray op cit p.21).
The disciples are present with Jesus on the Sabbath. They are going with him – that is what we are told. Levi is no longer collecting taxes; James and John are no longer throwing their nets out. A Sabbath is to be spent in the steps of Jesus. There is no resentment that the Lord has interrupted their work. Levi looks back at the time when he hurried along the street in Capernaum on the Sabbath to his tax collector’s booth every day of his life. No one must pass except they first pay their customs duty. Levi now shakes his head with shame as he thinks to himself how he used to live for that booth and the money he collected there. Now he can be with the greatest person in the world on a Sabbath.
I don’t live for money. I don’t live for my job. I don’t live for my family. I live for my God, and he became incarnate in his Son Jesus Christ. I live by faith in this Son of Man who loves me, and I want my job and my rest, my six days of labour and my day of refreshment to all feed off him and be my service to him. What lies before me is the rest which the people of God are going to enjoy, and the best part of that will be that this Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath, is going to be there. That will be heaven, to be with him.
16th February 2003 GEOFF THOMAS