Reading Scripture: Lord of the Sabbath

I hope you all are finding the end of the week a welcome break. Let us read what Jesus says about the law and the Sabbath in Mark 2: 23-28.

As we saw in the last post, my systematic theology doesn’t give magic answers to all of scripture. However, like today’s scripture, sometimes it fits so perfectly that it gives me goosebumps.

Jesus and co. are walking through a field and picking heads of grain to eat.

Okay, the first question, was Jesus breaking the law? The answer is, not really. You see, this entire section is about the interpretation of the law. Various rabbis and sects have different understandings of the law. This is why there are Pharisees, Sadducees, etc. These names indicate groups of people who interpreted the law in specifics yet slightly different ways. They are very much like western Christian denominations in that way.

Jewish scholar James J. DeFrancisco remarks in a paper that  “Some rabbis even discouraged walking through a grainfield if the grain was even at ankle height; if one’s ankle accidentally knocked off the grain by stepping on it, it would be considered threshing. Jesus and His disciples not only walked through the grainfield, but they harvested, threshed, and ate . . .’ the issue at hand is how the Sabbath should be observed, and who has the authority to make that determination.”

As you can read in this passage, Jesus gives his defense that there is a precedent for their actions. David once “broke the law,” which Jesus suggests is proof that the law is not a solid structure, but open to interpretation. Much the same way that I view scripture.

Then the buzz line, the clincher, the last word, the big finale.

“The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath. For this reason, the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

If you recall my previous blogs discussing the Aramaic interpretation of that title, this can be reinterpreted, “For this reason, the average person is lord even of the Sabbath.”

How beautifully this fulfills the previous statement! This interpretation fits much more logically than a connection between the Sabbath being made for the people, thus Jesus is lord of the Sabbath. In fact, that doesn’t make sense at all!

What do I see when I read this? I see a confirmation of how I’ve come to view scripture. It’s a human book, written and interpreted by humans as a means of writing down the ever-changing human understanding of who God is.

You all are lords of the Sabbath, of the law, of interpretation. Use it as a guideline, as a tool for teaching, but please stop using it as a weapon.


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