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Lesson 7: Teacher

I remind everybody that the Sabbath was the Jewish gift to civilization.

– Edgar Bronfman, Sr.

Devotion: Read Mark 2:23-28. The Pharisees believe Jesus’ disciples are breaking the Law by working on the Sabbath. Jesus answers their question with one of his own, referring to 1 Samuel 21:2-7. In that passage, David has been anointed King by the prophet Samuel, while Saul stills on the throne. David, fleeing from Saul, eats the bread reserved for the priests (Lev 24:9). Jesus suggests two different reasons for quoting the passage. His “sabbath was made for humankind…” comment suggests he, like David or any person, is excused from the Law by the circumstances of his hunger. To keep the letter of the Law (no physical labor) is not as important as keeping the spirit of the Law (set aside a day of Sabbath). His second comment, “the Son of Man is Sovereign even of the Sabbath” suggests that Jesus claims, like David, to be the anointed Ruler that is not yet recognized. As Ruler, he is the one to rightfully interpret and apply the Law. Imagine how difficult it is for these religious leaders to hear what Jesus is saying with an open heart and mind! What do we have to do with pre-conceived notions to be open to God’s Spirit? What is the spirit of the Law behind the Sabbath? How can you know when you are breaking the Sabbath? Can you know if someone else is? Is it possible for the church to make hard and fast rules about the Sabbath for everyone to follow?

Personal Worship Option: Spend time in prayer today, expressing your gratitude for the good gifts of God’s creation.

Dig A Little Deeper:

Read the very next passage, Mark 3:1-6, noting how Luke presents two Sabbath controversies together. How might today’s Mark 2:23-28 reading influence how we interpret Jesus’ healing of the withered hand?

2:23 Pharisees allow “plucking and eating” grain in times of great need, but not “harvesting or threshing” (Deut 23:25). Read Mt 12:1-8 and Lk 6:1-5. How do these writers report the “offense?” How does that small difference change the appearance of the Pharisees in the texts?

Written for a Gentile Christian audience, there is an emphasis throughout the gospel of Mark on how Jesus steps away from Jewish legalism. How does the Church tailor its message for different audiences? When might changing the method of communicating the message of the gospel change the message itself? Can you think of examples demonstrating how people change the message of the good news?

2:24 The Pharisees are not an official party within Judaism. They act as a religious and political force putting pressure on groups in the culture to conform to their interpretation of the Law. We might compare them to a group of clergy in our culture. A group of ministers today cannot pass laws, but their teachings influence how people think and act. How much influence do clergy have in our culture? Is their influence diminishing or growing? Should it diminish or grow?

2:27 This passage, omitted in Matthew and Luke, is used by the early Church to justify moving the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday, the day of resurrection. Sunday becomes the primary day of worship by the beginning of the 2nd century.

2:28 Are you keeping a weekly Sabbath? Why or why not?

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