Gospel: Mark 2.23-3.6. This text is about Jesus and His disciples eating grain on the Sabbath, criticized by the Pharisees and Heordians for violating the Sabbath and not washing before eating.

N.T. Wright discusses Jesus’ frequent violation of the sabbath in Scripture and the Authority of God, 2005. In the Old Testament, to violate the sabbath by ‘work’ was punishable by death (Ex 21.14,15; 35.2; Num 15.32-36). To keep the sabbath holy was the fourth of the ten commandments (Ex 20.8-11; Dt 5.12-14). Present day conservative Jews often obey this cnnnandment, and Jesus frequently ran afoul of this law before the Pharisees for healing on the sabbath. But in the New Testament Paul says hardly anything about the sabbath. In one place Paul says that if some Jews don’t observe it, they should not be judged (Rm 14.5,6). In another place he denounces those who are observing ‘days, and months, and seasons, and years’ (Gal 4.10). Violation of the sabbath was the first reason the Pharisees and Herodians began to plot Jesus’ death (Mk 3.6). Paul does not even mention sabbath-keeping in the New Testament in listing commandments that must be kept (Rm 13.9). Why is this? Why is the sabbath, so important as one of the ten commandments in the Old Testament, hardly mentioned in the New Testament? The only reason that will do, is that Jesus believed He was inaugurating the new age toward which the entire sabbath institution has been pointing. He had come to announce and enact the Jubilee of Jubilees, the sabbath of sabbaths, the time when God’s purposes and human life would come together at last. His actions with regard to the sabbath are the exact analogue of His actions in regard to the Temple, that He was the Temple in person, offering people forgiveness on His own authority. The underlying point is the eschatological claim that Jesus was making; ‘the time is fulfilled; God’s kingdom is at hand!’ (Mk 1.15).The fulfillment of time means that the project which God the Creator began in creation, and the redemptive project launched in the exodus, had reached their destination. Israel’s destiny, humankind’s destiny, creation’s destiny were being realized in Jesus. His short public career, was the moment when God’s time and the world’s time overlapped and intersected. The first day of the week, the Lord’s Day symbolized the launch of the new creation by Jesus’ resurrection. This is what Jesus meant when He quoted Isa 61 in His ‘Nazareth Manifesto’ in Lk 4.16-30. He meant that the time of good news to the poor, liberty to captives, etc.–in other words, the whole of Israel’s history–had reached its ultimate Jubilee, a time of freedom and peace not only for Israel, but for the whole world. If all was true, if this was the time of fulfillment of the new creation, then it was inappropriate to go on emphasizing the advance sign-posts, the weekly sabbaths which were pointing ahead to a reality now accomplished. One does not put up a sign pointing to New York in Times Square! This is what Jesus meant when He said, “The Son of Man is the Lord of the Sabbath. ”The ‘fullness of time’ (Gal 4.4) had arrived so the careful observance of the markers of earthly time (Gal 4.10) and other Jewish festivals (Col 2.14-16) no longer needed to be observed. The sabbath and other special days pointing to the future had become irrelevant! The future had arrived! The Messiah had come and the new day had dawned, a new Jubilee which is permanent–a time in which God’s liberating purposes intersect with human life to create a new way of being in the Spirit, a new way of being human.

Memory Verse: And He said to them, “The sabbath was made for man not man for the sabbath” (Mk 2.27).