Knowing it would be grist for the mill of opposition, Jesus claimed to be the Lord of the Sabbath.
It was about more than some hungry disciples; this claim was about staking out His rightful place as the Son of God. Jesus and the twelve passed through some grain fields on a Sabbath day. His men were hungry and the food was right there, so they each had a personal little harvest and ate some of the grain. The watching Pharisees saw their opportunity.
“Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!”
Jesus knew more about the Sabbath than these experts in the Law. He knew that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. He reminded the legalists of the times in the history of the nation when to stave off hunger holy men had violated the laws of the Sabbath to feed themselves.
“Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?
There was no response from the Pharisees. They had conveniently forgotten scripture stories that did not suit their purposes.
Jesus went on; “Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?”
There is no record of their response to Jesus so they probably had none. Jesus seized the moment to begin to try to tell them the meaning behind all the wonderful things He was doing right before their eyes. He was not just a gifted Rabbi. He was more even than a great prophet, teacher and healer. He was greater than all of those marvelous offices.
He told them this:
“Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple.”
He was not only visiting in the Temple—it was His Father’s House! The Temple was temporary but He was eternal. He was the Messenger of the New Covenant prophesied by Malachi. He asked them what they thought of mercy—was it also a part God’s plan for them? Had not the Lord said, mercy was more desirable to God than sacrifice? The Sabbath was about rest, merciful rest, not just about rituals and laws. Jesus told the people He was the Lord of the Sabbath!
The Sabbath Today
After the resurrection of Jesus on the First Day of the week, the church combined the seventh day of rest and worship with the first day of the week celebration of the Resurrection into what is now called the Lord’s Day. In this way, Jesus is the fulfillment of both the Old Covenant Sabbath and the New Covenant of new life in Christ. Indeed, all things are fulfilled in Christ. The Lord’s day is both a day for the sacrifices of worship and the merciful act of preaching the Gospel to the world. It is also a day of rest! In our culture, based on Judeo-Christian principles, the weekend combination of rest and worship orders the rest of the week for us.
At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!” But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.
Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.
1 Corinthians 16:2-3
On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.
Lord Jesus, thank You for Your day! The Lord’s Day is the central organizing point of our schedules. Thank You for rest and thank You for helping us prioritize worship. Help me to always be faithful to gather with Your Church to worship You on Your day! This is Your calendar, so I will honor it. You are faithful to be enthroned upon and to inhabit the praises of Your people; help us be faithful to give You praise to be Your throne and Your holy habitation. All for Your Glory, Lord! Amen.
This Is the Day the Lord Has Made
Words: Isaac Watts; Music: Thomas Augustine Arne
1. This is the day the Lord has made; He calls the hours His own;
Let heav’n rejoice, let earth be glad, And praise surround the throne.
2. Today he rose and left the dead, And Satan’s empire fell;
Today the saints His triumphs spread, And all His wonders tell.
3. Hosanna to th’anointed King, to David’s holy Son.
help us, O LORD, descend and bring salvation from Your throne.
4. Blest be the Lord, who comes to us with messages of grace;
who comes, in God His Father’s name, to save our sinful race.