This post is one in a series of reflections for Lent. I invite you to go back and read the previous reflections.
Jesus disciples were walking with him through a field and plucked heads of grain, and ate them. The Pharisees are following Jesus for the sole purpose of finding reasons to challenge his ministry. They accuse his disciples of working on the Sabbath. In their minds, the disciples have just harvested and winnowed the grain to eat. Jesus points out that even David had broken their sacred law by eating the show bread when he and his men were hungry and had need.
The law by the time of Jesus had become a great yoke upon the people of God. Men had added and added, until there were very few capable of following the whole law. That was never what God had intended the law to be. The law was intended to place appropriate boundaries about his people for their own protection. The religious leaders had made it into a burden.
In talking about the Sabbath. The Sabbath had two purposes. First, the Sabbath was a day devoted to honoring man's Creator. Second, it was created for the benefit of man. Man is a finite creature. He is incapable of working endlessly. It would be unhealthy and make for very miserable people. The Sabbath is that day where men were allowed to step back and recharge for the week ahead. In this way, the Sabbath was created for men, and not man for the Sabbath. The other important thing to point out is that, the disciples were traveling through the field with the Creator himself. John teaches us that nothing was made without Jesus. Jesus is the very Lord of the Sabbath. He has the power and prerogative to set all of the rules for the observance of the Sabbath.
Further in the passage, Jesus is approached by a man with a withered hand. He sees in the background the Pharisees waiting expectantly for him to heal this man on the Sabbath. He heals him, and he is frustrated with the Pharisees hard hearts. If the first purpose of the Sabbath is in order to honor our Creator, then how could it be wrong to do good works on the Sabbath? Wouldn't good works be the best way to honor our Creator?
It is difficult to keep a faith true to itself. We as men tend to build rigid structures in which we do religion. It is important to remember that Jesus taught that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. When we add to the faith our own rules and expectations, then we run the risk of creating a yoke of slavery for the people. That is not at all what God had intended. Our faith was created for us, and not us for the faith. It is completely acceptable to have certain preferences, but we must remember that those are our preferences, and do not carry the weight of the will of God. We may have very good human traditions, but they can never become a burden to believers.
We as the Church do not follow the Sabbath quite like the Jews of Jesus day. First, the Sabbath was moved to the first day of the week to honor the resurrection. Second, we do not always take the day to rest and recharge. We should be more deliberate at that. It should not be a rigid structure like Jesus day, but we truly need to take that time to recharge and focus on our Creator. We need that time from a physical stand point, but we also need the spiritual recharge as well. We may very well need the spiritual recharge more than the physical recharge. We should take the time to focus on our Creator and realign our will with that of God. The more we focus on God, then the better we will be able to serve him and our fellow-man the rest of the week.