Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.
These two verses seem in conflict with each other. In Numbers, God orders the stoning of a man for gathering wood on the Sabbath. In Mark, Jesus tells us that God created a day of rest for US, and not the other way around (creating us to fulfill the laws of the Sabbath). If God created a day of rest for us – a gift to help us recharge and be our best on our productive days – then why would he stone a man for working on the Sabbath? Was this just part of keeping the Israelites holy, ensuring they stayed in line?
In my version, God would have explained his reasons for the Sabbath, guiding through gentle love rather than wrathful vengeance. But in all the stories we’ve read about the Israelites, they were a hardheaded bunch who complained and rebelled even as they were being rescued and provided for. A gentle explanation may have fallen on deaf ears, and could have also created perceived leniency – leading to a slippery slope of backsliding on any of God’s laws.
My takeaways from these passages: I don’t have to understand everything God does. There are some things I just don’t agree with, but I also can’t see the big picture. God has reasons for everything because he can see all, knows all, and is working toward the greater good. This life is fleeting, but God’s kingdom is forever. The life taken from the man who was stoned was just a blip on the forever life we will all receive when God welcomes all of us back home.
Finally, thank the Lord for Jesus, who took on our sins and imperfections, and tore the veil that separated us from God. No longer are we subject to strict rituals and terrible wrath for our sins. Instead we are offered grace and forgiveness, and allowed to experience the fullness of God’s love.
I just read something today that puts some perspective to Jesus’ teaching in Mark. When Jesus says the Sabbath was made for man, he’s pointing out how the Jews have made the Sabbath their lord instead of accepting it as a gift of rest. We are meant to have margins in our life to recharge. This rest also allows us to hear what God has to tell us. But it doesn’t have to be done on a certain day at a certain time. Jesus is doing away with the legalism that’s been placed around the Sabbath. He’s telling us it’s not something we HAVE to do, it’s something we GET to do.
At the time when Jesus said this, the Jews had very strict rules about the Sabbath, and would punish people for working on this day. And it’s no wonder, because back in Moses’ day, people were being put to death for working on the Sabbath. But Jesus changes the order of things, changing people’s minds about each rule they’ve been following. He’s telling the Jews to not look at the Sabbath as another thing on their to-do list, but to look at the Sabbath as a true day of rest, a chance to unwind and enjoy the fruits of our labors.
The Sabbath is a gift.