One Sabbath He was going through the grain fields, and as they made their way, His disciples began to pluck heads of grain. And the Pharisees were saying to Him, "Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?" (Mark 2:23-24)
Read Mark 2:23-28
"I feel like I'm being nibbled to death by ducks." Have you ever heard anybody say that? It's a good description of what it's like to live with the picky expectations of others. Jesus and His disciples faced this problem when they were out walking and the Pharisees found them eating handfuls of grain.
They were hungry. Why not eat a little? Jewish law explicitly allowed this sort of thing as long as you weren't actually taking away your neighbor's grain in containers. But the Pharisees weren't going to have this behavior, oh no. They said it was "harvesting," and therefore forbidden work on the Sabbath day.
It would have been easy for Jesus to argue with them. Since when is picking a handful of something "harvesting"? But Jesus skips the question about "how much is too much" and goes straight to the heart of the matter -- was the Sabbath law intended to be a burden to people, or a blessing? He reminds them of King David who broke a far more serious law to feed his men. And He winds up with "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27b-28).
There is the heart of it. Jesus is the Son of God. That makes Him an expert in His own laws. But He is also the Son of Man, the one perfect human being who is about to redeem the rest of humanity. He Himself is carrying the whole burden of God's Law on His own shoulders -- living it perfectly -- preparing Himself for the day when He will trade places with us, taking our guilt and lawbreaking upon Himself, and giving us His own perfect goodness. That will happen at the cross.
And the result of His loving self-sacrifice? It will be a whole harvest of humanity gathered like good grain into God's barn (see Matthew 3:12). And it's not because we obeyed a huge set of laws, but because we trust in Jesus who has taken our place under the Law -- and given us freedom and everlasting life.
THE PRAYER: Dear Father, You have blessed me with so many things I need. Thank You most of all for Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
When have you had to deal with petty complaints?
Why did God give us His Ten Commandments and the rest of the Law? What function do they have for Christians today?
Why is it important for you that Jesus has taken your place under the Law and set you free?
Author Dr. Kari Vo serves as theological writer for Lutheran Hour Ministries. She holds a doctorate in English (Renaissance period) from St. Louis University and has worked in writing and publishing for 30 years. She has published several books and written dozens of articles. Originally from California, she and her family are missionaries to the Vietnamese immigrants in the St. Louis area.
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