Reading through the Bible together
In this chapter, Jesus is teaching and ministering to the people at the synagogue and specifically to the Pharisees. The Pharisees are not open to His teachings and in turn, are testing Him. Jesus says, that it is, “lawful to do well on the Sabbath day.” He is speaking to the Pharisees with language they understood. The Jews had been given the Ten Commandments and the books of Moses. There also were “traditions” that accompanied these laws, and the people were taught that it was detrimental to a person’s faith not to follow these traditions. In the eyes of the Pharisees, Jesus was openly breaking the Sabbath. He was “doing work” on a day of rest.
Jesus and the disciples had been ministering to people and were hungry. They went into a field and plucked heads of grain and ate. Jesus healed a man with a deformed hand and cast a demon out of a man. All of these actions were deemed as unfit for the Sabbath by the Pharisees. They were blind with anger about Jesus, and so focused on the rigidity of their rules that they missed the beautiful message of love and the importance of the miracles of Jesus, and the power of the Messiah.
Why didn’t Jesus speak to the disciples while they were in the field and say, “Now, if you had really planned for this day you would have brought food along. You should have packed some bread on Friday to bring with you.” Jesus didn’t say that to the disciples. He let them pick the corn and so did He. The focus is not on the “labor/work,” but on the mission and the intention. When the Pharisees criticized Jesus about casting out the demon and accused Him of working for Satan, Jesus said, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every house divided against itself shall not stand: And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall his kingdom stand?”
This is a clear warning to the Pharisees. If they were divided and refused to accept Jesus as the Messiah they would not last. Do we stay united? Is it by throwing out our principles and washing our hands of our convictions? No, it is by allowing the Spirit of God to work through us. We must build a one-on-one relationship with God and allow the Spirit to move. It’s not so much about how many people we can bring into the baptismal waters. It’s about the heart of each person and their relationship with Jesus. Tradition can sometimes get in the way. According to Jesus, we should “Love the Lord with all our heart and to love our neighbor as ourselves.”
Joey Norwood Tolbert
M.A. in Religious Studies