Sunday, December 7, 2014
December 6 – Sacrifice, not a burden
Then He told them, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore, the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27 HCSB)
One Saturday, Jesus and His disciples were walking through some grainfields, picking off heads of grain to eat as they went. The religious leaders saw them and complained that they were “working” on the Sabbath. God really had commanded that His people should keep the Sabbath holy – the Sabbath being the seventh day of the week, when God had rested from creating the world. No work was to be done, but rest for the whole family and the livestock as well, so that the day could be dedicated to worshipping God, reflecting on His word, and allowing their bodies and minds to be refreshed.
Centuries after God had given those commandments through Moses, various rabbis began to write their own commentaries on exactly what it meant to observe God’s laws. From among these rabbis, the Pharisee movement arose during the time of exile in Babylon and Persia. The Pharisees demanded that all of Israel return to a strict adherence to the laws of God. Yet it wasn’t just the laws of God they were calling people to follow, it was their own nit-picky interpretations of the law. They decided exactly how many steps a person was allowed to walk on a Sabbath. Exactly how tithes should be given, down to the tiniest herb in their garden. If people disobeyed, they were considered unclean and unholy, and were shamed by the Pharisees. By the time Jesus came into the world, God’s people were overburdened with rules and regulations.
Jesus obeyed His Father in heaven, honored the Sabbath, preached in the synagogues and observed the feasts, but it wasn’t enough for them. Jesus shocked and appalled the Pharisees. He went to the houses of tax collectors and sinners, and spoke with prostitutes. He healed people on the Sabbath and even told them to pick up their mats and walk – a clear breach of Pharisee rules. He let His disciples pick grain to eat on the Sabbath, when everyone knew that harvesting wheat was a sin on such a holy day. But God the Son was there when the Ten Commandments and all the other laws were given. He knew that the spirit and purpose of each law was meant to bless man, not to burden him. The Sabbath law, for example, was to give rest and a time to refocus a man’s life on his Creator. How could picking a grain of wheat while walking side by side with the Creator be a sin?
Jesus warned His disciples against the “yeast of the Pharisees,” which is a warning for us too. Don’t allow yourself to get caught up in religious burdens and nit-picking arguments. Know that the commandments of God are meant to bless you and not to burden you. That doesn’t mean that obeying God’s word is always easy, in fact it’s a sacrifice of our flesh, but it’s not an oppressive burden because it brings joy and freedom. The Pharisees were right in calling God’s people to adhere to His commandments, and we would be wise to do the same. But the devil is crafty in creating his own commandments that he tries to intertwine with God’s. The best way to know what is from God and what is an imitation, is to know God’s word well, and through that, God will reveal Himself within you. Jesus is Lord of all the laws, commandments and principles of God, and He will guide you to find life as you obey them in Spirit and truth.