As we read this portion of Scripture, we quickly see the deadly legalistic system of the Pharisees. We can imagine that the Pharisees would be very zealous in seeing that the Lord would keep all their regulations. On the first Sabbath account in this passage, Jesus and His followers were passing through some grain fields. They were followed by a delegation of Pharisees. We are led to believe that they are hoping for something to happen that they could use against Jesus. We can picture these Pharisees bombarding Jesus with questions, hoping to trap Him. Some Pharisees may have been counting the steps the Lord was taking since they only allowed a limited amount of travel on the Sabbath. It wasn’t long until the Pharisees had the ammunition they needed against the Lord. Maybe oblivious to the rules of the Pharisees, or maybe out of sheer hunger, Jesus’ disciples did the unthinkable: they “harvested” on the Sabbath. The challenge is quickly given, ‘why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?’
Jesus then spoke to them about David, asking them “have you never read?”—a slight chide as they were professional students of that law! But let’s focus on verse five for a few moments and the magnitude of Jesus’ claim: ‘The Son of Man is the Lord of the Sabbath’. In using the term ‘Son of Man’, Jesus is choosing to describe himself in terms of His divine mission. It particularly highlights the humanity and humility of Jesus. He used this name a number of times as He spoke of His coming sufferings and death. In using the term, “Lord of the Sabbath’, Jesus claimed to be the Sabbath’s Lord in the sense that He was the fulfillment of all the Sabbath foreshadowed (Col 2:16-17). Further, Jesus was greater than the Sabbath and therefore was able to set it aside. On a broader scale, Jesus was not only claiming the right to set aside the Sabbath, but to set aside the whole law.
So as we use this time to prepare our hearts and minds to look to the cross and the empty grave, let us remember this Son of Man, who IS the Lord of the Sabbath. This God/man who humbly and willingly took the law upon Him and in doing so offers us the rest and peace that our lives so desperately need.
Lenten Reader 2018
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