Friday in the Fourth Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 12:9-14; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11

The Purpose of the Sabbath, Part 2

We have here another place where Jesus gets in trouble over Sabbath observance; indeed, it is presented in the gospels as the pivotal event as all three report that afterwards the Pharisees were determined to kill him.

In this passage, the Pharisees watch to see if Jesus will heal a man with a “withered hand,” that they might “accuse him.”  In Matthew’s gospel, they ask him if it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath day, to set him up; in Mark and Luke, Jesus knows their thoughts already.  In Matthew’s account, Jesus exposes their hypocrisy asking which of them would refrain from pulling their sheep out of a pit on the Sabbath.  Jesus then teaches something we need to hear in our day: people are of more value than sheep or any other animal, as the only creature God made in His image (Genesis 1:26-27).  In Mark and Luke, Jesus asks the question whether it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath day, to take life or destroy it.  Mark adds that Jesus looked at them in anger because of their hardness of heart, and then healed the man.

So what is the problem here?  Some people may be surprised at what I am about to say but the Pharisees were a good thing that went bad (like so many other things in this world).  They arose during the “400 Silent Years” before our Lord’s birth when the Jews spent most of their time in captivity as a conquered nation.  They knew that God had punished them for disobeying His laws, as the prophets told them time and again.  So during those years of reflection, the Pharisees formed as a lay group determined that this should never happen again.  Well, that sounds reasonable.  The trouble came in what I called “fencing the law” the other day.  By this I mean that to make doubly sure no one broke the law and thereby incurred God’s wrath on the nation, the Pharisees (and others) added interpretations to answer questions and situations that might arise.  For instance, the Law says not to work on the Sabbath day.  Alright then, what constitutes work?  How far can I walk?  Can I get my sheep out of a pit?  Can I heal a man?  But there were other places where hypocrisy was obvious as when a man was allowed to give his money to God (the temple) rather than support his aging parents (Mark 7:9-13).  The lesson is that Bible interpretation is serious business.  God does not need us to protect his word; it is perfect as it is.  It is actually quite readable and understandable.  What God wants from us is to understand it as it is written, neither adding to nor taking away from, but to allow it to prune us and build us up after godliness.  Remember, it is not we who read the Bible as much as it is the Bible that reads us.

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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