Friday, September 14, 2018

Devotional: “Lord of the Sabbath,” Mark 2.23-3.12

Mark 2.23-3.12 Outline

In Mark 2.23-3.7 Jesus makes an amazing claim, “So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” (ESV, Mark 2:28) This means more than just that he  is the authoritative interpreter of what the Sabbath in the Old Testament means. It is a claim to be the God who ordained the Sabbath. First, he uses the term “Lord” (kurios). This is the term used for the divine name, YHWH,. in the Greek translation of the OT, which was the Bible of the early church. Secondly, the Sabbath was more than just a day of rest and relaxation. It was designed by God to celebrate him as Creator and Sustainer of the universe. To call Jesus the “LORD of the Sabbath” is to call him the “LORD of creation.” This is a big claim and the word “so” in Jesus’ claim invites the reader to see how Jesus demonstrates this by his actions in this passage.

First (2.23-28) he shows himself to be the “Lord of the Sabbath” by wisely interpreting the Sabbath law and taking authority to interpret it. If the law came directly from God (and it did, see Exodus 20) only God has the authority to amend and interpret it in new ways. Jesus here is claiming access to the mind of the Father in explaining the purpose of the law. The Sabbath (and all the law) was meant to be a blessing to human beings and all creation. Because God made a good creation and promised blessing, the Sabbath was to celebrate that by giving all people and animals a “day off” to rest and celebrate God’s good provision. Jesus, the “Lord of the Sabbath,” was calling his people back to that.

The next section (3.1-5) provides the evidence for Jesus’ claim. The Sabbath was a holiday (in the real sense of the word a “Holy Day”) that also looked forward to the day when all creation would be made right; when sin, sickness and death would be removed and the new creation would begin. If Jesus was “Lord of the Sabbath” he should be able to renew creation. This is the meaning behind the healing of the man with a withered hand. That it took place on the Sabbath was most appropriate because this is exactly what the Sabbath looked forward to. Jesus is giving a preview of the coming kingdom and his ability to “save life.”

The rest of the section (3.6-11) invites the reader’s response. Ironically, it is only the demons that really understand what is going on here. They confess to Jesus, “You are the Son of God.” but do not follow him. The Jewish leadership takes counsel to make a plan to murder Jesus. The crowd hails him as a miracle worker and want what he has to offer but don’t understand what he is all about. The crowd were pressing and crushing him instead of following him. Are we willing to move beyond intellectual assent to doctrines about Jesus, to move beyond just wanting a Jesus that meets our needs and desires, to truly following Jesus and his self-sacrificing call? This is the commitment that the rest of Mark challenges the disciples, and us, to make.

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