On my flight home from Israel, we landed at JFK and upon arriving at our gate were immediately told to remain in our seats. As NYC police boarded the plane, they barked out orders to “SIT DOWN!” Some, after an 11 hour flight, didn’t follow the flight attendant’s initial instructions. Now, the policeman had everyone’s attention.
Moments later, we were deboarding. What was that all about? I had to ask.
It seems a young man thought he could get away with smoking in the lavatory during the flight. Busted! The Pilot called ahead and the police were waiting at the gate. A few moments later, I saw the young man brought out from the immigration officer’s area in handcuffs. Ouch!
Busted! At least that’s what the Pharisees thought too. In John 5, Matthew 12, Mark 2 and Luke 6 we read successive accounts where Jesus apparently breaks Jewish law. He violates the Sabbath.
Still today, religious Jews are very particular about the Sabbath, or as they call it, Shabbat. In Jerusalem last week, everything in the Jewish Quarter was closed. Every shop owned by a Jew was closed by sundown Friday and couldn’t reopen until after sundown on Saturday. No work is done. Prayers are said. Meals are prepared and served with strict care.
Jesus was accused of violating the Sabbath because he healed people on that day. (Makes me wonder, if a Jew is sick today, would they go to the doctor on the Sabbath? Would a Jewish Doctor be “on call” for his patients on the Sabbath?)
Jesus healed a lame man, and in doing so, instructed the lame man to break the Sabbath also. “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” To carry something on the Sabbath would constitute work.
Jesus and his disciple, while walking through a grain field on the Sabbath, were hungry and picked some grain kernels to eat. Picking the grain would constitute work, again violating the Sabbath.
Then he also healed a man’s shriveled hand on the Sabbath. Work. Work. Work. Busted!
But Jesus used this as a profound opportunity to boldly declare his divinity. “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore, the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.” Wow! Talk about nerve. Jesus was basically saying their Sabbath laws didn’t apply to Him because He made it all, including the Sabbath. The key here is “their Sabbath laws,” not God’s command to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy.
The Pharisees weren’t focused on the intent of God’s Law- the heart- but rather on the appearance of the Law. This was reflected in their vast interpretations and opinions on what was required to keep the Sabbath (read this article for a better understanding of the complexity of the Shanbat meal today: http://m.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/95914/jewish/Food-Preparation-on-Shabbat.htm).
I have no doubt that Jesus honored the Sabbath and kept it holy, that he never broke God’s law, and that he walked in perfect obedience to his Father. At times, honoring the Father will look a lot like “breaking the rules,” even to some of the “good Christian folks” around us.
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