2019 Lent Day 6: Mark 2:23-3:6

Mark 2:23-3:6

Sabbath and Human Flourishing

We’ve seen previously where Jesus healed on the Sabbath. Today, we find this is the reason the Pharisees seek to kill him. There’s a number of issues at play here, but chief among them are the questions “what is the point of Sabbath” and “who is in charge of Sabbath.” He answers both questions together.

When God created the heavens and the earth, he rested on the sixth day. Yet God did not rest because he was tired. It’s not as though God needed a breather. Rather, the Sabbath was itself an act of creation (as Jesus says). In order to help humanity reflect the image of God to the world and each other, they needed a day set apart to focus on God and not on mere survival. Survival isn’t sufficient for God’s plan. God desires to see humanity flourish.

In keeping with that, Jesus notes what everyone already knows, God doesn’t stop being God once a week. Rather, God is constantly sustaining and holding all of creation together. Thus, if his disciples eat and enjoy the food on the Sabbath, rather than a violation, declares Jesus, because they are in the presence of God incarnate, such an act is made holy. God has begun something new in Christ, as we discussed yesterday, so he is refining what our understanding of Sabbath is. As part of that, Jesus wants to show us who God is and what God loves.

What makes it holy

In ancient Greek philosophy, Plato (or Socrates) poses a question in a dialogue about morality/goodness known as “The Euthyphro”. The question is, “are pious acts holy because the gods love them, or do the gods love pious acts because they are holy.” Jesus asks a parallel question about the Sabbath “Is humanity made for the Sabbath or Sabbath for humanity?” where the answer is less ambiguous. Clearly God made the Sabbath for the sake of humanity. Then, Jesus goes deeper. What actually comprises the Sabbath?

By asking the question, Jesus is actually asking how do we connect best with God in covenant relationship? Is it through formalized and technical skill with respect to rules? Or is it through loving and helping one another? The rules say that the murder is to be executed. The renewed Sabbath reaches for forgiveness. The rules say the response to a cheating spouse is divorce. The renewed Sabbath hopes for reconciliation. The rules say to take care of you and yours first. The renewed Sabbath comes about when we consider the welfare of others ahead of our own. I’m not saying we excuse wrong behavior. Rather, every act, regardless of when or where it is, should be seen as an opportunity to express the love of God and step toward restoration.

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