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Reading Mark 9 – Lord of the Sabbath

9 April 2020 | by Emyr James | Mark 2

9 – Lord of the Sabbath

Mark 2:23-3:6

One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

Difficult words

  • Heads of grain: The part of the corn you can eat
  • High priest: The chief priest who sacrificed to God in the temple
  • The bread of the Presence: Consecrated bread, kept pure to be used in worship
  • Herodians: Supporters of king Herod

Question 1

What sort of things do you count as work?

Question 2

Why do you think that the Pharisees were angry with Jesus?

  We had started to see in Mark 2:18-22 that the life of Jesus began a new period in the history of mankind, and the effect that had on fasting. Now we come to another important subject, namely the Sabbath. The Israelites were supposed to rest on this special day in order to show that they were free from captivity in Egypt, depending on God to provide for them. They were supposed to enjoy spending a day thinking about him. But the Pharisees had lost sight of the fact that the Sabbath was given by God and had created a long list of things which were counted as work and, therefore, were not to be done on the Sabbath. When Jesus’ disciples take ears of corn to eat, the Pharisees say that this counts as harvesting and, therefore, they are doing work on the Sabbath!

  Jesus responds by showing to them that there is freedom to do things that are necessary on the Sabbath. He reminds them of the time that King David and his men ate bread they would not normally have eaten because they were in need.

  Then Jesus reminds them that the Sabbath is given by God for the benefit of people. Therefore, someone definitely has the freedom to feed themselves if they need to. It is Jesus himself who has created the Sabbath day, and therefore he has authority over it, to say what is right and what is not right to do on that day. Since Jesus always wants the best for us it is right to do that which is good for us on the Sabbath.

  Following this, Jesus seeks to show them that it is right to do good deeds on the Sabbath. His opposers would have preferred him to leave the man as he was, but Jesus says no! The whole point of the Sabbath is to give us freedom from the burdens of the world, to show that we are free from slavery. Therefore, he frees the man and gives new life to him. With a withered hand the man couldn’t work on any day at all, but now he can. King Jesus loves to do good.

Question 3

What should our attitude be towards the Sabbath?

Question 4

If, as Jesus says, the Sabbath is a foretaste of heaven, what things do you think will be true about heaven?


for freedom to enjoy the Sabbath without working, and by doing good to people.