Monday 03 October 2016

Bible Book:

“When the Pharisees saw it, they said to him ‘Look your disciples are doing what it is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.’” (v. 2)

Matthew 12:1-8 Monday 3 October 2016

Psalm: Psalm 19


No-one can deny that Jesus was not controversial in hisrelationships with the Pharisees. In today's passage he comes headto head with them over how the people ought to behave on thesabbath.

The Pharisees laid down very strict rules about what was and wasnot allowed by the faithful people between sunset on Friday andsunset on Saturday. It was not only the activity listed in thispassage, walking through the grain field and actually eating whatwas found there, but the undertaking of any work at all was quitestrictly forbidden. Jesus seeing the sabbath not as a day ofrestriction but as a day of goodwill and rejoicing had, accordingto those rules, comparative freedom regarding the rules laid downby the Jewish authorities.

In contrast to the way in which the Gospels of Mark and Lukedealt with this incident, Matthew's Gospel (which was focusedparticularly on the Jewish community) faces it head on. There is noapology for what the complainants had regarded as sinful behaviour,but Jesus points them straight to the law itself. There it wasagreed that the necessities of the temple service made it necessaryfor the priests to break a sabbath regulation -  for example,they had to reap a sheaf for the ritual on the second day ofPassover, even if this happened to be a sabbath. Jesus is inferringhere that such reaping is not just for the benefit of templerituals but can also be to feed those who are hungry. He finisheswhat he says with words which must have shocked his hearers,especially the temple authorities: "for the Son of Man is Lord ofthe sabbath" (v. 8).

Clearly over the centuries the restrictions of the law havetaken over from the words in Genesis that on the seventh day Godrested, blessed it and hallowed it as God had completed the workdone in creation (Genesis 2:1-3). Although the restrictionswithin the Church over the ages were never quite as restrictive asthose imposed by the Pharisees, even in our own lifetime there willbe memories of no shops or sports venues open on Sundays, childrenforbidden to play in the street, family walks the main form ofoutdoor activity. I suspect there were even people frowned upon forhanging nappies on the washing line on Sundays, even thought itmight have been necessary for the comfort of the baby. When Jesussays "the sabbath was made for humankind" (Mark2:27), he is indicating that the sabbath is to be a blessingfor people not a restriction, hence Jesus' challenge to thePharisees in the words we read from Matthew today.

To Ponder

  • Sabbath restrictions have in recent years in this country beenalmost totally been forgotten. Has the secular take-over of Sundaysgone too far? Where do you think the balance should be?
  • How can the Church draw the people back to understanding Sundayas a day set aside for relaxation and for prayer?
Previous Page Sunday 02 October 2016
Next Page Tuesday 04 October 2016