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Mark - Who is Christ?
A Bible Study Course on the Gospel of Christ according to MARK
PART 3 - The Conflict Between Jesus and the Jewish Leaders (Mark 2:1 - 3:6)

4. The Argument About the Observance of the Sabbath (Mark 2:23-28)

MARK 2:23-28
23 It happened that he was going on the Sabbath day through the grain fields, and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Behold, why do they do that which is not lawful on the Sabbath day?” 25 He said to them, “Did you never read what David did, when he had need, and was hungry—he, and those who were with him? 26 How he entered into God’s house when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the show bread, which is not lawful to eat except for the priests, and gave also to those who were with him?” 27 He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 Therefore the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

In the old covenant those who did not strictly observe the commandment of the Sabbath deserved death, for the Sabbath was sanctified by the Lord and set apart to himself and his own service and honor. It was imposed on the whole nation to keep from practicing any work on the Sabbath. This was a symbol of the old covenant by which the nation participated in God’s rest.

Christ himself observed and completed the Sabbath in its spiritual significance. He rested on Saturday in the tomb, and rose on Sunday from the dead.

However, the Pharisees made out of the Sabbath a spiritless law devoid of love so that people became prisoners of this day and enslaved to do more than is required by duty or obligation.

Thus, strict Pharisees prevented people from providing themselves with light on the Sabbath, for this was likened to burning fire, which was prohibited on the Sabbath. They did not cook or heat food on the Sabbath, nor did they do any simple work. The fanatic also considered rubbing of the heads of grains an unlawful work on that day.

In his knowledge of the law, and deep wisdom, Jesus showed them that man is not created for keeping the laws, but on the contrary, the law was made to serve and help men. In this manner David entered the holy tabernacle of meeting and ate, together with his companions, the showbread that was consecrated to God and his priesthood, that David and his companions might not die of hunger, for their satisfaction was more essential than observing rites. God did not punish David for this transgression, but confirmed his faith with many blessings.

As such, the Lord Jesus made it clear that men are not saved by the observance of the Sabbath, or any other day, but only by their faith in the kind God. He who thinks to gain paradise through keeping the commandments falls under the curse. He has not yet perceived his polluted soul, or the love of God.

Thus, Christ did not command the children of the new covenant to sanctify certain days or times, but to sanctify themselves directly that their conduct every day might become holy. True Christians live everyday of their lives in the joy of the presence of the Lord, who sanctifies them every hour and even every moment. He makes their stay in the world a feast in spite of many hardships.

Christ has made us free from the old law, but he put in us a new law: the principles of the Holy Spirit, as a guarantee of his everlasting kingdom in which there are no days, or times, but rest, and praise to the Lord.

As Christ called himself Lord of the Sabbath, he proclaimed himself as the divine Lawgiver who has the right and power to interpret the law in new ways. He rather put new regulations in his everlasting power. Christ did not abolish the Sabbath, but perfected it by his love. In the dwelling of his Spirit in believers, he made all the days of the week Sabbaths, and he gave us peace of mind through our free justification.

This Spirit guided the fathers of Christianity not to meet on the Sabbath any longer, for he moved them from the bondage of the law to the freedom of the children of God in the new covenant. They chose the day of Christ’s resurrection as an appointed day for meetings, and for the Lord’s Supper, as a symbol of the new covenant, of the victory over death, and of Christ’s dwelling in them. Now, we do not have to ask: Shall we keep Saturday or Sunday? But: Are you a newborn, free saint? Or are you still a servant of the law and sin?

PRAYER: O Father, we thank you that your Son delivered us from the legalistic law into regeneration and your eternal love, putting the guarantee of his kingdom in our hearts, and giving us heartsease through your grace. Help us not to withdraw to the legalistic spirit which is devoid of love, but to practice the works of your kindness everyday, as you and your Son work and save at all times. Amen.


  1. Why was the disagreement between Jesus and the Jews centered on keeping the Sabbath?


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