One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. Some of the Pharisees asked, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
Jesus answered them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Get up and stand in front of everyone.” So he got up and stood there.
Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?”
He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was completely restored. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.
One of the things that I love most about my son, Ethan, is that he has the ability to know when something matters and when it doesn’t. I tend to go from 0 to 100 in about 3 seconds. More times than not Ethan replies with, “It’s not that deep pop.”
Then there are the times that it is “that deep.” That’s when I get to see the beautiful power of a kid who has the best of his mom and his dad.
In the first story it’s like Jesus, looking at the Pharisees says, “It’s not that deep boys.” In the second, it’s “that deep.”
Side note: Does anyone else kind of think the Pharisees come off a little creepy here? They’re out there following around Jesus and his crew in the middle of nowhere. The image that pops up in my mind is the Monty Python sketch of the Spanish Inquisition.
The fellas are hungry on the Sabbath so they eat. The Pharisees get a little bent and Jesus calls to mind their hero, King David, doing something way worse and very much sacrilegious. That kind of shuts the conversation down and puts the Pharisees in their place a bit.
Then another time Jesus heals this guy on the Sabbath in the Synagogue (remember he’s an insider and had access to places of cultural and societal power). That time he definitely says, “It is ‘that deep.’”
“I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?”
This is the deeper question.
The Pharisees had a simple and clear way of looking at situations like these, “How do we honor God?” They knew that God wanted the Sabbath to be honored. So they created all sorts of rules and regulations to make sure that the people honored the Sabbath and therefore honored God.
Their desire was to honor God. This is a good thing.
The thing that they bump into is that Jesus was going deeper. He was pressing into the Sabbath and what it was really for. You see, the Sabbath was instituted because God knew that people needed rest. In the Genesis 1 Creation Poem, we see God resting on the seventh day. Human beings were to follow his lead and rest as well.
What is rest? How do we enter into the rest of God? This is the real question.
The question that Jesus wants the people to answer is the deeper question.
He is pushing their understanding of what it means to rest beyond the idea of “not working.” That’s not necessarily rest.
Real rest, the God rest, is found in doing good and saving lives.
Rest is loving your neighbor as yourself.
Rest is loving your enemy.
Rest is healing something that is sick.
Rest is doing something good.
Rest is being present with people you love.
Rest is loving well.
God rest is not just not doing something for a day. It is deeper than that.