General Idea: The religious leaders were looking for another opportunity to put Jesus on the spot to try to prove He was a fake. So, Jesus gave them their chance and turned their condescending remarks into a testimony of His deity. He pointed out their assumptions and doctrinal errors and showed them the Truth. These religious leaders took the rest that God gave them in the Sabbath, and turned it into more work and burdens for the people. When they sought God's rest, the leaders forced them to endure more hardships, and burdened them with legalism. A problem then, it still goes on today. What a tragedy it is for those to take your earned and deserved day off, and turn it into more chores for you while placing a bag on their heads so they cannot see the Lord. Traditions and assumptions became the focus of devotion and worship, not the Eternal God who gives hope and rest. Do not allow legalism and faulty thinking take your eyes off the rest that Jesus gives; He is the Rest, He is our Temple, He is the Lord, and He is our Comfort!
1. Sabbath is a symbol of God's sovereignty and Lordship (Ex. 20:8). It is also a reminder of the redemption to come for the people under the Law, the redemption that we now have in the work of Christ (Duet. 5:12).
a. The Law had strict guidelines pertaining to the Sabbath--how it was to be observed, and not violated. These laws were to lead the people to understand and know God as well as to keep the peace and not allow people to corrupt or ignore it. Unfortunately, the religious leaders corrupted it by adding so many countless, additional ordinances that the people were too tied down to the extra laws to ever look up and embrace God's Lordship. These extra laws became restrictions and, ironically, violated God's law and intent.
b. The Pharisees did not say Jesus was stealing, but He was "working" on the Sabbath, violating one of their extra 39 ordinances for the Sabbath (Talmud). To them, any labor--even preparing a meal--was a violation. However, Jesus was using the Sabbath correctly as it provided opportunities for the poor and needy to glean food from the fields. (Duet. 23:35; Ruth 2:2-3). Jesus and His disciples were not farmers and, therefore, such restrictions did not apply to them. Nevertheless, the Pharisees had other ideas and inclinations.
c. Not all Pharisees were bad; many were pious and used their sect to motivate people to a deeper understanding and application of their faith. The Sabbath was considered so sacred that the Pentateuch forbad any deviance from its practice. Thus, seeing Jesus gleaning would have caused quite a concern. They saw Him as dishonoring the faith and Law. However, Jesus was not dishonoring, but fulfilling it!
2. But He said. This passage is also a summation on logic and reasoning. Jesus presents the case (vs. 1-2), and then gives examples and points of view (vs. 3-4). He then gives an analogy (vs. 5), then a comparison (vs. 6), then a reference (vs. 7), and finally, an ultimate outcome of fact (vs. 8).
a. Those who rejected the Sabbath typically did as they saw fit. They were considered to be rebelling against God, and they probably were. Thus, they considered Jesus such a person. They jumped to conclusions, and did not look to the facts of Scripture or to what Jesus was really doing!
b. Each of the main Jewish sects, Pharisees, Sadducees, and such, had differing views on how to observe the Sabbath. They were not able to legally enforce their group's policies, only model them and influence the Synagogues in their control.
c. Jesus' argument, although sound and righteous, would have been appealing to the rabbi or follower. However, it may not have swayed a pretentious leader steeped in his pride and traditions. This is the same reason the Gospel influences so few today. Jesus' message is blocked by the inclinations of people and their refusal to surrender to His Lordship. Jesus' message will only persuade those who are impacted by the Spirit, so that His Will replaces theirs.
d. The freedom of the Christian life, also called "liberty," is achieved by our surrender to His yoke, as it gives us:
i. Freedom from law. (Rom. 3:19; 6:14; -15; Gal. 3:23-25).
ii. Forgiveness, acceptance, and access to His presence (Rom. 5:1-2).
iii. We do not have to base our acceptance on our performance (Rom. 7: 7-11; 10:3).
iv. We have been freed from sin, and declared cleaned (John 8:34-36; Rom 3:19; 6: 3-23; 1 Cor.15: 16; Gal. 3:10-20; 4:21-31).
v. We have been set free from our own faulty thinking and superstitions. (1 Cor. 6:12-13; 8:7-13; 1 Tim. 4:1-5).
vi. Because of these five reasons, we respond with obedience--not out of obligation (as a slave does), but from gratitude and love. Genuine obedience comes only because of a changed heart and Will. We can mimic it, like a dog can walk on two legs, but it cannot do it very well or very long! What are you surrendered to?
3. Have you not read? Jesus goes on the offensive with higher principles for His argument. It was customary for rabbis to question and argue with each other. To present an argument, you had to show proof and reference from more than one source, which Jesus did, and also to live by that example (Mark 2:25-26). Jesus covers all of the main bases for His argument--including referencing the Law, which they said He violated--leaving no doubt.
a. This passage is also a call to us to be prepared to give an answer. It is one thing to have faith and trust, but we also need to show others, in a logical, clear, and concise way, what we believe (1 Pet. 3:15-16).
b. The priests were the ones who had to work on the Sabbath (Num. 28:10). Thus, Jesus' "how much more" means if it was good for the priests, how much more for the One who is greater then the Temple? This is pulling an ace to the argument.
c. The temple was the central symbol and institution of the Jewish faith.
d. To say a person was greater was to say Jesus is greater than the Jewish faith. This was preposterous to a pious Jew, or perhaps a wakeup call that the Messiah was in their midst.
e. Jesus' assuring them that He was Lord over the Sabbath was a very strong pronouncement that He was indeed God.
Because Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath, He frees us from the bondage of legalism and false doctrines into the freedom of hope and rest (Col. 2:16-17). Jesus also frees us from the bondage that misguided, evil people place on others for personal gain. But, we must remove our attention and Will from such wrong paths, and place our focus upon Him. We must not see our traditions as a yoke to keep our eyes off His wonders and call. In a healthy church, we are to honor the past, but we are not to live in the past. We are to live in the present with our call and gifts, and take hold of His opportunities, serving and trusting in our Lord. We are to be in His freedom and rest, as He is the God of love and delight, not the God who burdens needlessly. And, we are to embrace the future and the wonders still to come (Heb. 4:9). Legalism is a yoke that will distract us from His wonders and call. We will not see Christ; we will only see the yoke and its stranglehold upon us. Lest we put it on others to distract them, we must take it off and embrace our real Lord. As the last passage in Matthew 11:29 tells us, we need to take off our old, heavy burden, and place ourselves in His strength. Allow Christ to be your strength--not your thoughts, ideas, aspirations, or Will--as they will lead you astray. He will lead you to rest (Psalm. 55:22; Neh. 8:10; Isa. 40:29)!
1. How did you spend the day on Sunday as you were growing up?
2. Why do you suppose that the religious leaders were so zealous in looking for opportunities to put Jesus on the spot, trying to prove He was a fake?
3. How would you feel if you were one of those religious leaders, and Jesus tuned your remarks into a statement of His deity?
4. Has anyone ever pointed out your assumptions and doctrinal errors? If so, how did it feel? What did it take to turn you away from your assumptions and to embrace His truth?
5. Why was legalism a problem then, and why is it still one today?
6. Read 1 Corinthians 2:9-12: What is the difference between traditions and legalism? When do they become alike?
7. Read Exodus. 20:8-11: How is the Sabbath is a symbol of God's sovereignty and Lordship?
8. Why would adding countless additional ordinances corrupt God's intent? How do people do this today?
9. How is this passage a good summation on logic and reasoning? What can you learn from this to help you be better at presenting your faith?
10. Do you know people who typically do as they see fit in your church? How do they contribute to the life and growth of the Church?
11. Why would a pretentious leader, steeped in his Will and pride, obviously not be impacted by the Spirit?
12. What does the freedom of the Christian life mean to you?
13. How can questions and discussions (in the character of the Fruits of the Spirit) with one another help you grow more in faith and understanding?
14. Why is it so important to live by the example you preach or claim to have? What happens when we do not?
15. Why is it important to be prepared to give an answer for our faith (1 Pet. 3:15-16)? Why do so few Christians do this?
16. A lot of Christians do not have an understanding of doctrine in a logical, clear and concise way; rather they feel, or base their beliefs on a certain teacher or how they were brought up. Why do Christians do this, instead of seeking God's Word in its context? How does this contribute to legalism and judgmental attitudes? How does this thinking distract them from really knowing and experiencing Christ?
17. Read Colossians 2:16-17: How does Jesus free us from the bondage of legalism and false doctrines into hope and rest?
18. What are some of your favorite traditions from your church? How do they distract you? How do they help you?
19. What do you need to do to remove your attention and Will from wrong paths and place your focus upon Him? What are the wrong paths? Why are they bad for you? Why would Christ's path be better? What would Christ's path mean to you?
20. If Legalism is a yoke that is distracting the people in your church from Jesus' wonders and call, what can be done to turn it around and embrace the wonders still to come (Heb. 4:9)?
© 2003, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org