Year B, The Ninth Sunday Ordinary Time

JESUS: The LORD of the Sabbath!

March 5, 2000


Ronald D. Curley

TEXT: The Holy Gospel According to Saint Mark 2:23-3:6

Legalism seems to be a "disease" that is prevalent amongst the religious people of the world. Some folks tend to make everyone else's business their own business. They (the Pharisees) also made it their practice, as we see from St. Mark's narrative to make rash judgments about the actions of people based on their particular religious views. The Pharisees were known as a very legalistic sect of the Jewish people. The Pharisees seemed to have more laws than the hairs of the beards on their faces.

This is seen through the eyes of Mark's Gospel. St. Mark is speaking to Romans in a simple format that detail out the important things for his readers.

I find it interesting that St. Mark, the nephew of St. Barnabas (the "son of consolation" who later was the character reference for St. Paul and became his partner in ministry) deals with this event so pointedly. We have much we may learn from this passage in the striking revelation that Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath.

We begin at:

Mark 2:23 -- One Sabbath he was going through the grain fields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain.

24 And the Pharisees said to him, "Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?"

There the Pharisee goes, minding the business of everyone but himself...

Jesus has the answer. Jesus speaks of one of his own kinsmen, and St. Mark is quick to pick up on this issue.

Jesus immediately relates the present events of picking some corn on the Sabbath to King David, his direct kinsman.

25 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:

26 how he entered the house of God, when Abiathar was 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?"

This should strike to the very heart of what we Catholics are all about. Jesus uses the very "Bread of the Presence" to serve as an example of how Jesus himself is the Lord. He uses his ancestor according to the Humanity of Jesus through Mary's line, as well as the Legal line of Joseph, to declare that what he, King Jesus, is doing is the same as what King David did when Abiathar was the High Priest.

Then, our Lord gives this striking statement that rings in our ears and stands by itself with all the authority through Jesus.

27 And he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath;

28 so the Son of man is lord even of the Sabbath."

Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath. That makes Jesus equal to the God the Pharisees knew as Yahweh of the Old Testament. He speaks of himself as the "Son of man." There could be no mistake as to what Jesus meant by such a statement. The Torah made the Sabbath (the seventh day) for the people of Israel as a day of rest from labor, because of the slavery in Egypt they had encountered after a Pharaoh that knew not Joseph arose and made them slaves. Then, Moses came to deliver the people from slavery and gave them a law, the Law of the Sabbath day rest.

Gods made that day for them to partake of the fruit of their labor. So, it is with us today. The Church celebrates our day of rest and deliverance on Sunday, because that is when Jesus rose from the dead. We have been freed from the law of sin and death and God invites us to rest in the Promised Land!

The Lord feeds us on the way with the grain as we enter into the rest of God through the Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus. Glory to God in the highest and peace to his people on earth...!

But, the story continues, and it was still the Sabbath!

3:1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand.

They still minded his business, because they were not aware of the freedom he desired to make for them as well.

I often sense that many of the diseases that speak of disability in the New Testament and Old, as figures of the great disabilities that are ours spiritually when we forget that Jesus comes to heal the spiritually diseased... and the Pharisees cannot see their own disease and disability in all of these signs and wonders, thus, they "watch him." They try to "catch" Jesus in the Law... always the legalistic way... pick, pick, pick!

2 And they watched him, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man who had the withered hand, "Come here."

Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath is way ahead of the Pharisees.

4 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.

Actually, they should have said - Yes, it is lawful to do well. But, they were silenced by their own terrible motivations.

5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, "Stretch out your hand."

Notice that Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath, was angry, and grieved at the "hardness of heart." Jesus is grieved at the hardness of heart we have as well, beloved.

I truly believe that God looks at the motivations of the heart very closely at the time of judgment... God is a discerner of the thoughts and motives of the heart. I will say no more. So,

"He stretched it out, and his hand was restored."

God healed the man.

It was the Sabbath.

Now, the Pharisees want to KILL Jesus for doing this on their day, as they interpreted it. Forget what God was doing!


6 The Pharisees went out, and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

Let us learn a lesson here.

Let us venture out with Mary the Mother of our Lord to the place God has prepared for her in the desert to find that rest we seek in Jesus through laboring for the poor and those in great spiritual need. Let us heal the spiritually diseased and the disabled with Mercy's Love.

Let us have that one who is sick extend his hand and arm to be healed as we enjoy the fruits of Christ's labor. Let us pluck the abundant grain in the field as we are nourished on what God has prepared at a Table for us in the presence of our enemies.

Mary leads us to Jesus, as Mark has listened well...

Deus et Sanctissima.