- 1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20) or Deuteronomy 5:12-15
- Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 or Psalm 81:1-10
- 2 Corinthians 4:5-12
- Mark 2:23-3:6
All power over life and death belongs to God, and we can never control it. This challenges us to confront the conventions of the world. Despite any difficulty, God allows our witness to persevere for Jesus’ sake. Although the Ten Commandments were given to the people generations earlier, there is always a need for clarification and further understanding of what God requires of us.
Today’s Gospel is an example of that. Among the Pharisees, the Sabbath, with its blessings of rest, worship, and quiet, had turned into a rigid routine full of regulations and restrictions. As Jesus and his disciples travel over the fields on the Sabbath, the disciples began to make a path, itself strictly forbidden as “work.” Hungry, they plucked a few ears of grain and rubbed them between their hands to get out the kernels of grain. While they only took a tiny amount, their “reaping and threshing” motion was considered work. Hence the Pharisees outrage – they were working on the Sabbath.
But Jesus reminds them that some actions are justified. Hunger. Like David and his men who ate the consecrated bread (1 Samuel 21:1-6), they may break the rigid interpretation of the law, but still remain free to keep the spirit of the Sabbath. Sometimes higher demands supersede very good and normal patterns. Jesus does this all the time – heals on the Sabbath, overturns tables in the Temple, eats with the unclean.
The sense of covenant that incorporates demands for faithfulness with the promise of abundant life lies at the heart of Christian life; at the same time, the church lives by grace and not by law. As Jesus pointed out, the Sabbath exists for humankind, and not humanity for the Sabbath. Perhaps the question for us is: Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath – to save life or to kill?
As we are challenged to face the systemic issues of racism, poverty, hunger, and more – how do today’s readings inform our actions?
- How has God called you in your own spiritual life? How did you recognize this call, and what has subsequently confirmed its authenticity for you?
- How does Jesus define the Sabbath in today’s Gospel passage? What does this tell us about the mission and authority of Jesus?
- Reflect upon the importance of Sabbath time in your own experience, in its physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects. What do you need to do to create true Sabbath time in your life?
- Is physical need a higher priority to be met that the maintenance of good worship ritual? Why or why not? (See Matthew 4:1-11)
- What did the Pharisees love more than the compassion of God? Why? How does (or doesn’t) this apply to us today?