IS THE LORD RULER OF THE RULES? OR DO THE RULES RULE THE RULER?
At about that time Jesus was walking through some grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, so they began breaking off some heads of grain and eating them. But some Pharisees saw them do it and protested, “Look, your disciples are breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath.”
Jesus said to them, “Haven’t you read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He went into the house of God, and he and his companions broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests are allowed to eat. And haven’t you read in the law of Moses that the priests on duty in the Temple may work on the Sabbath? I tell you, there is one here who is even greater than the Temple! But you would not have condemned my innocent disciples if you knew the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!”
Then Jesus went over to their synagogue, where he noticed a man with a deformed hand. The Pharisees asked Jesus, “Does the law permit a person to work by healing on the Sabbath?” (They were hoping he would say yes, so they could bring charges against him.)
And he answered, “If you had a sheep that fell into a well on the Sabbath, wouldn’t you work to pull it out? Of course you would. And how much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Yes, the law permits a person to do good on the Sabbath.”
Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored, just like the other one! Then the Pharisees called a meeting to plot how to kill Jesus.
It is the Sabbath. The holy day. The sacred hours, from sun-down Friday to sun-down Saturday, during which the LAW was supreme boss. That LAW originated from the 10 commandments given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai. Of course, by the time Jesus is walking through this grain field that very complete list of demands had been interpreted and analyzed, expounded and expanded by the religious scholars and included volumes and volumes of rules and applications. Because the common man on the street could get no where close to knowing or even reading all those rules there was always, it seems, the ever present religious police, the Pharisees, Saducees and scribes. These guys were on Jesus and His disciples constantly, looking for any little infraction. He was making it all too simple and available to every one. So they were gathering evidence against Him to protect their jobs as the keepers of the rules, which gave them an impressive and long-held power over the nation.
Jesus’ disciples were crushing the grain in their hands and eating it. The police turned their siren on, pulled ’em over and wrote ’em up on a technical for “harvesting” and “threshing” on the Sabbath. Jesus’ answer was not meant to refute the law of the Sabbath but to show that the law was meant for the benefit of man and the Boss of the rules and the Kingdom was present. His reference back to David’s use of the sacred show-bread to feed his men illustrated that God cares more about man being fed when he’s hungry than He cares about the rules being followed. In fact the point of the Sabbath was that man would rest and be fed and regenerated.
So it was with the incident in the synagogue. They were watching to catch Jesus on a technical because they new He would see the man with the withered hand. From Jesus’ point of view, of course they should expect Him to heal the man, especially on the Sabbath. His illustration was perfect for them. They had flocks. After all they were the richest men in the community. They obviously would not just allow one of their flock to stay lost or in a pit through a whole day. It would die.
So Jesus says in no uncertain terms – The rules of God are meant for the welfare of man, not to bind or constrain. Paul said, “So does that mean we are to take that as license to satisfy our every whim? Of course not!” Inherent in the rules is the ultimate need to come to God. Where else can one find welfare and benefit in its fullest form?
Another way of looking at this issue is to recognize that God perceives rules much differently than we do. We see rules as a line. On one side there is favor. On the other is discipline. A person is either on one side of the line or the other. The people on one side use the rules to “rule” over the people on the other side. Like the guards in a prison use the rules on the inmates. The police enforce rules on drivers. The corporate management rule the employees by the rules they set. With all these life examples it is hard to see rules like God sees them.
He sees the real rules as empowering and stabilizing installations for the benefit of man and the community of man and communion with man. From our perception of rules, one of three things are always happening. Either we are blatantly violating the rules, bending them by situationally hedging them or we are keeping them [which usually means we feel qualified to enforced them]. So our view of God is “enforcer.” But He has communicated guidelines so that we would ultimately be empowered to live the life of Christ.
The “Law” was given to show us that without knowing God and allowing Him to supernaturally install His nature in us, it is impossible to meet the requirements. That discovery drives our ship onto the reef of His grace where we find that all He ever wanted was to have us close to Him, residing with Him, depending on Him, getting to know Him better every day.
Once we are restored to the right relationship with Him, the rules have little value for we have reached the end to which they were the means. We no longer go to church because we are supposed to. We go because we want to fellowship with the Family around the Head of the Family. We no longer read the Bible just because we are supposed to. We read because we want to learn more about Him. Now it is His love that compels and constrains, not His rules.
Jesus says, “If you had only understood what God meant when He said, ‘I require mercy, rather than sacrifice.’ you would not be condemning the innocent. For I am the RULER over the Sabbath.”