Mark Sermon # 9 March 4, 2018
Mark 2:23-3:6 [Part One] “Who is this Jesus, Who Turns the Tables on His Enemies?
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
25 He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”
27 Then 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.”
Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. 2 Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. 3 Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.” 4 Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.
5 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. 6 Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.
What’s the point of these two stories? Well, the issue here is the debate of what is unlawful to do (2:24), and what is lawful (3:4) to do, on the Jewish Sabbath. That of course has implication for what a follower of Jesus Christ should do and not do on the Lord’s Day (Sunday) in our age… and I hope to deal with that question, next Sunday, Lord willing.
But there’s another matter in these two stories which is less apparent but vitally important. What is it, you may ask? Well, almost all of you have heard of the question, “What would Jesus do?” There have been WWJD bracelets and books, etc. as people deal with an ethical issue, such as climate change or same-sex marriages, as well as asking “What car would Jesus drive?” People try to resolve such matters by asking, “What would Jesus do?” Well, there are times when we don’t have to wonder what Jesus would do, because passages of Scripture tell us what Jesus did – in this case, regarding the one day in seven day of rest which God built into the foundation of creation. Let’s look at four considerations as to what Jesus does here; four considerations that can apply to any matter we are wrestling with.
Therefore, in trying to determine God’s will on any issue, remember that…
First, Jesus reasons from Scripture. (2:23-27)
Jesus, as He often does, answers a question with a question: “Have you never read…?” He turns the tables on His enemies with a counter-question… and also with a Scripture that fits the situation! [Prov. 25:11 “Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken at the right time.”] Notice that Jesus reasons with this opponents from two sections of Scripture.
First, He reasons with his enemies from 1 Samuel 21 – How when David’s companions were desperate and hungry, fleeing as fugitives from King Saul, David allowed them to break a ceremonial law, and to eat consecrated bread that was supposed to be only for the priests, in order that he and his men might live. Note the three-fold wisdom of Jesus as He reasons from the Scriptures.
(a) Jesus showed them the Biblical evidence for the law of need or the law of life taking precedence over the law of ceremony or ritual.
(b) Jesus is making a strong case by drawing a parallel between what David allowed with his followers, and with Jesus allowed with His disciples. In both cases pious men did something that was normally forbidden. But as God did not rebuke David, neither were Jesus’ disciples in the wrong.
(c) Jesus is implying that He is the greater David; He is both the descendent of King David and also the Lord over David, as we will see explicitly in Mark 12:35-37.
Second, Jesus not only reasons brilliantly from what we might consider a relatively obscure passage, in 1 Samuel 21; He also reasons from God’s universal creation principles, when He says to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (2:27)
Jesus is saying that the Pharisees are far too legalistic in how they interpret the Sabbath laws. They missed the forest for the trees. They are so concerned about law-keeping that they miss the big picture of why the Sabbath was given in the first place (see Gen. 2:1-3.) The Pharisees had taken the prohibition of the fourth commandment (Ex. 20:8-11 and Deut. 5:12-15) and put massive barbed-wire fences around the Sabbath, so that it became a burden to observe, instead of a delight (Isa. 58:13-14.) The Pharisees prohibited 39 different types of activities on the Sabbath, including not kindling a fire or putting it out; writing or erasing anything; tying or untying a knot; and of course baking, grinding grain, or reaping.
But Jesus teaches us that the Sabbath/ Lord’s Day was created and given to us to refresh us and renew us, not to be a burden to us and to weigh us down! For God had created the Sabbath day as a day of rest, renewal, and of rejoicing in all that God has done! What a wonderful gift.
Who is this Jesus, who turns the tables on His enemies?
Application: When we are wondering what Jesus would want us to do about some controversial matter – such as climate change or the death penalty – we need to always reason from the Scripture: the narrow and relevant passages, as well as the broad foundational principles
By the way, the broad principles of creation in Genesis 1-2 will help us understand the differences which God has woven into the fabric of creation, such as separating light from darkness, male from female, Creator from creature, and work from rest. Our godless culture desperately seeks to blur and eradicate these biblical differences, but we must hold firm to them.
Second, (in asking what Jesus would do, let’s remember that) Jesus must always be at the center. (2:28)
28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” Here is another audacious claim of divinity by Jesus – that He is the Lord of the Sabbath! He has complete authority over the Sabbath! Just as He boldly claimed the divine authority to forgive sins (2:5), here He asserts His authority over the Sabbath Day! Who can do this except for the One who created the Sabbath, the Lord Himself!
Tim Keller writes that Jesus celebrates the original principle of the Sabbath – the need for rest. Yet He squashes the legalism around its observance. He dismantles the whole religious/ legalistic paradigm, and He does it by pointing to His identity as the Lord of the Sabbath! Jesus could have said “I am Lord over the Sabbath” But he said something even more profound: “I am Lord of the Sabbath.” This means that He is the Sabbath. Jesus Himself is the source of the deep rest, the Shalom wholeness and rest, which we so desperately need!
We sometimes joke that if the Sunday school teacher or the preacher asks you a question about the Bible, there’s a good chance you’ll get it right if you answer “Jesus.” But there’s truth in that, for Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of Man, is the focal point of the whole Bible and the center of the universe! (See Luke 24:25-27, 44-47; and Colossians 1:15-20)
Application: When you interpret the Bible, Jesus must be at the center of your understanding. When you are making plans for your future, Christ must be the focal point of your planning.
Whatever you think, plan, or do, Jesus Christ must be front and center, or it will fail. Christ must be at the center of your studies, your family, your work, your retirement, and your choices. Is that true for you?
Third, (In asking “WWJD?”) Jesus’ questions will X-ray our motives. (3:1-5a)
Jesus again uses a question to make His enemies examine their motives, and their theology. In 2:24 they had asked Him, “Why are your disciples doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
Now Jesus turns the tables on them by asking, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” (3:4)
Jesus’ question exposes the evil and murderous motives of the Pharisees. For Jesus came to do good, and to save life; but the Pharisees sought to do evil, to the extent that they even plotted to kill Jesus… on the Sabbath, no less! Who is this Jesus, who turns the tables on His enemies?
William Lane writes: “In the Pharisees’ concern for legal detail they had forgotten God’s mercy and grace to man, when He made provision for the Sabbath. In the name of piety, they had become hardened to both the purposes of God… and to the sufferings of men.” And this is what Jesus’ question exposed for all to see.
Jesus’ question also X-rays the contrast between His heart and their heart. Jesus came to do good and to save life, even on the Sabbath, because He had come to liberate this man’s hand from the curse! He had come to liberate us from the curse of the fall. Here is the heart of Jesus!
But on the other hand the Pharisees’ hearts were as shriveled as the man’s hand; they were withered and shriveled up with self-righteousness. You see, they wanted to be in control. They liked having authority over others and telling them what they can do and can’t do. It made them feel self-righteous when they keep these man-made laws better than anyone else. (see Tim Keller on this) In other words, they were using religion to achieve their own ends, to make much of themselves! [That is often our struggle as well, right?]
Application: When you want to know God’s will; when you are seeking to take a moral stand on a controversial issue such as in vitro fertilization or end of life decisions, you first need to ask God the Holy Spirit to X-ray your heart, your motives, and see what is really behind your surface conclusion. Psalm 139:23-24 “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
I confess that even when I do the right thing, I often do it with mixed motives; I come to Biblical answers on matters, but out of a selfish heart. That’s why you and I need to have Jesus’ Words X-ray our heart motives.
Fourth, (in seeking to DO what Jesus WANTS us to do, remember that) Jesus provides the grace to obey what He commands (3:5b-6)
“He… said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.”
Jesus’ commands contain the grace, the power, and the ability to obey his commands. It’s like when Jesus called out to Lazarus, who had been dead for four days, “Lazarus, come out!” and the dead man came out! (John 11:43). The man with the shriveled hand could have said to Jesus, “Lord, how can I stretch out my hand? What you are telling me to do is too hard; it’s impossible!” Is that what you might have said to Jesus? When you read one of God’s commands in the Bible, and it’s something that seems too difficult for you to obey, how do you respond? Do you believe that what God commands He also gives the grace to do?
The Bible teaches that many of the blessings of God are conditional upon our response of faith, and that God Himself ultimately enables that response of faith and obedience. Therefore we pray to God for the enablement of what He calls us to do. See Phil. 2:12-13; 1 Cor. 15:10.
Augustine: “O Lord, command what you will and give what you command.”
And how does Jesus do that for us? Jesus provides the grace to obey what He commands by suppling that grace though his sacrificial, atoning death. We read in v. 6 that Jesus’ enemies began to plot how they might kill Jesus.
For though the Pharisees were the traditionalists and the Herodians were the progressives of their day, they cooperated in the belief that Jesus had to be eliminated. The Gospel (and Jesus) was – and is – an offense to both the unreligious and to the religious; to the liberals and to the conservatives.
You know, there is a clear connection between what God did in creating the Sabbath Day of rest at Creation, and what God did in creating a day of eternal rest at the cross.
For at the end of His work of creation the Lord Jesus rested from all His work (Gen. 2:1-3), so that we could rest – and enjoy His creation. And then on the cross, at the end of His great act of redemption, Jesus said, “It is finished.” (John 19:30) – and we can rest, and enjoy His salvation!
On the cross Jesus said that the work underneath our work – the endless attempt at self-justification, of works-righteousness, which makes us weary and insecure – that is now finished! And so we ask: Who is this Jesus, Who Turns the Tables on His Enemies? Who is this Jesus, who loves His Enemies and dies for them – for you and for me?
Jesus is the True Bridegroom (2:19-20); He is the Lord of the Sabbath (2:28); and He is the One who heals and saves lives (3:4-5), even at the cost of His own life (3:6). Let us surrender our lives, our hearts, and our wills to Him!