“And He said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for the man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore, the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.'”
The focus is on the people, not the practices. And this last section of chapter two is a pre-cursor to the event about to take place in Mark 3:1-6, which I’ll post later. Jesus lays out the proper place for the customs, and in doing this, the people get helped. Here’s the last section of chapter two in it’s entirety:
“Now it happened that He went through the grain fields on the Sabbath; and as they went His disciples began to pluck the heads of grain. And the Pharisees said to Him, ‘Look, why do they do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?’ But He said to them, ‘Have you never read what David did when he was in need and hungry, he and those with him; how he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the showbread, which is not lawful to eat except for the priests, and also gave some to those who were with him?’ And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for the man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore, the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.'”
First of all, I can’t help but notice the folly of the Pharisees. So, were they really just following Jesus and His disciples around, waiting for them to do something ‘wrong’ so they could point and accuse? It sure seems that way! All three accounts here in Mark 2 kind of infer that these guys had nothing better to do than get into Jesus’ business and look to prove Him a fake, if they could. But each time, Jesus has answered them. Reminds me of Proverbs 26 where it gives the opposite advice right in a row in verses 4 and 5 – answer a fool according to his folly. And do not answer a fool according to his folly. Jesus knew when to answer these men, and when to leave them unanswered (look at Luke 23:9, John 8:1-11, and Matthew 21:23-27). I’m sure there’s a way to look closely at the different instances and see why Jesus did choose to answer the foolish finger-pointing here. But that’s a different point. My point right now is that Jesus points in all three times to the value of the people. And we need to be careful that we’re looking at the same thing – what is our priority? Our traditions or the people affected by them? Our customs or the heart behind the acts? This is what matters, and this is what Jesus is getting at with His statement – the sabbath is made for man, not the other way around.
Two things here: if you find yourself pointing fingers at others and judging the wrong things they are doing, maybe it’s time to see why you have the time to be focused so much on what they are doing. Are you not busy enough about what God wants you doing? Don’t fall into the Pharisees’ shoes. And second, the sacredness of customs should never replace the pricelessness of people. How many more ways can this be shown? How many times can I try to emphasize the importance of individuals? God doesn’t care how clean your outside walls are – do you love your neighbor? And this is all going to come to a pinnacle in the next chapter, when a needy man becomes the center of the story.