Introduction: Recently, I was skimming over an article that argued
that Jesus’ treatment of the Sabbath teaches us that we should no
longer observe it. Is this true? What was Jesus trying to teach us in
His treatment of the Sabbath? Let’s dive into God’s word and see if
we can understand Jesus’ lesson for us!

  1. Sabbath Harvest

    1. Read Mark 2:23-24. Are the Jewish leaders concerned about
      stealing or Sabbath-breaking? (Read Deuteronomy 23:24-25.
      What the disciples were doing was not considered

      1. Why would this be considered a violation of the
        Sabbath? (Moses prohibited a number of things on the
        Sabbath, such as building a fire. ( Exodus 35:3.)
        Nothing is written, however, about snacking on grain.
        The Jewish leaders must be alleging that the
        disciples are working (harvesting)on Sabbath. (Exodus
        20:8-10; Exodus 34:21.))

      2. If you were Jesus, how would you answer this charge?
        (“What are you, nuts? What they are doing is not

    2. Read Mark 2:25-26. How did Jesus answer this? (He said
      “David also broke the rules.”)

      1. Alright, parents, I need your opinion here. Your one
        child does something that violates the household
        rules. When you reprimand that child, he says, “Jane
        disobeys too!” What do you think about that kind of a

      2. Jesus has a perfectly good and simple defense – “It’s
        not work.” He cannot be choosing a defense we would
        not accept from our children. He must be arguing
        something else. What is it?

      3. Are there any circumstances in which the “others do
        it” defense would be valid? (Yes. There are three.
        First, personal exceptions. The person violating the
        law is an exception and has a right to violate the
        law. Airport employees get to park in special,
        close-in parking. If you park there, it is okay if
        you can say, “I’m also an airport employee.” David
        was about to become King of Israel. Jesus may be
        arguing that He, too, is entitled to king privileges.
        Second, exceptions of circumstance. Perhaps being (v.
        25) “hungry and in need” is a valid exception to the
        Sabbath rule – human need supercedes the Sabbath
        rule. Third, an invalid rule. You talk about others
        violating the law if the law is not really a valid,
        enforceable law. You say, “It is okay to drive ten
        miles an hour over the speed limit. Everyone does it,
        and the police will not stop you.”)

        1. Which of these three arguments do you think
          Jesus is making? (Read Mark 2:27-28. If, in
          verse 28, Jesus is not saying that He has
          special personal privileges (the “I’m a King
          too, argument”), He is at least saying “As the
          King I’m entitled to say what violates the
          Sabbath.” In verse 27 Jesus is teaching
          something about the nature of the Sabbath. This
          seems to be the “human need” argument.)

    3. To get a better picture of this, let’s consult Matthew
      12:3-7. Matthew gives us a fuller view of Jesus’
      argument. With this greater insight, which of these two
      alternative arguments is Jesus making? (David is an
      exception, the priests are an exception to the rule. Jesus
      is plainly arguing that He is an exception to the rule.)

      1. What do you think that Jesus means in Matthew 12:7
        when He quotes Hosea 6:6 “I desire mercy, not
        sacrifice?” (Go slow on hurling accusations.)

    4. Let’s go back to Mark 2:27. How do you understand this
      verse? (Jesus is saying more than “I’m the King, the guys
      with Me have a pass on the Sabbath rules.” He is telling
      the Jewish leaders that He disagrees with their view of
      the Sabbath. The Sabbath was made to be a blessing to
      humans. Its purpose was to benefit humans. It was not an
      arbitrary regulation to be held above human need.)

  2. Sabbath Healing

    1. Read Mark 3:1-2. What made them think Jesus might heal on
      the Sabbath?

    2. Read Mark 3:3. The Jewish leaders thought they needed to
      watch closely to see if Jesus violated the law. They were
      going to “catch Him.” How does Jesus react to that? (He
      calls the shriveled hand guy up front and center so no one
      can miss this!)

    3. Read Mark 3:4-5. What is Jesus teaching us about observing
      the Sabbath?

      1. Is there anything in what Jesus said which would
        cause you to believe that He did not believe in
        Sabbath-keeping? (Jesus is clearly arguing what
        should be the proper standard for Sabbath-keeping,
        not whether there should be any standards.)

      2. Jesus could have healed the shriveled hand guy the
        next day. Why should He be angry at those who wanted
        to err on the “conservative” side? (When I was
        growing up in religious schools, I endured all sorts
        of rules. It never occurred to me that having all of
        these rules might in itself be a sin. It seemed that
        only violating the rules could be a sin. Only in
        recent years have I begun to understand the
        Deuteronomy 4:2 principle: it is just as wrong to add
        rules God has not required as it is to teach you can
        ignore the rules which God has required. Both put you
        in the position of usurping God.)

  3. Pet Names

    1. Read Mark 3:13-19. I have heard it said that Jesus never
      “called” Judas. These verses show that this is not true.
      Why would Jesus call someone to be an apostle who would
      eventually betray Him?

      1. In the “roll-call” of apostles, which apostle is
        named first? (Peter. This is further evidence that
        Mark worked with Peter and that this gospel account
        reflects Peter’s sermons.)

      2. Which apostles get “nick-names?” What does this show?
        (It generally shows special affection. My wife teases
        me by pointing out that my father had a nick-name for
        my brother, but not for me!)

  4. Grieving the Holy Spirit

    1. Let’s go back and read Mark 3:6 and then skip down and
      read Mark 3:22. Do you think the Jewish leaders believed
      that Jesus was allied with the prince of demons? ( Mark 3:6
      reveals that they were in a “get rid of Him” mode. Thus, I
      think it unlikely they truly believed these charges.)

    2. Read Mark 3:23-27. What logic does Jesus use to oppose the
      “prince of demons” charge?

      1. Should we apply Jesus’ logic to competing, non-Christian religions today, which teach positive moral

      2. The world was rocked this week by the death of Pope
        John Paul. I admired him because of his strong stand
        on the most controversial moral issues of the day.
        For example, he took a rock-steady position against
        abortion, while my own church allows abortions to be
        performed in its hospitals. For the past several
        years, my church’s most prominent moral stand on a
        public social issue has been against smoking! (“When
        everyone agrees, we will firmly put our foot down!”)
        Yet, some I know would charge that the Pope was
        allied with Beelzebub. How do you understand and
        apply Jesus’ teachings to those charges against the

    3. Read Mark 3:28-29. Has Jesus changed topics? Is He off on
      another subject? (No.)

      1. These are some of the most frightening words of the
        Bible. What does Jesus say about wrongly attributing
        to Satan the work of God? (Jesus says this is the
        “eternal sin.” Some refer to this as the
        “unpardonable sin.”)

      2. The context of the charges against Jesus is His
        healings. Does this mean that if I see a faith-healer
        who preaches Jesus, and I charge that he is working
        by the power of Satan, that I have committed the
        unpardonable sin?

        1. What if I charge that any Christian leader is in
          league with Satan, have I committed the
          unpardonable sin?

      3. Or, does Jesus only mean that if I close my mind to
        the working of the Holy Spirit, that I have committed
        the unpardonable sin?

        1. Is Jesus referring here to a single statement,
          or an attitude of the heart? (My view is that
          Jesus is speaking of an attitude of the heart,
          and inaccurate and defamatory statements about
          fellow Christians is not the unpardonable sin.
          However, I would counsel great caution in this
          area because you do not want to be wrong!)

    4. Friend, Jesus did not teach us to violate the Sabbath.
      Instead, He taught us how to better understand what it
      means to keep the Sabbath. The controversy over Sabbath-keeping, and the charges made against Jesus teach us that
      we need to be careful about hurling accusations against
      fellow Christians simply because they may disagree with us
      on certain points. God asks us to show mercy. Will you?

  5. Next week: By Galilee.