One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain.
- Mark 2:23
One of the most distinctive and challenging things about Jesus was his practice of the Sabbath. It’s easy to miss how often the Sabbath comes up in the Gospel. But Jesus is in the practice of visiting the synagogue on the Sabbath; he heals and casts our demons on the Sabbath; he teaches about the Sabbath; and he gets into trouble with the religious authorities because of all this.
This week’s passage will record a conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees (the “set apart” ones). The conflict may not even seem like a conflict on first glance. But if you hear the context, you’ll hear the conflict.
The Pharisees had put up a great big fence around the Sabbath. There were dozens of different activities that people weren’t allowed to do on the Sabbath, including gathering water and rescuing a lost sheep and harvesting grain. “People need to be responsible and plan for the Sabbath,” they would have said.
There was Sabbath law on the one hand. Then, on the other, there were laws that provided for the poor.
Landowners were prohibited from harvesting all of the grain from their fields. They had to keep some space – leave the margins of the field ungleaned – so that the poor in the community would have access to food.
What do we do when our values collide? In this case, the value of loving God and living as his holy people conflicted with the value of loving neighbor and living as his generous people.
Sabbath often brings these collisions to light: work and rest, vocation and community, leisure and responsibility.
What values conflicts arise for you as you try to keep the Sabbath?