The Substance of the Sabbath

A Bible Exposition Of Mark 2:23-28

We have a lot of ground to cover so we are going to dive in quickly. This is the fourth vignette in a series of five where Jesus goes toe to toe with the religious leaders in Israel. Things are heating up quickly and Mark is on the move quickly establishing this for us.

The danger for us is that if we have been in Christ for any length of time, there is such familiarity with the words and the stories and the accounts, and sometimes we can almost dismiss the realities taking place here.

But these situations are raw and intense. The modern-day equivalent would be Jesus attending some gathering of pastors and priests and clergy. To a watching world it would be the spiritual leaders. And yet as He dives in He finds false systems of works righteousness, unbelief, confusion about the true Gospel.

And instead of exercising compassion, Jesus angrily indicts and challenges these pastors and priests. He is incensed because the spiritual leaders are misleading the masses. They are self-satisfied in their own righteousness.

The rebukes are public. They are piercingly clear and embarrassing for those who are indicted. He is cleaning house. This is the imagery of the lion and the lamb. Jesus is not soft, gentle, reserved, or tender right now.

He is angry. He is disturbed and perplexed. He is shrewd in His communication—to the point of belittling with sarcasm. It is motivated by a zeal for God. The Scriptures say that Jesus was consumed with this zeal (John 2:17, quoting Psalm 69:9).

In other words, Jesus heart and mind were so closely aligned with the purposes of God, and these leaders were so opposed to that purpose, that the righteous response was indignation. And so Jesus doesn’t help or encourage, but He admonishes (1 Thessalonians 5:14). 

Today He is going to provoke conflict.


We are going to take some time to set this thing up and then the text is going to unfold so naturally for us. Track with me for a little bit, while we bring ourselves up to speed on the original context. 

I’m going to take a while to explain the background to the Sabbath in v. 23 and then it’s all going to flow once we have that established in our minds.

5 Parts to the Sabbath Showdown 

     1. The innocent deed of eating (23)

     2. The incredulous accusation of lawbreaking (24)

     3. The insightful lesson from the Old Testament (25-26)

     4. The initial purpose of the Sabbath (27)

     5. The incredible claim of Jesus’ Lordship (28)

23 And it happened that He was passing through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples began to make their way along while picking the heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees were saying to Him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 25 And He *said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions became hungry; 26 how he entered the house of God in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the consecrated bread, which is not lawful for anyone to eat except the priests, and he also gave it to those who were with him?” 27 Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”