The Son of Man is the Lord of the Sabbath (5)

While the crowds continue to be filled with awe, the opposition from religious leaders is mounting. They have already grumbled about Jesus’ fellowship with tax collectors and sinners (5.30). Here they question why his disciples do not fast and pray (5.33), why they pluck and eat grain on the Sabbath (6.2), and why he heals on the Sabbath (6.7). By the end of the latter account, their hostility has crescendoed to the point that “they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to him” (6.11).

Jesus polarised public opinion: people were either filled with awe (5.26) or filled with fury (6.11). The two very different reactions were not unrelated. The fury of the scribes and Pharisees was in no small part triggered by the awe of the crowds. In their eyes, Jesus had usurped the role of the Law, and themselves as its interpreters. He was also very popular.

Jesus knows what’s going on in their hearts (6.8), and that it has nothing to do with God’s kingdom work. His response, as always, is to reaffirm his own role as Son of God, and his mission of redemption.

  • He had come to seek and to save the lost (32). Neither the Law nor its teachers could do that.
  • He is the bridegroom, the long-awaited saviour (1.69; 2.11, 30). He should be welcomed with joy, not fasting (34).
  • He is the Lord of the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a time for ceasing work in order to worship and rest. Jesus is God’s Son so the Sabbath is for honouring – not constraining – him.

Jesus employs two parables to illustrate his claims. In both the point is that the Judaism of his day cannot contain the fullness of his kingdom. He hadn’t come to patch up a covenant that had had its day; he had come to inaugurate a new covenant in his own blood (see 22.20).

Jesus is not surprised that those devoted to the Old Covenant don’t wish to taste the new. The Old Covenant was not bad; but the new Covenant is, for those who will taste it, far better.

To ponder

Has God ever challenged you to let go of a tradition you have cherished?

To pray

Gracious Father, help me to seek first your kingdom and righteousness. May I always rejoice at your work, even when it calls on me to change, for I ask in Jesus’ name. Amen

Michael Hewat is currently serving as the Senior Minister at West Hamilton Community Church, New Zealand

Photo by Akin Cakiner on Unsplash

Michael Hewat is currently serving as the Senior Minister at West Hamilton Community Church, New Zealand