Christianity was never meant to be a religion. God wants a personal relationship with His people through Jesus Christ. We see a great example of this in the life of Christ as recorded by Mark.
One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
In order to understand what’s happening in this verse, I first have to explain some Old Testament facts. The Law of Moses provided for the needs of travelers as they were going from place to place. It allowed them to pick grain from any nearby field and eat it as they walked along.
So Jesus and the disciples weren’t stealing anybody’s grain. God’s Word made it clear that the edges of a field were for the travelers, widows, and orphans. It was a part of God’s provision for those in need.
Then why did the Pharisees have such a problem with what they were doing? It all revolved around their religious interpretation of the Law. According to the Ten Commandments, no work was to be done on the Sabbath Day. It was to be a day of rest and worship.
Here’s where religion becomes an evil tyrant. The Law of Moses said to not work on the Sabbath, but it never defined what exactly constituted work.
The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law took it upon themselves to help God out. Since the Lord obviously forgot to explain it, they went ahead and detailed out what exactly was forbidden on the Sabbath.
The Pharisees had lists of “illegal activities” for the Sabbath. For instance: you could pick up a chair and move it across the room. But you couldn’t drag it because that would make a line in the dirt (furrowing) which was work.
The fact that the disciples were picking grain – harvesting – was not allowed on the Sabbath. That wasn’t God’s law, but man’s religious interpretation of it.
It’s interesting that the word they use, unlawful, is a word that means not right. However, this word implies that what they were doing was not right by appearance. It didn’t look right. With religion, it’s all about appearance. It’s how you look on the outside.
Jesus had an answer for them.
He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”
Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
The Lord uses the example of David. The Law said that the bread in the Holy Place belonged to the priest. He could do what he wanted with it. It just didn’t look right for David and his men to eat it. But the priest was ministering to someone in need.
The underlying principle is that the Sabbath was created for us to enjoy. It was to give us a time of rest and refreshment in the presence of God. It wasn’t made so that we could have one more religious rule.
Our God is a God of relationship. A good relationship can never be based on a list of do’s and don’ts. Religion is a form of slavery. A relationship with Jesus Christ brings freedom and abundant life.
Question: How have you experienced the tyranny of religion?
© 2018 Nick Zaccardi