Read Mark 2:18-28
For many people the term ‘Christianity’ is synonymous with rules. Instead of understanding Christianity as a daily desire to become more like Jesus, they see it as a list of rules that must be followed. It’s at this point that Christianity loses what distinguishes it from every other religion. See, that’s what most religions are all about – following rules, and what makes Christianity so different is it is about relationship not rules.
In fact, it was a religion of rules that Jesus fought against. The Pharisees were good with rules; in fact, they had turned following God into following a whole bunch of laws. Any religious teacher who wished to be respected in Jewish culture would obviously follow all these laws and make sure that their disciples did the same. And yet, Jesus was different.
Jesus’ disciples didn’t fast like the other teacher’s disciples, and this annoyed the religious establishment. The crazy fact in all this is that fasting wasn’t even part of the ceremonial law, however it had become such an accepted part of Jewish culture that a persons’ attitude to fasting indicated their attitude to the whole of the ceremonial law. The religious teachers took offence at Jesus’ disciples’ failure to fast and began to quiz Jesus only to receive a cryptic response, ‘how can the guests fast whilst the bridegroom is amongst them’. Jesus indicated that there was a time coming when it would be appropriate for his disciples to fast, but now was not the time. Jesus was challenging the status quo of the religious establishment; Jesus was not into following laws just because everyone else was doing it.
Another time the disciples were picking and eating grain as they were walking through a cornfield. On its own, this is no real big deal – except that they are doing it on the Sabbath. The Jewish people had strict rules regarding working on the Sabbath (the day God rested), and in this simple act the disciples managed to technically break the law in at least three different ways. First by collecting the grain they were reaping, second in order to eat the corn they first rubbed it in their hands – well that’s threshing – and thirdly they chucked away the husks – well that’s winnowing. In fact, by eating the grain it was proof that they had prepared food on the Sabbath – another breach. You know even the fact that they were walking was considered a breach of the Sabbath, walking was only permitted for short distances.
To the religious, Jesus claiming to be a Holy man yet allowing his followers to blatantly flaunt the Sabbath laws was a slap in the face. It was like Jesus didn’t even care about the laws that they held dear. Yet in a simple phrase Jesus re-frames their understanding of the law, ‘man was not made for the Sabbath’ Jesus exclaims, ‘the Sabbath was made for man’. The laws given by God were never intended to bind the people but rather to lead them to God.
Following Jesus is never about following rules. It’s about a relationship with the creator of the universe, but in the end – that is much harder than blindly following laws. Yet a relationship is also infinitely more beneficial.
- What stood out for you in today’s story? Do you have any questions?
- What is the difference between doing something because it’s the rule and doing something because you care about someone?
- How are you getting to know Jesus better? What is a new habit you could adopt to develop your relationship with Jesus?
- How have you stopped this week to recover physically, emotionally and spiritually?