Trouble, like the persistent and annoying housefly, is never far from us – even on our way to worship.
It was the sabbath, and Christ Jesus and His disciples were walking to the synagogue. The road on which they walked went through a field of grain. The disciples were hungry, and they gathered ears of grain as they walked.
Pharisees, like a swarm of houseflies, followed Jesus and observed the disciples picking the grain. “Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day,” they said.
In Deuteronomy 23:25 we find the Law permitted the gathering of grain in another person’s field exactly as the disciples were doing that day. A person could not harvest the corn, but he could pick some to eat as he walked through the field. The problem as far as the Pharisees were concerned was the disciples were doing this on the sabbath day.
Had they not heard about David who ate the showbread from the house of God? Fresh loaves of bread were presented to God every sabbath, and loaves of bread that had been there the previous week were supposed to be eaten only by the priests. David and his men were hungry, and out of mercy and necessity the priest gave them the bread. There is no indication that God was angered by this act on the part of David or Ahimelech, the priest.
Next, Jesus pointed to priests serving in the temple. The Law required that they work on sabbath days, and yet there were blameless. “In this place,” He said of Himself, “is one greater than the temple.”
Jesus then referred to the prophet Hosea who wrote, “For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6). The Pharisees knew all about the letter of the law but they knew nothing about the truth and application of the law. Clearly, God desired worship from the heart, not through the outward performance of rituals. Christ Jesus spoke with authority because He is “Lord even of the sabbath day.”
When they arrived at the synagogue, the Pharisees saw a man with a withered hand and asked Jesus if it was lawful to heal on the sabbath. If a sheep fell into a pit on the sabbath day, wouldn’t the farmer get the animal out, Jesus asked. Of course he would get the sheep out of the pit. A man, said Jesus, is better than a sheep and it was certainly lawful to do at least as much for the man.
“It is lawful to do well on the sabbath days,” Jesus said, and He healed the man.
Christians generally do not observe the sabbath, a day God set apart for the Jews. Instead, we gather for worship on the first day of the week because we are told Jesus rose from the dead on the first day. Our observance of Sunday as the Lord’s Day is something that distinguishes us from every other religion.
We must understand that blessings will never be realized if we, like the Pharisees, worship the day and do not worship the Lord. Our hearts must not be so hardened that we lose the joy of worship every day of the week. The Pharisees erroneously believed they cleansed themselves in their manmade laws. Only the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ will cleanse people, and man will never have peace with God until he admits that truth.
“Teach me good judgment and knowledge: for I have believed thy commandments” (Psalm 119:66)
The Sunday school lesson is written by Ed Wilcox, pastor of Centerville Baptist Church. He can be reached at [email protected] nc.rr.co.