|1 Corinthians 4:9-15
Psalm 145:17-18, 19-20, 21
Today Jesus reminds us that substance, not form, is the most important part of our relationship with God.
Once again, the Pharisees provide Jesus with a teaching moment. The disciples are hungry; they eat. The Pharisees question their actions because they violate the sabbath laws. Jesus relays the story of David's men eating the sacred bread when they were hungry, and concludes that the Son of Man is Lord, even of the sabbath. The passages immediately following this gospel excerpt relate another instance of Jesus "violating" the sabbath by doing good - healing a crippled person.
What lesson is Jesus teaching in this setting? That it is acceptable to help yourself to someone else's grain? I don't think Jesus was addressing property rights in this situation, but spiritual matters. Was Jesus suggesting that we can ignore sabbath rules altogether? I don't think He was suggesting that sabbath rules should be abolished, only that they should be kept in proper perspective.
What is that proper perspective? I think it is substance over form. The Pharisees were obsessed with form, with unthinking adherence to rules, with ritual for its own sake. Jesus is reminding us that the substance is the key. Why does God call us to "keep holy" the sabbath? I think the reason is to remind us to take time to deepen our relationship with God. The traditional Jewish rules for the sabbath created a time and space in which people could pause regularly to deepen that relationship. But the pause, the adherence, is the means to an end, not the end itself. If the result of the adherence to sabbath rules is merely going through the motions one day a week, and not re-forming our lives on a regular basis, then we are like the Pharisees in this story. If we view the call to sabbath as an opportunity, then I think we appreciate the substance of what Jesus is teaching us.
And so my prayer today is to ask God for awareness to see times when
I am placing form over substance, when I am following rules and going through
the motions, when I am unthinking, unfeeling and unaware in my prayer and
spiritual life, and then for the grace to open my heart to change my life
in response to God's call.
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