The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching – and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” Mark 1:21–31 (NIV)
The gospels recount seven instances of Jesus performing miracles on the Sabbath – seven being a special number in the Bible to signify perfection and completeness. Over the next weeks we’ll explore several of these stories, which show how Jesus is Lord over the Sabbath.
Our first story comes in Mark, after Jesus calls his disciples to follow him. Jesus teaches in the synagogue, and the people are amazed at the authority of his words. When a demon-possessed man interrupts Jesus’ teaching, Jesus commands the demons to leave by the same authority with which he teaches. The Pharisees hadn’t yet realized that their power would be called into question, and that they should therefore oppose Jesus, so at this first instance of healing on the Sabbath none of his later opponents appear.
Then we see Jesus showing compassion on the mother-in-law of Simon and Andrew, healing her fever. The disciples sense that this man is special, taking him to her for release. She becomes so well that she can serve them.
These first stories of Jesus breaking the Sabbath rules – as interpreted by the teachers of the law – appear without fanfare. Jesus sees the needs of two hurting people and does what is necessary to bring them release and healing. He reveals his authority by who he is.
Our culture has moved away from a pharisaic temptation to be hidebound by a strict adherence to the Sabbath which could entail us overlooking the needs of others. Instead we might need to consider how we could strengthen our observance of the Sabbath, so that through our joyful celebrations we can be a witness to a hurting world. For although we don’t have the same power as Jesus, we can speak in his name and share his love.
For reflection: “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).