Monday, March 16, 2015

Mk 2:23-3:12

Just as Mk 2:21-22 serves to illustrate not only the "old wineskins" thinking of 2:7, and the fact that the people "have never seen anything like this" (2:12)  illustrates the "new wine" (and "new wineskins"), those two verses illustrate the "old wineskins" bursting in 2:23-28 and 3:1-12.

What is it that a) prevented the Pharisees from rejoicing in the healing of Mk 3:5? b) caused the Pharisees to be critical of the disciples' behavior on the Sabbath (2:24)?

Jesus answers both questions. Notice, first, that the Phrarisees were "saying to Him" (2:24) what the disciples were doing, during the Sabbath, as an airtight case with Dt 19:15 backing against working on the Sabbath.

But does Jesus say that what the disciples did was lawful for them?  Does He not recount a story and comment that both David "and his companions ... ate the consecrated bread, which is not lawful for anyone to eat except the priests..."  (2:25-26)?  Most certainly, Jesus is defending what the disciples did, but how? 

Wouldn't that defense, by recounting a story in David's life, sound fishy to the Pharisees?  Wouldn't they retort that a person can't violate the Sabbath simply because David and his disciples were recorded as eating bread unlawful to eat except by the priests? How would that be relevant? they would retort.

It was relevant because David's need of the consecrated bread took precedence over the consecration of the bread to the priests (1 Sam 21:1ff).  Jesus asks the Pharisees, "have you never read" this?  In other words, to read it is to understand how David correctly resolved the matter, and how to correctly judge this one.  The local priest had already decided in favor of David on the eating issue, and only checked their fitness according to whether "the young men have kept themselves from women." (1 Sam 21:4).  The priest judged David's authority rightly.  The incident should have taught the Pharisees the principle that the greater thing, David's authority, allowed the priest to overrule the consecration of the bread to priests.

That is also how Jesus answers the Pharisees in Mk 2:27.  If, during David's time, a priest saw correctly that David and his companions in their case could eat bread consecrated for priests, then they, surely in reading that, could tell that "the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath" (2:27).

Notice that it is from that story that Jesus concludes the relationship of the Sabbath to ... man! But not only that! From that, He concludes His own relationship to the Sabbath.  If the needs of David overruled the rule about consecrated bread, then the Sabbath was made for man.  But if a priest can overrule the use of consecrated bread for priests, this proves the Son of Man, is Lord of the Sabbath.  How?  Since the law for priests could be correctly overruled by a priest, the Sabbath law which is made for man can be overruled by the Son of Man.  He is Lord of the Sabbath. 

So the answer to why the Pharisees were critical of the disciples in Mk 2:24 is that they didn't understand that David's needs overruled the consecration of the bread to priests, which implied that the Sabbath also was made for man, which implied that Jesus, the Son of Man, is Lord (even!) of the Sabbath.  They didn't understand things within the "old wine" they carried.