Mark 2:27, “And he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.’”
In the early chapters of Mark, Jesus has several controversies with the religious leaders (2:1 – 3:6). Several of these confrontations are regarding the Sabbath – will Jesus do this or that on the Sabbath, what is permitted on the Sabbath, etc. And in the midst of one such confrontation, Jesus speaks an important and enduring principle with respect to the Sabbath (or the Lord’s Day for NT believers), “And he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath’” (2:27).
Now there is much talk today about what one can and cannot do on the Lord’s Day. But too often such discussion, while motivated by a good and right desire for obedience, misses the larger point; namely, that the Lord’s Day is a gift to God’s people. That is, the Lord’s Day should be seen more as a gift than an obligation. Yes, there are certain things to which we are obligated on this day, fundamentally worship and rest from the week’s labors (Heb 10:24-25). But, the Lord intended this rest and worship to be a blessing, a gift from his gracious hand; not a burdensome obligation. Just think what a blessing it would have been to the Israelites – after laboring for 400 years in Egypt with little to no rest – to be given a day set aside for rest and special fellowship with their Creator and Redeemer!!
And the same is no less true for us. In essence, we have a divine mandate to meet with our Savior! What a blessing! “The Sabbath was made for man.” God knows our frames, he knows our weakness, he knows our tendency to be distracted by the things of the world; and thus he gives us a day to hear from him and to meet with him. One might say we have a joyful and joy-filled obligation – an obligation to spend time in fellowship with our savior who loves us with an unchanging love. Such a view of the Lord’s Day, however, is Spirit wrought; that is, it is given of the Spirit. Therefore, may our prayer be to see the first day of the week and the gathering of the saints to worship as a gracious gift and wonderful privilege from our Lord. May we call the Sabbath a delight (Is 58:13-14).
– Rev. Robert Arendale