…And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. (Mark 3:4)
Mark’s third chapter opens with a story of Jesus encountering a man with a damaged hand on the Sabbath. As the man approaches Jesus for healing, Jesus perceives the judgement with which he is being viewed by the Pharisees. His question to them brings to the surface an interesting challenge.
What really is the point of Sabbath?
The institution of Sabbath in the Old Testament narrative has everything to do with that which is good. God made everything and saw that it was good. He made man in His image and declared it as very good. This goodness was to be recognised, celebrated, affirmed and embraced as an integral part of our humanity. We too, like God, are to recognise and see that this world and the people in it are inherently good.
The point of Sabbath then was to embrace this goodness. To celebrate it in ourselves and in each other and in GOD. And the simple truth of the matter is that when we affirm and recognise and value goodness in this deliberate way, then goodness cannot help but spring out of who we are.
The answer to Jesus’ question, then, is of course it is appropriate to do good on the Sabbath. Because… How could you possibly not?
The text goes on to note how Jesus is deeply grieved by their lack of response and hardness of hearts. When religion gets in the way of God’s goodness, something is inevitably out of kilter.
As we reflect on Mark’s gospel, let us remember this day to anchor ourselves in the truth of God’s goodness.
And let’s pray that goodness springs up from the core of who we are, impacting those around us as we embody and affirm that which is good.