Below we have the latest installment of Bob Dunne’s book, 909 Days that Changed the World. We will post two chapters a week for the summer months. We suggest reading it quietly and putting yourself in the scenes. You might be amazed at how closer you can get to Jesus! Should you be interested in your own copy, the book ($14.95 plus sales tax) can be bought from his publisher Leonine Press, Barnes and Noble, or Amazon. It is also available in Nook and Kindle. You may also get an autographed copy directly from Bob by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chapter 15: Jesus Teaches About Fasting and Breaks the Sabbath Rules
It has been months since John was arrested, and although many of his disciples, at the suggestion of John himself, are followers of Jesus, some remain loyal to John. On top of their affection for John, however, they have a general distaste for the way Jesus and his disciples carry themselves. Whereas John and his disciples fast and wear rough clothing, Jesus and his disciples wear normal clothes and never seem to fast at all. John had frequently pointed out to them the importance of fasting and not being vain about their appearance. Jesus seems to pay no attention to fasting and takes care of his appearance much like everyone else. When they hear the news of Jesus’ dinner at Levi’s house, some of them decide to ask Jesus about this.
The next day they approach him. They do so respectfully, as they know the tremendous esteem their beloved John has for him. Jesus sees them approaching. These are good men, and his smile acknowledges that fact. Unlike the Pharisees and chief priests, they do not have a malicious agenda. They are confused and looking for some clarification and so ask, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast so much, but your disciples do not fast?” (Mark 2:18). Jesus’ reply is full of affection. “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day” (Mark 2:19-20). Jesus is not denigrating fasting but symbolically pointing out that his presence represents a very special time. There will be plenty of time for his disciples to fast; indeed, many of them will give their very lives for him, but for now fasting is not the key issue. Paying attention to the message and the person of the “bridegroom” is the important point. John’s disciples realize Jesus is referring to himself as the bridegroom but aren’t quite sure what the symbolism means. However, they are men of faith. Thus, as they take their leave from Jesus, they reflect and talk among themselves about these words. None of them become Jesus’ disciples this day but eventually they will come to see him for who he is. These are good men and Jesus is content to let them progress in their understanding of him at their own pace.
Weeks pass. One Sabbath, Jesus and his disciples walk together enjoying each other’s company after the services. As usual, people are following. With their hatred for Jesus increasing, the Pharisees, Scribes, and chief priests keep an eye on him to see if they can catch him in some fault. It is towards the end of the rainy season, late February, and day 504 of the 909 days that changed the world.
The day is clear, and the sun is shining. The grain is beginning to grow. As they make their way through a field, Jesus’ disciples start picking some of the immature heads, rub them in their hands, and eat them. The Pharisees seize on this apparent violation of the Sabbath and immediately call to Jesus and his disciples from behind. “Why are your disciples doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” (Luke 6:2). The disciples pause. Jesus stops, turns back, and looks at the Pharisees with sharpness in his eyes. Their hardness of heart is wearisome, yet he will use their question to make an important point. “Have you not read what David did when he and those who were with him were hungry? How he went into the house of God, took the bread of offering, which only the priests could lawfully eat, ate of it, and shared it with his companions?” (Luke 6:3-4). Oh yes, Jesus knows he is making himself at least the equal of David and knows it will increase their ire, but he is not finished. Jesus is greater than David, and all their man-made rules miss the point, so before turning his back to these Pharisees, he looks them in the eyes and slowly, with his voice rising, says, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. That is why the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27-28). The Pharisees, unable to respond, stand apart and look at one another. The disciples continue with their Sabbath snack. There will be many more events when Jesus shows that the Sabbath is much more than mere burdensome ritual. Another occurs the very next Sabbath.
On that day, Jesus as usual reads from the scriptures, sits down, and expounds on what he has just read. As usual, everyone in the gathering is glued to his words. He speaks eloquently and profoundly but in a way that makes each person believe he is speaking directly to him. When the other readers, usually Pharisees, finish their reading, sit down, and start making comments, the intensity of the listeners drops dramatically. Everyone notices it each week, and it is making the leaders more and more furious. Today they have another plan in their callous hearts.
The Pharisees bring a man with a withered hand close to Jesus. If he cures the man, they can accuse Jesus of violating the Sabbath; if he doesn’t cure the man, they can hope the tide of public opinion will turn against him. Having been bested already last Sabbath, the Pharisees try another route of attack. They are confident this will work. Jesus, knowing full well their malice but filled with pity for this poor man, says, “Come up and stand here before us” (Luke 6:8). The man gets up hesitantly to stand before Jesus. He too has heard and seen what Jesus has done for men like him. Jesus angrily turns his gaze to the Pharisees, saying, “I ask you: is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than evil, to save life rather than destroy it?” (Luke 6:9). “Which one of you who has a sheep that falls into a pit on the Sabbath will not take hold of it and pull it out? How much more valuable a person is than a sheep?” (Matt 12:11-12).
He pauses for an answer…but none comes. Jesus, his eyes softening, turns to the man with the withered hand and cures him. The whole congregation lets out a great cry as the man waves his hand for all to see. Thanking Jesus, the man takes his seat again as does Jesus, but the miracle has changed the tone of the assembly and, after the last one or two readings are done, everyone pours out into the street to talk. Even the humiliated Pharisees walk out of the temple talking, but not about the merits of the miracle but rather ways to get rid of this Jesus. They hastily decide to make plans with the Jewish supporters of King Herod, who also happened to be in Capernaum observing Jesus, for ways to turn Jesus over to him. So later on the same day, the Pharisees meet with them and begin to strike up an unholy alliance. It will take them about thirteen months from now to do so, but ultimately they will succeed.