Given that the Sabbath, via the Lord’s Day, is still binding for the people of God, we are in a position to appreciate more fully the controversy that our Lord had with the Pharisees over the Sabbath. Was the Pharisaic understanding and application of the Sabbath to life fundamentally correct or fundamentally askew? Answering these questions will help us to apply the Sabbath commands in our own day more faithfully.

Jesus’ conflict with the Pharisees begins with the action of the disciples and the question of the Pharisees and culminates in the question and subsequent action of our Lord. This controversy, like the three preceding it, highlights the authority of Jesus as the Son of Man (cf. 1:22, 27; 2:10) and vindicates His authority over against that of the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus is the leader of Israel whom we should follow. How do we know this is the case? Because, in the same way that Jesus vindicated his authority to forgive sins by healing the paralytic, he now vindicates his authority to regulate the Sabbath by healing the man with the withered hand.

Mark takes up the whole issue of the Sabbath in two stories – the first of which addresses the identity of Jesus and His relationship to the Sabbath itself and the second of which addresses the nature of Sabbath observance and how the Sabbath laws are to be applied according to the Lord of the Sabbath.