Mark barely began his Gospel account when he recorded Jesus violating the Law of Moses. Granted, most of the people in the synagogue did not consider what Jesus did as work, but it was a violation. Healing is not to be done on the Sabbath unless the person’s life is in danger. The man possessed by a demon could wait until Sunday to be healed.
As a follower of the Messiah, I need to understand why Jesus would say—in Matthew 5—Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them, NIV and then violate the Law. Not once, but many times. He even did it again that same day by healing Peter’s mother-in-law. The other healings in the next verses were accomplished after sundown, meaning Sunday on the Jewish system, so were legal.
There is no easy answer. Accepting that Jesus is the Son of God simplifies the problem somewhat. But, accepting that Jesus was the fully human Messiah complicates the issue even more.
One of the most basic Christian concepts about Jesus is that he came, in part, as a shepherd. He is the Good Shepherd. In Jesus’ day, and in some parts of the world today, a shepherd worked all day, every day—even sleeping with the sheep at night. So, why would the Good Shepherd refuse to tend his flock on Shabbat?
Paul dealt with a similar issue in his letter to the church at Corinth. The Law of Moses considered all food used to worship false gods to be an abomination. The Jews living in Corinth, therefore, never bought meat from anyone who might be selling left-overs from such sacrifices.
One special worship days—with all the gods there were plenty of them—meat would be piled up and offered at fire-sale prices (pun intended). The poor could afford to buy some of that meat, something they could not do most days. What they wanted Paul to tell them was that it was all right to eat the cheap meat.
Paul answered much the way Jesus would have. It is not easy to think that we “know” over problems like this, but we should remember that while knowledge may make a man look big, it is only love that can make him grow to his full stature. Phillips Paul also made it clear that the meat sacrificed to an idol is just as pure as any other meat, because idols are nothing.
Paul might have said something like this: if a store owner says he worships money, my buying his produce does nothing to me in my relationship to God. The owner may have to answer to God, but not me.
Every forum (marketplace) in the Roman Empire collected a fee to shop there. It was actually an “offering” to the god Caesar. We do not know how Jews and Christians dealt with that in the First Century or what Paul had to say about it. I guess that he said, ‘We know Caesar is just a man and this is another tax, so pay the tax.’ Besides, when the Christian shopper looked at items in every shop, she also saw the idol representing that owner’s beliefs on display in the shop. In the early days, a Christian who boycotted such shops would have gone hungry and naked.
What is the bottom line? Jesus makes it clear that people come first. In all cases, ask what is best for the other person. If what I do may cause another person to become weaker in faith than I should not do it. I can argue that I have the right to do it, but that is not the Jesus way.
Always do what is best for those around us.
Here is a link to a good video about Corinth.
Read my earlier comments on this theme here.
Be righteous and do good.