PROPER 4 (9) – Year B

2nd Sunday after Pentecost — June 2, 2024

Gospel Lectionary Text

Mark 2:23-3:6

2:23 One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain.

2:24 The Pharisees said to him, "Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?"

2:25 And he said to them, "Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food?

2:26 He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions."

2:27 Then he said to them, "The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath;

2:28 so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath."

3:1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand.

3:2 They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him.

3:3 And he said to the man who had the withered hand, "Come forward."

3:4 Then he said to them, "Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?" But they were silent.

3:5 He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.

3:6 The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.


In this week’s text, Jesus and his disciples break the letter of the law in order to fulfill the spirit of the law. Moralism is the death of any truly liberating tradition (which may help explain the decline of organized religion today). It is the attempt to maintain the status quo by managing behavior and separating the goodies from the baddies.

Jesus has something else in mind. His vision of the law (in this case keeping the Sabbath) is not a purity test. It is not about legalism. It’s about life. To enter into God’s rest is to be liberated from legalism of any kind. There is no favor to gain when it’s already given.

In Jesus’ view, the purpose of the law is to create a community of human flourishing in which everyone belongs, especially those at the margins, like the man with the withered hand in this week’s story. But this vision disrupts those who are trying to maintain a social order in which favor is treated like a controlled substance that can be given or taken away by those in charge.


How might our understanding of "keeping the Sabbath" change if we didn't view it as a rule to be followed, but as an invitation to experience true rest and liberation?


Come, Holy Spirit, wild and free. Do as you please. Shine your light on me that I might see things as they are, not as I am. Free me to act in your name with courage, creativity, and compassion. See the complete prayer

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