Mark 2:23-3:6 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. What were Jesus’ disciples doing on the Sabbath and why were the Pharisees offended by their action? See Mark 2:23-24 (printed below)

One Sabbath day Jesus was passing through the grain fields; and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. (24) So the Pharisees said to him, Listen, why are your disciples doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath? (Mark 2:23-24)

As they were passing through the grain fields, Jesus’ disciples picked some heads of grain and ate them. The Pharisees were offended because they viewed the disciples’ action as an act of labor and, consequently, a violation of the fourth commandment that tells us we must honor the Sabbath.

2. In response to the Pharisees’ objection, Jesus refers them to what Old Testament incident? See Mark 2:25-26 (printed below)

And he said to them, Did you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him? (26) When Abiathar was high priest, he entered into the house of God and ate the showbread, which it is not lawful to eat except for the priests—and he also gave some to those who were with him. (Mark 2:25-26)

Jesus reminds the Pharisees of what David and his men did when they were hungry. They entered the house of God and ate the old showbread once it had been replaced with fresh bread. According to Old Testament regulation, only the priests were supposed to eat such bread (see 1 Samuel 21:1-6).

3. In Mark 2:27 the Lord Jesus declares, “The Sabbath was made for man.” What does this statement mean and what does it not mean?

The Sabbath was designed by God as a time when men could rest from their labor and enter into a time of undisturbed worship of God and fellowship with God. But this does not mean that men are free to do whatever they please on the Lord’s Day, ignoring the worship of God and using this day exclusively for their own amusement.

4. When Jesus asks, “Is it lawful to save a life on the Sabbath?” how do the religious leaders respond? See Mark 3:4 (printed below) Why?

Then he said to them, Is it lawful to do good, or to do harm on the Sabbath day? to save a life, or to kill? But they kept silent. (Mark 3:4)

When Jesus asks if it is lawful to save a life on the Sabbath, the religious leaders give no answer. They kept silent because they knew their hypocrisy was being exposed. They were opposed to the man with the shriveled hand being healed on the Sabbath, yet they themselves would not hesitate to pull their sheep out of the ditch on the Sabbath (see Matthew 12:11-12).

5. How does Jesus react to the attitude He finds in the Pharisees? See Mark 3:5 (printed below)

He looked around at them with anger, being deeply aggravated by the hardening of their heart, then he said to the man, Stretch out your hand. And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. (Mark 3:5)

Jesus looked around at them in anger, being deeply aggravated by the hardening of their heart. It angered our Lord that these men who held a faulty view of the Sabbath refused to receive correction, stubbornly setting themselves in opposition to Christ and to the truth.