Jesus broke the Sabbath. The Bible is clear about that.
I don’t take phrases like “The Bible is clear…” lightly. When I say “The Bible is clear,” I have verses.
I’m going to show you three passages from scripture that show that Jesus defended breaking the Sabbath, and then I’m going to explain how that proves that gay marriage is okay.
Passage: John 5.
Story: Jesus healing a paralyzed man.
Verses: John 5:8-11.
Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, “It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” But he answered them, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’”
Jesus commanded a man to do something that was unlawful – to carry his mat on the Sabbath. But it gets worse.
The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is still working, and I also am working.” (John 5:15-17)
He admitted to it! Jesus admitted to working on the Sabbath, and he justified it by saying “My Father is still working, and I also am working.” In the same breath, he admitted to it and said “It’s fine.”
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the author of John adds in this little tidbit:
For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God. (John 5:18)
“He was… breaking the Sabbath.” (“Not only” doesn’t change the meaning.) Scripture is very, very clear. Jesus was breaking the Sabbath.
Passage: Luke 14
Story: Jesus heals a man with dropsy
Verses: Luke 14:3-6
And Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, “Is it lawful to cure people on the sabbath, or not?” But they were silent. So Jesus took him and healed him, and sent him away. Then he said to them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that has fallen into a well, will you not immediately pull it out on a sabbath day?” And they could not reply to this.
Jesus heals on the Sabbath. It’s very similar to the last story, but here, Jesus gives examples that are obviously work – pulling a child or ox out of a well, and says, “Wouldn’t you do it, even on the Sabbath?” Of course they would. Jesus justifies breaking the Sabbath – breaking the law – here, by saying, “Well you would, too.”
Which, let’s be honest, is a horrible argument that we all know is wrong. Except when Jesus uses it.
Passage: Mark 2
Story: Jesus’ disciples plucking grain on the Sabbath
Verses: Mark 2:23-28
One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? 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.” Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”
Notice what happened: The Pharisees accused Jesus’ disciples of doing what was not lawful on the Sabbath, and Jesus’ response is not to say “No they aren’t.” Jesus’ defense is that David 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.”
Jesus doesn’t defend his disciples by saying they aren’t breaking the Sabbath. He justifies their breaking the Sabbath. The significance of this difference cannot be overstated. What’s more, he justifies their breaking the Sabbath by justifying David eating the bread of the Presence, which was also not lawful!
Jesus literally justified his disciples breaking the law by eating by saying that David broke the law by eating, so it was okay.
If I married several women and justified polygamy by saying that David did it, I would get thrown out of most churches. They would say, “Listen, there are verses in the Bible that are descriptive, and there are verses that are prescriptive. That story was descriptive. Jesus? He says that David’s law-breaking was prescriptive. And that’s just crazy-talk.
The Hermeneutic of Jesus
Jesus has this pattern of ignoring the Sabbath. In John 5, he admits to it in the clearest of terms, saying, “God’s working, and so am I.” In Luke 14, he justifies it by saying, “You’d do it.” In Mark 2, he justifies it by saying, “David broke the law too, so it’s cool.”
But there’s a common denominator in all of this law-breaking that Jesus either does or justifies. He doesn’t say that the law-breaking isn’t occurring; he defends the law-breaking. Why? Why does Jesus defend this?
Because it’s the loving thing to do.
Because, I submit, Jesus cared more about people than about obeying the law. Whenever there was a showdown between “Gosh, do I obey the law, or do I love this person,” Jesus didn’t have some internal debate. He had an external debate, and his arguments would never hold up today.
I don’t think that Jesus’ argument was his rationale. I think Jesus’ rationale was that the man was paralyzed, the other man had dropsy, and the disciples were hungry. It was as simple as that. But Jesus knew the law and the prophets well enough to justify the act of love in the most bizarre ways.
Of course, some may say, “It’s a matter of interpretation,” or, “Jesus didn’t actually break the Sabbath and (in James’ words) the whole law! We have to contextualize it…” until it doesn’t really mean what it very clearly says.
Which leads me to this: Why do the verses that very clearly say Jesus broke the Sabbath require interpretation? I submit that it’s because they disagree with our theology.
And what about those verses that seem to say that being gay is wrong? Why are they so damn clear? I submit that it’s because they agree with our theology. (Well, I say “our” loosely here. It’s not my theology).
But if we use the hermeneutic of Jesus, then we find that love for others trumps the law of the Bible – or at least recommends very creative interpretation of it.
“But God says that gay sex is wrong!”
The Bible also says that breaking the Sabbath is wrong, and Jesus did it.
And if you think he didn’t, as Mark Driscoll once said, “Skip your systematic theology; read the text.”
Seriously. Exhibit A is very clear. Jesus said he worked on the Sabbath, and the text around it says that he broke the Sabbath. It doesn’t say that the pharisees said he broke the Sabbath. It simply says that he did.
I think that if there isn’t proof that something hurts people, you should probably let them do it. If gays want to get married, let them. Welcome them. Love them. Do what Jesus did: break the law of the Bible to follow the law of Love.
And that is how Jesus breaking the Sabbath proves that gay marriage is okay.