It’s Not About the Rules; It’s About Growing Closer to the Lord

It’s Not About the Rules; It’s About Growing Closer to the Lord


Scriptures of the Triodion

Third Saturday of the Souls

One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields; and as they made their way His disciples began to pluck heads of grain.  And 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 was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him:  how 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 also gave it to those who were with him?” And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

 Again He entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand.  And they watched Him, to see whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him.  And He said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come here.”  And He said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent.  And He looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored as the other.  Mark 2: 23-28; 3: 1-5


Good morning Prayer Team!

We are now coming to the end of the first week of Great Lent.  How is it going for you?  Let me ask a serious question—Have you put more emphasis this week on rules like fasting, or have you put more emphasis on growing closer to the Lord?  I hope that as you are fasting, that you are also praying.  Because our salvation is not going to come through fasting but through faith.

The Gospel of this morning makes this case in point.  The Pharisees were criticizing Jesus’ disciples for picking heads of grain on the Sabbath.  Jesus tell them that is it okay to eat on the Sabbath, and if one has to cook or work in order to eat, that is fine.  He even makes the point that David entered into the temple and ate the Bread of the Presence, which no one was allowed to do, and gave it to those who were with him because they were all hungry.  It was better to help others, even if it meant breaking a rule.

The Gospel then recounts Jesus healing a man with a withered hand on the same day, and how the Pharisees were critical of Jesus healing on the Sabbath, a day when no work was to be done.  He even challenged them with a question, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?”  The Gospel says that they were silent and offered no answer to this question.  They couldn’t acknowledge that healing was okay under any circumstances, that the Sabbath rule trumped any possibility to render aid.

Let’s say that you are rushing to work, and you come upon a car accident.  What is more important, to arrive to work on time, or to stop and render aid?  It is most important to stop and render aid, even if it means breaking a rule and not arriving at work on time.  Because the highest expression of our faith is found in love, not in obedience to rules.

We all know the phrase “spirit of the law” versus “letter of the law.”  Jesus was a “spirit of the law” person, showing mercy and compassion even when someone didn’t deserve it, and even on the Sabbath, when He “worked” in healing someone.  The point of life is to achieve salvation.  We do this by faith in God, manifested in loving God and loving our neighbor.  The “spirit” of the law puts loving God and loving neighbor above everything else.  “Fasting” is a means to help us love God by helping us tame our passions.  But fasting is the end goal, nor is it the only way to grow closer to Christ.  As we end our first week of Lent, ask yourself, have I grown closer to Christ this week?  And also ask yourself are you more letter of the law or spirit of the law?  Would you “break” a law in order to help someone?

Once you had taken the Faith of Christ into your heart like a suit of armor, you trampled the hostile forces underfoot, having contended much, and you were crowned with heavenly laurels forever, as one invincible. (Kontakion, 3rd Saturday of Souls)

Don’t forget to pray today!


+Fr. Stavros

Photo credit: ThoughtCo.

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About author

Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”