Mark 2:23-3:6 ESV One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. (24) And the Pharisees were saying to him, "Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?" (25) 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: (26) how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the 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?" (27) And he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. (28) So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath." (3:1) Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. (2) And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. (3) And he said to the man with the withered hand, "Come here." (4) 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. (5) 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. (6) The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.
The Pharisees are so concerned about maintaining their outward holy appearance that they even prohibit picking food to eat on the Sabbath. Their traditions and regulations have perverted something God created to be a benefit to man -- the rules that were heaped onto the Sabbath were oppressive! Jesus again shows that He isn't concerned with outward shows of piety -- He can see into the heart, where it counts.
God created the Sabbath because He wants us to be able to enjoy the Creation He has given us. The rules that were put in place were designed to make sure that we set aside the time to rest and enjoy. God knows our nature, and He knows what workaholics we can be if left to our own designs. By building in a day off, He is showing concern for our well-being.
Their legalism even extended to miracle working and healing. Jesus points out their hypocracy -- "Am I allowed to do something good on the Sabbath?" They know that they've been had -- they cannot even reply as Jesus heals the man's hand. He had made them look foolish, and He was encouraging people to ignore their rules. He had to be stopped.
Notice that Jesus is not encouraging sinful behavior. He's not advocating open rebellion. He simply wants people to get back to the faith that Moses taught -- not the vain traditions that had been piled on top of God's Law.
We like to pile our own standards on top of God's. I'm not sying that having standards is a bad thing -- I'm simply saying that to elevate our own ideas of spirituality to the level of Holy Writ is dangerous if we don't have Biblical justification to do so. I may not like it when people stand to pray; maybe I'm a kneeler. Someone else may prefer to stand, hands lifted high. Someone else might simply sit down and bow, preferring not to draw attention to themselves. Who is right? We all are. Unfortunately, if the situation I've described happened in real life, there would be three new denominations -- the Kneelers, the Sitters, and the Standers. Then the Kneelers might split over whether to go to one knee or two. The Standers might argue over how high to raise your hands, if at all. Sitters might argue about proper posture. All because we've decided that the posture of prayer is something that is vital to spiritual growth, and everyone elseis totally wrong.
We like to condemn people for being fundamentalists, that they're Pharisees. We have to remember that we all have done this at some point or another. We also need to study the Word, so that we know when a standard is God's, and when it's ours alone.