In this passage, Jesus and his disciples are traveling and hungry. While walking through a field of grain, they take some of the pods and eat the grain. This is a very normal practice, but was forbidden on the Sabbath. The Pharisees were there to witness this act and to call Jesus into question about it.
The sabbatical laws were some of the most important to the Jewish people. Because of their sacredness, the Pharisees created even more rules and regulations to keep the people from breaking the law of the Sabbath. These rules were like a hedge to keep people at a far distance from breaking the law. Some of these rules included (from the Mishna):
- You may only carry the weight of one dry fig. Anything heavier counts as work.
- You may not ignite or extinguish a fire.
- You may not throw an object into the air with one hand and catch it with another hand.
These rules were a stronghold on the people and created an incredibly legalistic culture. Legalism leads to:
- A critical spirit
- Keeping a record of wrongs
- A works-based idea for salvation
This idea of works-based salvation continues to infiltrate many believers today. If someone plans to work their way to favor with God, they must be perfect. It is an impossible task, which is why Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf is such a beautiful gift of grace.
Jesus responds in verse 25 by saying, "Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him." This was a bold statement by Jesus because the Pharisees were the most knowledgable about the Bible, and they knew it better than anyone else. He reminded them that David broke the law and ate the bread of the Presence, which was only for the priests. "And then 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."
This was a bold statement, because in it Jesus:
- Claims He is God. Sabbath was instituted at creation. God wasn't tired, but set an example for mankind.
- Points to a coming day that we enter into His rest. This only comes through His blood.
Jesus is reminding us that Sabbath is a weekly reminder of a coming day when we will have shalom with Him in heaven. The way to focus on this life is to think about the next one in glory!
Questions to Consider:
- Do you have a weekly time of intentional rest that you would consider Sabbath? What is it? If not, what are steps you can take to make this a critically important part of your week?
- Could you say that you "work from your rest instead of rest from your work?" Why?
- Where does legalism sneak into your life? How will you intentionally live by grace through faith? It is not a result of works, so that you will not boast. (from Ephesians 2:8-9 ).