Many stories in the previous few chapters illustrate Jesus’ power and authority. In today’s passage, as Jesus and some of His disciples were walking through a grainfield, they were picking off heads of grain and eating them. However, because you can’t just eat the grain and you have to rub off the chaff (i.e. threshing), they were doing “work,” which is a “no-no” on the Sabbath.
When I say “no-no,” we must understand that nothing in the OT prohibits such actions. In fact, Deuteronomy 23:25 actually allows for this exact practice. However, threshing on the Sabbath was strictly prohibited in the Mishnah, the oral tradition of interpretation surrounding the Mosaic Law. The idea was that the Jews did not want to break the Mosaic Law, therefore they created rules to keep themselves away from breaking the Law, so that they didn’t even get close. Eventually, these rules became synonymous with the Law itself in the mind of many religious leaders, and it was through these rules that they held true power in the community. The Law was intended to reflect the heart of God, the rules presented in the Mishnah often only reflected judgement and hypocrisy.
Because Jesus and his disciples were “threshing” on the Sabbath, some of the Pharisees called him out. Jesus’ response was a reminder of King David when he and his men ate the bread of the presence because they were hungry (1 Samuel 21:6), and then he said something astonishing—“The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” As these words left Jesus’ lips you can imagine the Pharisaical jaws dropping, loud gasps, hands wringing, and other dramatic gestures.
These men had studies the prophet, Daniel, which has a clear-cut Messianic claim, that says,
13 “I kept looking in the night visions,
And behold, with the clouds of heaven
One like a Son of Man was coming,
And He came up to the Ancient of Days
And was presented before Him.
14 “And to Him was given dominion,
Glory and a kingdom,
That all the peoples, nations and men of every language
Might serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
Which will not pass away;
And His kingdom is one
Which will not be destroyed.”
Let me ask a dumb question, “If the Son of Man will come and have ‘everlasting dominion’ over everything, does that include the Sabbath?”
Starting in verse 6, we have another Sabbath situation that illustrates the failure of the religious leaders to understand God’s heart in the Sabbath. Jesus’ question in verse 9 is essentially asking, “Is it ok to do good on the Sabbath? And oh, by the way, a failure to do good is the same thing as doing harm!”
Because the religious leaders did not do “work” on the Sabbath, that means they failed to do good on too many occasions. The Sabbath is for rest, yes, but not at the expense of loving your neighbor as yourself. Thus ask yourself today, what habits or hobbies do you have in your life that hinder loving God and loving others consistently?
By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate