Lord of the Sabbath

November 18, 2020

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat. But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, "Look, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath." (Matthew 12:1-2).

Critical hearts and closed minds have little compassion for those who are pure in heart and sincere in mind. A few of issues are reflected in this incident that takes us through verse 8.

First, we are not told the precise time that this event occurred. Some believe it was the first Sabbath from Passover to Pentecost. Others think it was an unknown Sabbath. It doesn’t matter unless you are trying to formulate a precise timeline in the life and ministry of Jesus. We do know it was a Sabbath because the text tells us it was.

Second, it was a common practice for farmers to leave the outer rows of their fields and orchards unharvested so that travelers could avail themselves of the grains and fruits while traveling. That was not the issue here. The issue was that Jesus and His disciples took the grain on the Sabbath. Pharisaic law stated that plucking the grains from the stalks was ‘harvesting’ and rubbing the grains in their hands to separate the kernel from the chaff (husk) was ‘threshing’. Both were acts of labor forbidden on the Sabbath. Talk about straining a gnat and swallowing a camel - the Pharisees were experts in the field (no pun intended).

Mosaic Law gave no condemnation for the actions of Jesus and the disciples. The Pharisees had so manipulated the Law, added to it, twisted it, and reinterpreted to suit their legalistic minds, that the common man could hardly live his life without violating some precept of theirs. 

Two questions come to mind. 1) Why were the Pharisees watching Jesus and His disciples in the first place? Surely they weren’t traveling along with them in the group for that would have ruined their reputation had they been mistaken as ‘followers’ of Jesus. 2) If Jesus and the disciples were hungry, why didn’t the Pharisees give them bread? Surely they had provisions for such a journey themselves. Why didn’t they share with Jesus and His men?

When asked by a Scribe what is the greatest of the commandments, Jesus answered, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:37-40). The Pharisees demonstrated no such love for God or God’s people, for theirs was a religion of power and greed and hatred.

“Lord, never let my eyes be blinded to the situation of others, nor my heart closed to their needs. Keep my heart tender to the true faith in Jesus Christ and closed to the corrupt religions of men. Never let the truth of Your Word become a legalistic tool in my hands. To Your honor I pray, Amen.”


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