Jesus picks Grain and is Lord of the Sabbath

The Gospel reading from today’s Mass (Mark 2:23-28) describes how the Pharisees challenge Jesus in a wheat field on the Sabbath:

[23] 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 said 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, when Abi’athar 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?”  [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.”

As always, Jesus amazes with His Divinity.  Consider:

  • The Pharisees considered themselves true Jews, pious Jews, Jews who were fully versed in Scriptures.  And they used their power and status to intimidate others in a hope that by forcing Jews to become more holy, God would bless the Jews and kick the Romans out of Jerusalem.
  • The Pharisees (they seem to always hunt in a pack) challenge Jesus, saying that His disciples are breaking the Sabbath by picking grain…which is against the “Law’.
  • The Pharisees are either ignorant (unlikely) or devious (likely).  The “law” allows Israelites to pluck and eat standing grain (Deut 23:25) but disallows harvesting grain on the Sabbath (Ex 20:8-11; Ex 34:21).

You can almost imagine their plotting; “We’re gonna thrown down this backwaters carpenter and his band of rabble.”

Jesus responds, knocking them back on their heels:

  • Jesus says, “Have you never read…” This is a stinging rebuke to the supposedly sophisticated and well-read Pharisees. Imagine critiquing your priest’s homily after at Mass.  “Say, Father, I know what you said in your homily, but haven’t you read…”
  • Jesus refers how the Jew’s hero king, David, actually went into the temple and ate the show bread on the altar when hungry (1 Sam 21:1-6).  It was acceptable for David to override Mosaic ritual Law.
  • This is amazing; for not only is Jesus refuting the Pharisee’s challenge using scripture, but Jesus is drawing a comparison between Himself and David!
  • Jesus forces to the Pharisees to realize that if they denounce Jesus, they are denouncing David.  An incredible turn of the tables.
  • But Jesus is not done; He goes on to assert that He is the Messiah and is bigger than the Sabbath: “The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath”.

Lesson:  Never challenge Jesus to a throw down about the Law and the Sabbath.

Actually, the lesson is to never challenge Jesus to a throw down about anything.  He is the Son of God, after all.