Jesus’ Life and Ministry
Plucking Grain on the Sabbath
SOON Jesus and his disciples leave Jerusalem to return to Galilee. It is springtime, and in the fields there are ears of grain on the stalks. The disciples are hungry. So they pluck heads of grain and eat. But since it is a Sabbath, their actions do not go unobserved.
Religious leaders in Jerusalem had just sought to kill Jesus for alleged violations of the Sabbath. Now Pharisees bring an accusation. “Look! Your disciples are doing what it is not lawful to do on the sabbath,” they charge.
The Pharisees claim that picking grain and rubbing it in the hands to eat is harvesting and threshing. But their strict interpretation of what constitutes work has made the Sabbath burdensome, whereas it was meant to be a joyous, spiritually upbuilding time. So Jesus counters with Scriptural examples to show that Jehovah God never purposed such an unduly strict application of His Sabbath law.
When hungry, Jesus says, David and his men stopped at the tabernacle and ate the loaves of presentation. Even though the loaves had already been removed from before Jehovah and replaced by fresh ones, they were ordinarily reserved for the priests to eat. Yet, under the circumstances, David and his men were not condemned for eating them.
Providing another example, Jesus says: “Have you not read in the Law that on the sabbaths the priests in the temple treat the sabbath as not sacred and continue guiltless?” Yes, even on the Sabbath the priests carry on butchering and other work at the temple in preparing animal sacrifices! “But I tell you,” Jesus says, “that something greater than the temple is here.”
Admonishing the Pharisees, Jesus continues: “If you had understood what this means, ‘I want mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless ones.” Then he concludes: “For Lord of the sabbath is what the Son of man is.” What did Jesus mean by that?
Jesus was referring to his peaceful Kingdom rule of a thousand years. For 6,000 years humankind has suffered laborious enslavement under Satan the Devil, with violence and war being the order of the day. On the other hand, the great sabbath rule of Christ will be a time of rest from all such suffering and oppression. Matthew 12:1-8; Leviticus 24:5-9; 1 Samuel 21:1-6; Numbers 28:9; Hosea 6:6.
◆ What charge is made against Jesus’ disciples, and how does Jesus answer it?
◆ What failing of the Pharisees does Jesus identify?
◆ In what way is Jesus “Lord of the sabbath”?