Am I like the religious elites, constantly challenging Jesus? Am I a know it all trying to catch him breaking some religious rule?
I need to be careful. I should be cautious. Jesus isn’t going to be happy.
On a Sabbath, he passed through the grainfields. His disciples were picking heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands, and eating them. But some of the Pharisees [religious elites] said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?”
Jesus answered them, “Haven’t you read what David and those who were with him did when he was hungry—how he entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat? He even gave some to those who were with him.” Then he told them, “The Son of Man is Master of the Sabbath.” | Luke 6:1-5
The sanctity of the seventh day was a distinctive part of the Jewish faith. God gave Israel the Sabbath law at Sinai and made it a sign between Him and the nation. The word Sabbath means “rest” and is linked with God’s cessation of work after the six days of Creation. Some of the religious elites taught that Messiah could not come until Israel had perfectly kept the Sabbath, so obeying this law was very important both personally and nationally. The Sabbath is the last day (7th) of the week.
To call Sunday “the Sabbath” is to confuse the first day and the seventh day and what each signifies. The Sabbath (Saturday) is a reminder of the completion of “the old Creation,” while the Lord’s Day is a reminder of our Master’s finished work in “the new Creation”. The Sabbath speaks of rest after work and relates to the Law, while the Master’s Day speaks of rest before work and relates to grace. The Master’s Day commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead as well as the coming of the Holy Spirit and the “birthday” of the church.
The early church met on the first day of the week (Sunday). However, some Jewish believers kept the Sabbath, and this sometimes led to division. Paul addressed this problem where he gave principles to promote both liberty and unity in the church. But Paul always made it clear that observing special days had nothing to do with salvation. We are not saved from sin by faith in the Messiah plus keeping the Sabbath. We are saved by faith in Jesus alone.
By their strict and oppressive rules, the religious elites had turned the Sabbath Day into a burden instead of the blessing God meant it to be, and Jesus challenged both their doctrine and their authority. He had announced a new “Year of Jubilee”, and now He would declare a new Sabbath. He had already healed a lame man on the Sabbath, and the religious leaders had determined to kill Him. Now He was to violate their Sabbath laws on two more occasions.
It was lawful for a Jew to eat from a neighbor’s vineyard, orchard, or field, provided he did not fill a container or use a harvesting implement. The disciples were hungry, so they picked the heads of wheat, rubbed them in their hands, and ate them. But in so doing, according to the elites, they broke the Sabbath law, because they were harvesting, winnowing, and preparing food!
Always alert for something to criticize, some of the Pharisees asked Jesus why He permitted His disciples to violate the Sabbath laws. This was His second offense, and they were sure they had a case against Him. How tragic that their slavish devotion to religious rules blinded them to the true ministry of the Law as well as the very presence of the Master who gave them the Law.
Jesus did not argue with them; instead, He took them right to the Word of God. The “showbread” was comprised of twelve loaves, one for each tribe in Israel; and it stood on the table in the holy place in the tabernacle and then in the temple. Fresh bread was put on the table each Sabbath, and only the priests were allowed to eat the loaves.
But David and his men ate the loaves, and what Jew would condemn Israel’s great king? “He was God’s anointed!” they might argue, but that was exactly what Jesus claimed for Himself. Not only was He God’s Anointed, but He was also the Master of the Sabbath! When Jesus made that statement, He was claiming to be Jehovah God, because it was the Master who established the Sabbath. If Jesus the Messiah is indeed Master of the Sabbath, then He is free to do on it and with it whatever He pleases. The elites did not miss His meaning, you can be sure.
God is more concerned about meeting human needs than He is about protecting religious rules. Better that David and his men receive strength to serve God than that they perish only for the sake of a temporary law. God desires compassion, not sacrifice. The elites, of course, had a different view of the Law.
Here is the literal translation:
And it happened on a Sabbath that he was going through [fields that had been] sown [with grain], and his disciples were plucking and eating the heads of grain as they were rubbing [the heads] in [their] hands. 2 But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you [disciples of Jesus] doing what’s not lawful [to do] on the Sabbath?”
And answering, Jesus said to them, “But you’ve read this, haven’t you, what David did when he got hungry—he and those who were with him—4 how he entered into God’s house [at that time the tabernacle, for the temple hadn’t yet been built] and, on taking the loaves of presentation, ate [them] and gave [them] to those [who were] with him, which [loaves] aren’t lawful to eat—except for the priests alone [to eat]?” 5 And he was telling them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
Christian Standard Bible. (2017). (Lk 6:1–49). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, pp. 189–190). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
Gundry, R. H. (2010). Commentary on the New Testament: Verse-by-Verse Explanations with a Literal Translation (p. 247). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.