A Discussion about the Sabbath
23 One Sabbath day as Jesus was walking through some grainfields, his disciples began breaking off heads of grain to eat. 24 But the Pharisees said to Jesus, "Look, why are they breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath?"
25 Jesus said to them, "Haven't you ever read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 26 He went into the house of God (during the days when Abiathar was high priest) and broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests are allowed to eat. He also gave some to his companions."
27 Then Jesus said to them, "The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!"
The religious leaders accuse Jesus and his disciples of violating the Sabbath. In response, Jesus uses their own Scriptures to show them that the Sabbath was meant to be beneficial, not burdensome.
Sabbath (Mark 2:23)
The Sabbath was a sign of the sacred covenant between God and his chosen people, Israel. But whereas the original command was not to work on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:10), the religious leaders had added their own interpretations, surrounding the law with traditions that, to them, became just as binding. Thus, for example, wearing false teeth was considered "carrying a burden"; pulling out a gray hair was considered "reaping"; and dragging a chair along the ground was considered plowing.178
Harvesting grain (Mark 2:24)
In this case, the Pharisees accused Jesus' disciples of "doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath" (NASB) - namely, reaping or "harvesting grain" (v. 24). The Law, it should be noted, permitted travelers to eat small amounts of food from someone's field: "'When you enter your neighbor's vineyard, you may eat your fill of grapes, but you must not carry any away in a basket. And when you enter your neighbor's field of grain, you may pluck the heads of grain with your hand, but you must not harvest it with a sickle'" (Deuteronomy 23:24-25). The problem, as the Pharisees saw it, was that the disciples were doing this on the Sabbath - a "clear" violation of the law as interpreted by the Pharisees.
David (Mark 2:25)
There appear to be several reasons as to why Jesus chose to use the example of David and his men eating the bread that was preserved exclusively for the priests (see 1 Samuel 21):
Of course there is the how-much-more argument: if David had the right to do something, how much more so the Son of Man.
Similarly, "David's hunger sets aside even a divine regulation - shall not the hunger of the disciples set aside mere rabbinical notions?"179
Because the Sabbath was held as a holy and sacred tradition of the highest order, Jesus' claim to be Lord of the Sabbath amounted to a claim to have authority equal to God's.
As the incident noted by Jesus marked the beginning of the end for Saul, as symbolized by Abiathar's taking the ephod and fleeing to David, it is very possible to see here an ominous warning by Jesus that God had turned from Israel's religious leaders and was now speaking through his Son.180
Similarly, as Saul's insane anger resulted in the death of Ahimelech and "the priests of the LORD" (see 1 Samuel 22:17, NASB) but could not prevent God's plan to install a new king, ultimately the religious leaders' insane plot to kill Jesus would prove powerless to prevent God's plan to install Jesus as King of both Israel and the entire world.
(We may wish to note that Ahimelich, and not his son Abiathar, was high priest at the time David ate the bread. A vengeful Saul put Ahimelich to death, and then Abiathar assumed the role of high priest. There are a number of adequate explanations for Jesus' phrase "in the time of Abiathar the high priest" (NASB), which any good commentary can supply.181
The Law of Spiritual Response
One source comments on what it terms "the law of spiritual response." As brought out in Jesus' teachings and especially in his parables, it serves as a reminder of our role regarding biblical truth. The more we respond positively to the truth, the more we are able to grasp it - that is, the more we are able to understand and apply it. Conversely, the more we respond negatively to the truth by rejecting it, the less we are able to grasp it.182
When it comes to Jesus Christ, we really have only one of two options: either open our eyes to Christ or close them; either embrace Jesus totally or reject him completely. To their everlasting regret, the Pharisees chose the latter.
Caught Between Two Worlds
One of Aesop's fables deals with the bat.
It seems there was a war between the birds and the beasts, and the bat decided he wanted to belong to both of the feuding factions.
And so when the birds were winning, the bat would identify itself as a bird. But when the beasts were gaining the upper hand, the bat would claim to be a beast.
As you can image, as soon as they realized what he was doing both the birds and the beasts denounced the bat as a complete hypocrite.
Shamed and rejected, the bat had no choice but to become a permanent recluse, hiding in caves and appearing only at night.183
The Pharisees were trapped between internal sin and external righteousness. Jesus, on the other hand, was always at home in God's world - whether in a praise and worship service or hanging out with sinners.
??? What are some practical things we can do to make sure we are trying to please God rather than people?