In today’s gospel, Jesus and His disciples are passing through a grain of field on the Sabbath day. The disciples begin to pick the heads of the grain in that field to satisfy their hunger.
The Pharisees are uncomfortable with this. They complain to Jesus that what the disciples are doing is not lawful on the sabbath day.
In reply, Jesus refers to what David did in 1 Samuel 21: 1-6 when he was hungry. David entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Holy Presence reserved for only priests to eat.
Jesus responds to them that human beings are not meant for the sabbath. It is the sabbath for man and He also is the Lord of the Sabbath.
The main point here is not that the disciples are plucking grains in a field that does not belong to them, but they are doing this on the sabbath day.
Let us also note here that Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15 and Exodus 31:14 condemn work on the sabbath day.
So, because of this, the Pharisees accuse the disciples of transgressing the law. In essence, what the disciples are doing according to the Pharisees are highly prohibited on the Sabbath day.
The implication is that the disciples should go hungry than eat on the sabbath day, according to the Pharisees.
2. The truth here is that the Jewish law allows what the disciples are doing. Deuteronomy 23: 24-25 allows a poor or hungry fellow to enter any vineyard and eat grapes and pick kernels as he or she wants but should not carry baskets to put them or put a sickle to a standing grain.
So, the Pharisees see this little action of picking ears of grain as a kind of work to the extent they saw it as something that is “not lawful” (Mark 2:24), even though there was no such specific application of the fourth commandment in the Torah.
The problem is that they see themselves as the sole interpreters of the law which for them is authoritative and binding.
Sometimes, they even put their interpretation, which is what happened today.
And they stress the law so much, to the extent it becomes a burden to the people.
While responding to them, Jesus refers to what David did. Although the action of David was contrary to the law, he was not condemned for it.
In 1 Samuel 21: 1-6 when he was hungry. David entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Holy Presence reserved for only priests to eat.
In essence, Jesus reveals that our human need is a higher law than religious ritualism.
He said to them that ‘The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath”
Therefore, the Sabbath was created to help man and not to be a burden to man.
Therefore, the Sabbath is a gift of God to man. Its purpose was not to be a burden to man. It was a day given to him for rest and hence provides an opportunity for worship to God.
So, it is a day of grace and does not prevent one from satisfying a human need.
Therefore, Jesus as the Lord of the Sabbath, means that He has the authority to determine its use and law. So, it is not in the power of the Pharisees to determine for Him.
The point here is that the Pharisees took the interpretation of the Sabbath law so far that they neglect the importance of love, human need and compassion to the needy.
So, Jesus is revealing that it is not all about following the letters of the law but the spirit and message the law communicates is what counts.
The message is that God is more interested in how loving, merciful and compassionate we are as His children.
He is more interested in how loving and helpful we are to the people around us than how much we appear to be holy but yet we cause problems wherever we are.
It is not how much we shout lord and speak in tongues, but yet we are full of wickedness, hatred and evil.
It is not how much we pray and shout fire from heaven, but yet we are in enmity with everyone that comes around us, and when we see good things coming into the life of other people we become jealous and sad.
You go to church and always stay in front to appear righteous, but you are the real architect of evil in the land.
You give millions outside your home so that people will clap for you, but in your family, you have refused to help that poor family who you know have been struggling.
Hence, You receive Holy Communion every day, but you have destroyed the family of a widow and turned truths upside down.
You are a child of God but yet you fight the defenceless and suffer the poor and the orphans.
We maim people at their back, say all kinds of lies against them. We appear good in front of people but at the back, we do the worst.
Therefore, Jesus is saying that we must pay attention to human needs. We must pay attention to showing mercy, love, kindness and hospitality. We have to know how to tolerate and understand people. So, we have to seek peace and pursue goodness all the time.
Spirituality is not for outward show. It has to come from within.
Therefore, since the Sabbath is for good, why we belong to God and His church must also be for good.
The Pharisees neglected the importance of the human need to pay attention to what their profession represents.
Like them sometimes we also neglect to help, save and show love. What God wants is a heart that truly worships him in spirit and truth and a heart that loves and shows mercy.
In Matthew 12:7, Jesus says “ I desire mercy and not sacrifice”. Therefore, what we worship and represent should reflect on what we do.
We pray that God forgives us, and helps us to stand by His word. May He abide with you today in everything that you do. Amen.