A Lord indicates someone who has dominion over somebody. It means someone who exercises authority over a set of people.
In today’s gospel, Jesus is using His encounter with the Pharisees to present His mission and identity to the people. He is bringing in the new wine different from the old one as we see in the gospel of yesterday.
The point here is that the Jews have a series of laws guiding them. These laws have become burdensome to the people. These Pharisees who are known as the teachers and interpreters of the law emphasize the strict observance of these laws, hence making them highly oppressive and legalistic for the people.
Today, Jesus uses an encounter with them to remind them that He is the author of the law. Therefore, He is supreme and Lord of the sabbath law.
The Sabbath was meant to bring the people close to God. Jesus is the way. Therefore, they can do that through Him. So, He is fulfillment of the sabbath.
Work on the Sabbath.
Exodus 20:8-11 emphasizes that the sabbath day should be a day of rest and not a day of labour. The Pharisaic interpretation of this was so legalistic and strict, such that every kind of work was restricted on this day.
So, many times they attacked Jesus even for healing on the sabbath day. So they maintain a strict observance of the law.
Therefore, Jesus is teaching them that the law was meant not against man but for man. The sabbath was meant to give man rest, time for reflection, worship of God, and peace of mind.
Therefore, the sabbath should be for the benefit of man and not to keep the man in bondage.
By having a day of worship, a man casts all his worries to his Creator and pray for His blessings for the week. In essence, the sabbath should be a day of blessing.
So, any righteous act, acts of charity, saving the hungry, the poor, and saving lives, etc are not against the sabbath Law.
Jesus and His Disciples.
- It happens that Jesus and his disciples are walking through the field, and the disciples pick grains from the field, rubbing them in their hands, and eating them.
The Pharisees see this and begin to question the reason for such an attitude on Sabbath Day.
Many of us think that since they are not the owners of the field, the disciples are stealing by doing such. To understand the reason for this, we have to get to the root.
We have to note that the Jewish law requires that owners of grain fields can allow the poor or the hungry to eat from their fields.
They can only satisfy their hunger but not collecting the whole grain or carrying a basket. In Ruth 2, we can see how Ruth goes out every day to gather grains.
The Jews see this charitable act as a way to help the poor (Deuteronomy 23;24-25. Leviticus 23:22).
So, what the Pharisees are emphasizing is not that the disciples are picking grains in a field that is not their own. It is a normal to do so.
So, their emphasis is that they are doing such on the sabbath day. For them, the sabbath law of working also forbids picking grains to satisfy hunger. So, in their own interpretation, the sabbath forbids every kind of work.
Therefore, we can see here that the interest of the Pharisees is only in the strict observance of the law and not on saving lives.
To forbid such charitable act on a Sabbath day is against what the Sabbath is meant for. Therefore, the pharisees give wrong interpretation of the law.
This is why Jesus refers them to 1 Samuel 21. While running away from Saul, David entered a house of God at Nob and requested for five loaves of bread from Ahimelek the priest, for him and his men who were extremely hungry.
The priest tells David that he can have the bread if the men have not recently slept with women because what remains there was the consecrated bread. The priest knows that David was hungry and gave the bread out as a provision to him.
By reminding them of this chapter and using David as a reference point, Jesus is implying that if God was not angry with David whom they respect, then He who is the messiah, who is even greater than David can do so to his disciples on the sabbath.
Secondly, if the priests can give out the consecrated bread to David and his men on the sabbath to satisfy their hunger, then the disciples did not commit any crime for doing so.
Thus, the Sabbath does not prohibit the acts of saving lives, helping the poor, the hungry, etc.
Jesus is giving a message that in whatever we do, the salvation of souls should be the first objective.
We can then ask ourselves, what is that thing that we hold strictly to the point that people are suffering from it. What is that particular law or a particular decision we hold in extreme, despite that soul are languishing through them?
Why do we condemn people to death because of offence against the sharia law? Why killing people every day in the name of defending or fighting for religion? Will God who propagates mercy, love, and forgiveness be happy that blood is shed every day in His name?
Secondly, what are those things that we hold supreme despite that it scares millions of souls away from God? Is what we are doing touching lives? How many lives have we touched or encouraged?
At the end of our lives, there is a trophy we are going to lay at the feet of Jesus. The trophy is how many souls we have saved after our little sojourn on earth.
Let us focus more on saving the hungry, the poor, the downtrodden, the orphans etc. rather than appearing more religious. God watches the heart. For every Christian, the singular law is the law of love. Wherever we are, we have to be a light to people. We have to be instruments of salvation to people who come in contact with us.
May God have mercy on us and give us the grace to live only for the salvation of souls. May He forgive our pasts and be with us throughout the day. Amen.