It happened that, Jesus was walking through the wheat ﬁelds on a Sabbath. His disciples were hungry; and they began to pick some heads of wheat, to crush and to eat the grain. When the Pharisees noticed this, they said to Jesus, “Look at your disciples! They are doing what is prohibited on the Sabbath!”
Jesus answered, “Have you not read what David did, when he and his men were hungry? He went into the House of God, and they ate the bread offered to God, though neither he nor his men had the right to eat it, but only the priests. And have you not read in the law, how, on the Sabbath, the priests in the temple desecrate the Sabbath, yet they are not guilty?
“I tell you, there is greater than the temple here. If you really knew the meaning of the words: It is mercy I want, not sacriﬁce, you would not have condemned the innocent.
“Besides, the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
One of the ten commandments given by God to Moses runs like this: “No work must be done (on the sabbath)” (Ex 20:10). But what did God mean by “work?” In the course of the centuries the Jewish scribes or specialists of the Law had tried to answer that question by specifying what types of activities could be classified as “work.” Harvesting was obviously one of those. But the Pharisees, who were overscrupulous observers of the Law, believed that plucking heads of wheat while crossing a field was “harvesting” and, therefore, work. Hence their reproach to Jesus in today’s gospel reading.
Naturally Jesus does not agree with this nit-picking approach to the Law. However, on this particular occasion he decides to humor the Pharisees by saying something like this: “Suppose you are right in your definition of what “work” is. But, even so, every rule has its exception, don’t you think?” Then he goes on to point to an occasion when the famous Kind David (one of God’s favorites) broke the Law for a good reason (hunger) and was not blamed by God for doing so. Priests also break the Law, Jesus then adds, by “working” on the Sabbath.
Even good and wise rules must sometimes be broken when their application in particular set of circumstances becomes nonsensical.
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