Title: The Messiah’s authority over the Sabbath part 2
Scriptures to Read: Read Mark 2:23-28; Matthew 12:1-8; Luke 6:1-5
The controversy over the grain
Now Luke’s account, verse 1 says: “Now it happened that He was passing through some grain fields on a Sabbath; and His disciples were picking the heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands, and eating the grain.”
Jesus and His disciples break four Pharisaic or Oral laws
The Pharisees came accusing Jesus and His disciples because they had just broken four of the 1500 Sabbath rules and regulations inaugurated by the Pharisees. They broke four separate rules:
1. First of all, when they picked the wheat off the stalk they were guilty of reaping on the Sabbath day.
2. Secondly, when they rubbed the wheat in their hands to separate the wheat from the chaff they were guilty of threshing the wheat on the Sabbath day.
3. Thirdly, when they blew on their hands to blow the chaff away they were guilty of winnowing on the Sabbath day.
4. And fourthly, when they swallowed the wheat they were guilty of storing the wheat on the Sabbath day.
An extreme example of a fence law
In the Pharisaic schools there was a debate about walking on grass. Many rabbis issued a ruling that you should not walk on the grass on the Sabbath day. If you ask the rabbi, “What’s wrong with walking on the grass on the Sabbath day” his first answer will be “There is nothing wrong. It is permissible to walk on the grass on the Sabbath day.” However, here is the problem (here we have the fence around the law again) – you may see only a grassy field, but you might not see the one wild stalk of wild wheat growing among the grass. And as you walk on the grass you might step on the wheat and separate the wheat from the stalk. You are guilty of reaping on the Sabbath day. Then your foot comes down and squeezes the wheat just enough to separate the wheat from the chaff and now you are guilty of threshing the wheat on the Sabbath day. As you keep on walking the hem of your outer garment might cause enough of a breeze to blow the chaff away and now you are guilty of winnowing on the Sabbath day. And fourthly, once you are gone a bird or a rodent might see this piece of wheat and swallow it and now you are guilty of storing the wheat on the Sabbath day. That’s how extreme some of these things had become.
Jesus responds to the accusations with six specific things
Jesus responds by pointing out six specific things:
1. David also broke the Pharisaic law by eating the showbread (Matt. 12:3-4)- The Mosaic Law never said that a Levite could not give the showbread to a non-Levite, but Pharisaic law did say that. They could not claim that David lived before the Mishnah came into being because they were teaching that the oral law also came from Moses. So if David could break the oral law without being condemned by the Pharisees so can David’s greater Son.
2. The law of Sabbath rest did not apply in every situation (Matt. 12:5)- While everybody outside the Temple compound has to treat the Sabbath as a day of rest (staying at home to rest), that was not the case for those within the temple compound. For them it was not a day of rest but a day of labour. In fact, they had to work harder on the Sabbath day than on any other day. There were daily sacrifices and rituals, but on the Sabbath all sacrifices had to be doubled, and on the Sabbath there were certain rituals done that were not done on any other day. And yet the people working in the temple compound were not viewed as breaking the Sabbath because they were not resting but working on the Sabbath day.
3. The Messiah is greater than the temple (Matt. 12:6)- Therefore, if the temple can allow work to be done on the Sabbath that did not violate the Mosaic Law, so can the Messiah allow certain works to be done that did not violate the Mosaic Law. It might break Mishnaic Law, but it did not break Mosaic Law.
4. Certain works were always allowed on the Sabbath day, such as works of necessity and works of mercy (Matt. 12:7)- Now eating is a work of necessity. Healing is work of mercy. Such works should always be allowed on the Sabbath day.
5. The Messiah is Lord of the Sabbath (Matt. 12:8)- Being Lord of the Sabbath He can allow what they disallow and disallow what they allow.
6. They have misconstrued the purpose of the Sabbath (Mark 2:27)- They were teaching that God made Israel for the Sabbath, but the opposite is true: God made the Sabbath for Israel, to give Israel a time of refreshment and rest. It was not for the purpose of enslaving Israel, and all of these additional Sabbath regulations had the practical effect of enslaving the Jew to the Sabbath instead of freeing the Jew to enjoy the Sabbath.