Picking corn on the Sabbath

When the Pharisees criticized Jesus’ disciples for picking a few pieces of corn to eat on the Sabbath, Jesus defended his disciples by referring to two examples from the Old Testament. First, when David and his men were very hungry and urgently needed food, they were rightly allowed to eat the holy bread of the tabernacle, which normally only priests were allowed to eat (Matt 12:1-4; cf. 1 Sam 21:1-6). Second, even the Levitical priests worked on the Sabbath, for they had to prepare and offer the sacrifices (Matt 12:5; cf. Num 28:9-10).

These two examples show that in a case of necessity the legal requirement of the law may be overruled. Life is more important than ritual. To exercise mercy is more important than to offer sacrifices. Jesus is more important than the temple. People are more important than the Sabbath. The Sabbath was given for people’s benefit, not for their discomfort; and since Jesus is the messianic Son of man, he has authority to decide how the Sabbath can best be used (Matt 12:6-8; Mark 2:27-28).

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