At that time Jesus went through the wheat fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry so they were picking heads of wheat and eating them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are breaking the Sabbath law.” But he said to them, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and those with him were hungry? He went into God’s house and broke the law by eating the bread of the presence, which only the priests were allowed to eat. Or haven’t you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple treat the Sabbath as any other day and are still innocent? But I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what this means, I want mercy and not sacrifice, you wouldn’t have condemned the innocent. The Human One is Lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:1-8, Common English Bible).
There used to be a set of laws in Texas that were called the “Blue Laws.” Most were repealed several years ago, probably because very few paid much attention to them anyway.
Most of the laws centered around shopping and what you could and couldn’t buy. For example, you could buy baby food (or any other food for that matter), but you couldn’t buy diapers (they were considered clothing and you couldn’t buy clothing). You could buy lumber but you couldn’t buy nails to build your project.
I worked at a grocery store as a teenager. We were open on Sundays but we had to arrange our stock so we could rope off the isles that held things we couldn’t sell. It didn’t stop some of our customers and the cashiers would have to watch the purchases closely.
As I read today’s lesson my mind went back to those customers who would duck under the rope to grab something they “needed.” I also have vivid memories of them trying to convince the cashier to go ahead and sell it to them. Many would get very irate when they couldn’t buy the thing the law prevented the store from selling.
In the lesson, the disciples were hungry and for most of us, when we are hungry we will find something to eat! In the Biblical era, to cook a meal on the Sabbath was to work. Because the disciples were picking grain to eat, that was work too. It didn’t matter if a person was hungry, what mattered was following the law.
As we have already said, most recently yesterday, there was so much to the law that few regular people would remember it all. And, if one were walking through a field and you were hungry, most of us would absentmindedly reach over, pick a little and eat it.
When I was a young child, my grandparents had blackberry vines in their back yard. When the berries were in season and we were at their home, I often found myself in the backyard. More often than not, it was on a Sunday. I was often given a bucket to pick berries to take home (I still love blackberries). As I would pick the berries, which in itself would have violated Hebrew law, I probably ate about as many as made it into my bucket.
I was a kid then and didn’t know anything about a law that prevented that kind of thing. Still, even if I had and was told not to pick the berries, I still might have reached out and picked a few to eat on the spot, without ever thinking about it.
Jesus’ idea here is, treating the Sabbath as special, keeping it holy isn’t a matter of obeying the law, it is a matter of the heart. Further, I think Jesus was more about keeping the Sabbath holy because we want to do so, not because there is an Old Testament law that says we should.
How do you keep the Sabbath (Sunday) Holy?
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Joy, Peace and Thanksgiving,
Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles All Rights Reserved