23 Jesus went through the wheat fields on the Sabbath. As the disciples made their way, they were picking the heads of wheat. 24 The Pharisees said to Jesus, “Look! Why are they breaking the Sabbath law?”
25 He said to them, “Haven’t you ever read what David did when he was in need, when he and those with him were hungry? 26 During the time when Abiathar was high priest, David went into God’s house and ate the bread of the presence, which only the priests were allowed to eat. He also gave bread to those who were with him.” 27 Then he said, “The Sabbath was created for humans; humans weren’t created for the Sabbath. 28 This is why the Human One is Lord even over the Sabbath.”
By the time of Jesus, the rules for keeping the Sabbath had gotten unwieldy. The Pharisees, ever good students of the law, had so elaborated the rules as to make them quite difficult for the average person to follow. Then, as now, the more money you had, the easier it was to be truly “at rest” on the Sabbath.
Jesus and his followers were not rich. In fact, it seems they often found themselves without a lot to eat. In this story, they were wandering through a field of wheat on a Sabbath day, and picked a few heads as a snack for themselves. Harvesting was, of course, prohibited on the Sabbath.
Jesus was having none of it. He spoke of a time in the life of David when he was on the run and sought provisions for his journey in the house of the Lord. His logic goes like this: God was ok with David feeding himself, even if it meant him snacking on consecrated bread. It’s not like God was planning to eat the bread anyway!
Similarly, Jesus takes this opportunity to remind his hearers of the reason why the Sabbath exists in the first place: it’s about people. It’s a gift. You may remember stories from your grandparents about all the things they couldn’t do as children on the Sabbath: no ball playing, no loud talking – basically, no fun.
Into this kind of attitude, Jesus speaks this word: “remember that the Sabbath was created for people, not the other way around.” If you’ve turned a day of rest into a burden, you’re doing it wrong. It’s a gift. Embrace it!
By Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
Is it hard for you to rest? Why is that? Is it made harder or easier by understanding it as a commandment of God? If you have difficulty resting, take some time today to pray about why you feel the constant need for achievement, accomplishment, and activity.
Prayer: Thank you for the gift of the Sabbath. Help us today to understand this commandment as something given for our benefit, and not as a burden. Amen.