Who defines what’s good and evil on Sabbath? Jesus.
Mark 2.23-28 • Matthew 12.1-8 • Luke 6.1-5
As I said last time, don’t assume Pharisees were questioning Jesus because they wished to challenge him. Sometimes they were. But sometimes they were merely trying to understand why Jesus ignored their traditions—and why he was teaching his students to do likewise.
Just like it came up one Sabbath when Jesus and his kids were going past the fields, and some of ’em began to yank a few of the heads of grain off.
Mark 2.23-24 KWL
- 23 Jesus himself happened to travel through the fields on Sabbath.
- His students began plucking the grain along the road.
- 24 The Pharisees told Jesus, “Look, why are they doing what one shouldn’t on Sabbath?”
Matthew 12.1-2 KWL
- 1 At that time, Jesus went through the fields on Sabbath.
- His students were hungry, and began to pluck the grain and eat it. 2 Seeing it,
- the Pharisees told Jesus, “Look, your students are doing what one shouldn’t do on Sabbath.”
Luke 6.1-2 KWL
- 1 Jesus himself happened to go through the fields on Sabbath.
- His students were plucking and eating, rubbing it in their hands.
- 2 Some of the Pharisees said, “Why are they doing what one shouldn’t on Sabbath?”
Mark doesn’t mention they were eating the grain, so it sounds a little like petty vandalism—as kids will do. But no, it wasn’t that; the other gospels point out they were eating it. And no, that’s not theft. The Law stated people were permitted to do so.
Leviticus 19.9-10 KWL
- 9 “When you harvest the harvest of your land, don’t harvest the edge of your field completely.
- Don’t take a second pass.
- 10 Your vineyard: Don’t strip it bare, and take the broken grapes of your vineyard.
- Don’t take a second pass.
- Leave them for the poor and the foreigner.
- I’m your L
God capped certain commands with “I’m your L
This was all part of God’s welfare plan for the poor: When they’re hungry, let them eat from the edges of your fields, or pick up whatever you left behind after harvest, and God would bless you and make up for it. The nation was kinda on the honor system: They could glean what they needed… so long that they don’t grab a sickle and reap a swath of it.
Regardless of feeding the poor: It was Sabbath. And you might recall the Pharisees had a whole list of stuff you can’t do on Sabbath. In the Mishnah’s list of 39 forms of prohibited work, number 3 would be reaping, and number 5 would be threshing. That whole “rubbing it their hands” bit Luke mentioned—getting the chaff off the seeds—counts as threshing. And if you really wanna get anal about it, by selecting which heads of grain to pluck, the students were sorting—number 7.
Three different kinds of work, and work is banned on Sabbath. It’s in the Ten Commandments, remember?