Summary: Don’t let your “sacred cows” keep you from experiencing all that God has for you.
When you were a kid, didn’t you hate it when your parents said "no" to something – and when you asked "why?" they just replied: "because I said so." "Well, who died and made you God?" you thought, but never dared utter.
As a parent I have tried to always give a reason – however lame it might be – when I have said "no".
But that experience doesn’t leave us at home. We get it at school: "why do I have to do this assignment?" "Because I’m the teacher and I said so." At work: "This task makes no sense." "No, but you’ll do it because I’m the boss who signs your paycheck, and I say so."
So today we find Jesus, you know, the guy by whom all things were made – being told the very same thing by the bosses of his day – the Pharisees.
The Pharisees loved to tell people what to do based on their authority to do it. What they said didn’t make a whole lot of sense, especially if you read the heart of God’s law, instead of the outward literal fulfillment of what they thought God was saying that left little internal obedience to the actual character of the Lord.
The trouble is, we can end up in the same situation if we don’t listen to what Jesus is telling us and not just react without thinking.
12:1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. 2 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, "Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath."
So what’s happening here? Jesus and his men didn’t break into a field and start robbing the owner of his grain.
First – fields were not fenced like we know today – roads could go right through a field of grain. Second – it was acceptable practice for people to pick a little bit of grain when they were hungry.
What they would do is pick some heads of grain, then rub it in their hands to remove the grain from the chaff, then eat it raw.
It wasn’t that they were doing it that the Pharisee’s got upset about, it was that they were doing it on the Sabbath.
The Sabbath – God commanded the children of Israel:
Ex 34:21 "Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.
This was good – but something happened between when Moses wrote these words, and when Jesus walked the earth – that something was TRADITION.
The Pharisees took the simple idea of resting one day a week and, trying to be perfect, figured they had to help God out to tell people what resting really was. So they came up with 39 different things that were prohibited on the Sabbath:
Talmudic rabbis developed a list of 39 categories of work that a Jew should not do on the Sabbath. They are as follows: sowing, plowing, reaping, binding sheaves, threshing, winnowing, cleansing crops, grinding, sifting, kneading, baking, shearing wool, washing wool, beating wool, dyeing wool, spinning, weaving, making two loops, weaving two threads, separating two threads, tying a knot, loosening a knot, sewing two stitches, ripping out to sew two stitches, hunting a gazelle, slaughtering, flaying, salting a hide, curing a skin, scraping a skin, cutting up a skin, writing two letters, erasing to write two letters, building, pulling down, putting out a fire, lighting a fire, striking with a hammer, and carrying objects from one domain into another (Sabbath 7:2).
(The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia Volume 10, "Work, Sabbath," KTAV Publishing House Inc., New York, 1969)
This stuff is incredible – making two loops? Tying a knot? I guess they had a lot of people who tripped themselves on the Sabbath due to untied shoes!
The Pharisees apparently felt that Jesus and His disciples were "reaping" and "threshing" because they picked heads of grain then separated the grain from the chaff.
Well, what they did was actually okay – they weren’t picking for profit which is what the Sabbath is supposed to be about – don’t do your "regular" work one day a week. But even though the disciples were picking for food, the Pharisees were picking a fight – and listen to Jesus’ response.
3 He answered, "Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread-which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. 5 Or haven’t you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent? 6 I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these words mean, ’I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."