Summary: This message examines the implications of Jesus’ confrontation with the Pharisees over the Sabbath.
casual reader of the Bible can find evidence to prove just about any point they want to make within the pages of Scripture. It is in these types of readings that many of the idols or golden calves that are found in the modern church are born. Wait a minute…there are not any idols in the modern church, are there?” Well unfortunately the answer is yes. No longer are they made of wood and stone as they were in ancient days. Today, they are found in the form of programs, schedules, structures, buildings and other traditions. These idols are revered by many and often prevent the necessary changes to allow ministry to take place. Believe me; you will know when you smash one of these simply by the reaction of many in the crowd. These idols are never intended to take precedence over God and His Word but unfortunately so many times they inadvertently do. These things are not bad, in and of themselves, until they keep us from carrying out the mission of Christ. In our text we encounter one such idol, the Sabbath. The odd thing about the Sabbath was that it was given to man by God and the people still managed to turn it into an idol. For example if a chicken laid an egg on the Sabbath you could not eat it because it was the product of work. However, you could hatch that very same egg later and then eat the chicken. This sounds so ludicrous but if you really think about it, there are things we hold to in the church that are just as ludicrous. Today, once again we are going to learn that Jesus and carrying out His mission must take precedence over every idol or tradition.
I. Religion can be so steeped in tradition that it actually becomes heartless.
A. First century Judaism was marked by three very distinct badges, circumcision, dietary laws and the Sabbath.
1. Each of these established that the Israelites were a distinctive people, God’s chosen people.
2. As the years went by many traditions and regulations grew up around these distinctive marks. In our text we see that this had happened with the Sabbath.
3. The Pharisees had compiled a list of thirty-nine categories of actions that were forbidden on the Sabbath. In fact the Talmud contains a whole chapter on what you can and cannot do on the Sabbath.
4. There were regulations about carrying weight, latching your sandals, lighting candles and even looking in mirrors.
5. Remember the chicken illustration that I shared earlier it was just one example of how ridiculous these regulations became.
B. This passage highlights that the Pharisees and Jesus each approached the law in a different manner.
1. It was not uncommon for roads in ancient Palestine to run through the center of fields, so the setting of this scene would have been quite common.
2. The disciples were hungry and they began to pick some of the heads of grains, on any other day but the Sabbath nothing would have been said.
3. The disciples were not stealing, God’s law made provisions for this kind of sharing among His people as evidenced in Deuteronomy 23:25.
4. Harvesting grain was forbidden on the Sabbath and to the Pharisees that was just what they were doing.
5. Technically the disciples were not guilty of wrong doing. They were not harvesting to make a profit. They were simply picking some grain because they were hungry.
6. The bottom line is that the Pharisees are so bent on catching Jesus in some wrong doing that they were willing to try almost anything.
7. Following in the footsteps of the Pharisees, many legalistic Christians build a fence around the strictest interpretation of Scripture attaching many regulations in order to keep people from breaking it.
II. Understanding the authority of Jesus results in the value of people being greatly increased.
A. Jesus shows the needs of people must take precedent over the authority and traditions of man.
1. Jesus uses the example of David and the priests to justify the actions of His disciples.
a. David violated the written law in 1 Samuel 21 when he ate the consecrated bread as he was fleeing from Saul.
b. The priests carry out their duty and butcher animals for sacrifices out of necessity and are not guilty of breaking the Sabbath.
2. If David and the priests can ignore the written law in the service of God then how much more can Jesus’ disciples ignore the oral traditions of the Pharisees in serving the one who is greater than both David and the priests?
3. The Pharisees knew the Scriptures thoroughly and when Jesus asks, “Haven’t you read,” He is not accusing them of not reading Scripture but of missing the true meaning of Scripture.