Summary: Throughout His ministry, Jesus was accused of breaking the Sabbath laws, and it is true that He broke them. They were part of the old covenant that God made with Israel. He had come to bring a new covenant based on grace.

Harmony of the Gospels

-AD 28-

En Route to Galilee

(13) Plucked Corn Precipitates Sabbath Controversy

(Deuteronomy 5:14) Matthew 12:1-8, Mark 2:23-28, Luke 6:1-5

Throughout His ministry, Jesus was accused of breaking the Sabbath laws, and it is true that He broke them. They were part of the old covenant that God made with Israel. He had come to bring a new covenant based on grace. He broke the Sabbath laws and the disciples followed His example. He healed on the Sabbath and He worked and traveled on the Sabbath.

The Sabbath debate still rages today. There is disagreement over which day should be observed, Saturday or Sunday, and what activities should and should not be done. I, for one, am put-off by theological discussions, and sermons. I believe that they take away from the simplicity of the Gospel. The word of God is very simple, because God has made the important issues easy to understand. I find that too many people spend too much time discussing doctrine and too little time giving out the Gospel.

The event that we are going to look at here occurred on the Sabbath. Again, Jesus brought the anger of the religious rulers to bear on Himself, and His disciples, because they broke the Sabbath laws. This will be a good place to look at those laws and at the New Testament scriptures dealing with the Sabbath. I have already expressed my opinion concerning the Sabbath, so I will present those scriptures that support my beliefs.

Matthew, Mark and Luke report this event.


From this point, there will be open conflict between the Pharisees and Jesus. In the beginning they were friendly with Him, but now they break with Him over the issue of the Sabbath. Satan is on the side line, urging the Pharisees on. The Kingdom of God is now waging a relentless war against Satan. Satan does not keep the Sabbath, so neither does Jesus.

At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. (Matthew 12:1)

Notice that it was the disciples that were breaking the Sabbath laws. But why were they doing it? They were hungry. And why were they hungry? It was because they were following Jesus. This is another sign of the poverty of Jesus. Remember what He said to the young man who wanted to follow Him, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20) Jesus must defend His disciple’s actions, and this is where the break with the religious rulers occurs.

But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day. (Matthew 12:2)

The Pharisees confronted Jesus and blamed Him for His disciples breaking the Sabbath.

But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; (Matthew 12:3)

Jesus’ reply takes the Pharisees to the scriptures and back into their own history. The event that is referred to is recorded 1 Samuel 21:1-5, “Then came David to Nob to Ahimelech the priest: and Ahimelech was afraid at the meeting of David, and said unto him, Why art thou alone, and no man with thee? And David said unto Ahimelech the priest, The king hath commanded me a business, and hath said unto me, Let no man know any thing of the business whereabout I send thee, and what I have commanded thee: and I have appointed my servants to such and such a place. Now therefore what is under thine hand? give me five loaves of bread in mine hand, or what there is present. And the priest answered David, and said, There is no common bread under mine hand, but there is hallowed bread; if the young men have kept themselves at least from women. And David answered the priest, and said unto him, Of a truth women have been kept from us about these three days, since I came out, and the vessels of the young men are holy, and the bread is in a manner common, yea, though it were sanctified this day in the vessel.” It was during the days when David had been rejected as king and while Saul was still reining. In a similar manner, Jesus was being rejected as king, because His claim to be the Messiah had not been acknowledged. David took care of His men, although it meant breaking the Mosaic Law, and now Jesus will take care of His men regardless of the Sabbath restrictions.

How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless? (Matthew 12:4-5)

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