Thursday, January 19th. Mark 2:23-28

One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain.  The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?”  And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food?  He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.”  Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”  Mark 2:23-28


There are two sides to this scandalous sabbath seed stealing saga.


On one side, Jesus and his friends who are walking through grainfields on a sunny Sabbath when they see seeds ripe for the stealing.  (OK, enough on the alliteration).  So they pluck some heads of grain, roll them around in their hands, blow away the chaff, and pop the seeds into their mouths.


ANYONE who had ever had anything to do with raising and harvesting wheat has done the same thing.  It is irresistible.  You chew the seeds and it becomes kind of a nut and grain gum that gradually disappears and then you grab some more and you do it again.  Like eating sunflower seeds, it is always better to go through that whole ritual than to take a short cut and grab a handful of wheat already in the combine’s hopper.  The disciples were simply enjoying a sabbath snack. (sorry)


On the other side, the Pharisees were utterly appalled!  They were beside themselves with the sheer horror of the sight!  How could Jesus pretend to have anything to do with the hallowed faith of their fathers and allow such unmitigated repulsive behavior to happen right before his very eyes!  SOMETHING MUST BE DONE ABOUT SUCH IRREVERENT, IDOLATROUS, INCENDIARY BEHAVIOR!!


Quick aside – even walking on the Sabbath was considered suspect as it could be also considered a form of work.  What were the Pharisees doing out there in the grainfields within eyeshot of Jesus and his friends?


Easy answer – the Pharisees weren’t observing the Sabbath as a time for rest, for worship, for family, for making love, for eating well.  They were simply already making a case to get rid of Jesus.  Simple as that.  Their question was an attack, not an opening to a friendly theological conversation.


Now we see Jesus wielding the sword of truth right back in their faces.  He reminds them of the time David and his men ate consecrated holy bread because they were hungry. And then he drives the point home with the reminder that God created time for sabbath rest for the good of those God loved – not for the sake of instituting a religious ritual system by which certain people could exercise power and authority to keep others in their place.


Which, in a nutshell, is pretty much what the ministry of Jesus is all about and for which he was ultimately crucified.  The powerful aren’t really interested in setting the oppressed free.


Let us pray:  Gracious Lord, we are so quick to see the splinter in a neighbor’s eye and ignore the log in our own.  We are so quick to elevate our prejudices, our rituals, our sense of how things ought to be, that we run the risk of forgetting what they were about in the first place.  Forgive us.  Help us remember the godly good intended in our worship life and keep us mindful of those who have no food.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.


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