Luke 6:1-5

One sabbath while Jesus was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked some heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands, and ate them. But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?”

Jesus answered, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and gave some to his companions?” Then he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.”  Luke 6:1-5

As I read the text for this morning, I realized something that had never really occurred to me before. It has to do with the “lens” that I bring to reading the Bible. I’ve written before about the power of such “lenses” and this morning’s realization confirms it. I have been blind to my own lens. (Which is often how such lenses work.) Here’s what I mean.

Every time I read a reference to the religious leaders in Jesus’ day – the Pharisees, Sadducees, the scribes, the teachers of the law – I draw parallels from them to present day organized religion. I’m not sure everyone sees it like this.

Maybe those Christian cousins who feel under constant assault from the society at large see the Pharisees, not as reflections of themselves, but as reflections of all the modern day forces they fear are “out to get them.” Maybe they only see themselves in the disciples. I don’t know. I’ve never thought about this before.

But as I read this text, imagining the shock on the faces of the Pharisees (who now look like disciple stalkers) to see the disciples grab a little snack as they walk, it reminds me of how ridiculous it is to see church leaders making theological mountains out of behavioral molehills.

It reminds me of a pastor friend of mine who once told me about how he was severely criticized as a seminary student because he didn’t hold his hands right during Holy Communion. Or the big deal some people still make about how to dress appropriately for Sunday worship. Or how any particular church picks which social issues to rally around.

Jesus says that “The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.” In other words, maybe without realizing it, the Pharisees have usurped the power and authority that belongs only to God. In part they do so because that is their tradition and that is what they believe the Bible tells them to do. They have cast the faith in concrete, and they only see what God is up to based on their own interpretations of what they have seen from God in the past they choose to remember.

They have forgotten the meaning of the Sabbath. We’ll hear more about that tomorrow.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, life is complex and that is difficult for us to negotiate. So we, all to quickly, trade complexity for conformity, without realizing what we lose in so doing. We are blind to ourselves just as the Pharisees proved blind to how strongly they clung to power. Help us discern what really matters, to see the reality behind the reality, and to let love always be our guide. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


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