v 28. So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!
Maintaining the sanctity of the Sabbath was, in Jewish eyes, a sign of good character and holiness. It involved keeping a myriad of man-made rules and regulations. In fact, keeping the Sabbath became a tremendous burden for those who struggled to keep the entire law so as to satisfy God. What is more the Pharisees, who tried harder than most to observe the law, looked down on lesser mortals and despised their puny efforts to live the right way. So when Jesus comes along and appears to allow His disciples to break their strict laws about working on the Sabbath they are the most critical judges of the situation. To rub the husks off a few grains of wheat and then eat them was, by their standards, the same as harvesting – a wholly improper thing to be doing on the Sabbath.
Their argument was quite simple, the Fourth Commandment which we trace right back to .Moses’ encounter with God, was perfectly clear. ‘Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. ‘ What could be clearer – harvesting was wrong, it offended God and it was breaking the Law! Even in our own times, there are strict Jews who have very clear rules about what may or may not be done on the Sabbath. Even the boundaries beyond which they may not walk on the Sabbath are marked in the streets.
So why did Jesus not tell off His Disciples? Were these zealous Pharisees missing something about the Sabbath? They certainly were! For one thing, they missed the point that keeping the Law was not a means of being accepted by God. The Law was for people who had already been accepted into a covenant relationship with God as an act of His Grace, and the Law was then a way of living to please Him.
But the big point Jesus makes is that He is Lord of the Sabbath – He has the right to interpret the Sabbath Law. He stated the real principle in this way ‘The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. ‘ (v 27) The Sabbath was intended to be a blessing and a rest for people, not simply another burden to weigh them down!
Jesus cut through the self-righteousness of rule-keepers, – Jesus was a Man like no other, understanding what real righteousness is.