1 Now it happened that He was passing through some grainfields on a Sabbath; and His disciples were picking the heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands, and eating the grain. 

But some of the Pharisees said, “Why do you do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 

And Jesus answering them said, “Have you not even read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him, 

how he entered the house of God, and took and ate the consecrated bread which is not lawful for any to eat except the priests alone, and gave it to his companions?”

And He was saying to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

The issue Jesus addressed here involved the permissibility of working on the Sabbath. 

The Old Testament Law to which the Pharisees were referring is found in Deuteronomy 23:25: “When you enter your neighbor’s standing grain, then you may pluck the heads with your hand, but you shall not wield a sickle in your neighbor’s standing grain.” The Law allowed you to pluck grain with your hand, but not use a tool because that constituted working on the Holy Day. The Pharisees were arguing against a miniscule difference. 

Was such behavior permissible on the Sabbath?

Jesus’ argument in answering the Pharisees was that they misinterpreted the Law. In verses 3-4, Jesus cited David’s eating of the sacred bread reserved only for priests in a time of need (1 Sam. 21:1-6). David and his followers were able to eat the sacred bread because of David’s authority. 

The same is true for Jesus and His followers, to an even greater extent. The purpose of the Sabbath is not the rigid interpretation of the Law of the Pharisees, but to be set apart for the God who gives the Law. 

Jesus affirmed His relationship with the Lawgiver and His authority as His Son: “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” (v. 5). As the Messiah, Jesus was the same Lord who instituted the Sabbath regulations of the Mosaic Law and the One with full authority over the Law.  

  • Why were the Pharisees upset at Jesus’ disciples for picking grain?
  • Do you tend to approach others with a legalistic attitude, or do your interactions with them invite them into a relationship with the God of grace?
  • Praise God that He is Lord of the Sabbath—that He alone has the last word, and He alone gives us permission to rest.