GOSPEL READING: Luke 6:1-5
1 On a Sabbath, while he was going through the grain fields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands. 2 But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?” 3 And Jesus answered, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: 4 how 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 also gave it to those with him?” 5 And he said to them, “The Son of man is lord of the Sabbath.”
Meditation: What does the commandment “keep holy the Sabbath” require of us? Or better yet, what is the primary intention behind this command? The religious leaders confronted Jesus on this issue. The “Sabbath rest” was meant to be a time to remember and celebrate God’s goodness and the goodness of his work, both in creation and redemption. It was a day set apart for the praise of God, his work of creation, and his saving actions on our behalf. It was intended to bring everyday work to a halt and to provide needed rest and refreshment.
The Lord of the Sabbath feeds and nourishes us
Jesus’ disciples are scolded by the scribes and Pharisees, not for plucking and eating corn from the fields, but for doing so on the Sabbath. In defending his disciples, Jesus argues from the Scriptures that human need has precedence over ritual custom. In their hunger, David and his men ate of the holy bread offered in the Temple (1 Samuel 21:2-7). On every Sabbath morning twelves loaves were laid before God on a golden table in the Holy Place. Each loaf represented one of the twelve tribes of Israel. No one was allowed to eat this bread except the priests because it represented the very presence of God. David understood that human need took precedence over rules and ritual regulations.
Seek the Lord’s rest and refreshment
Why didn’t the Pharisees recognize the claims of mercy over rules and regulations? Their zeal for ritual observance blinded them from the demands of charity. Jesus’ reference to the bread of the Presence alludes to the true bread from heaven which he offers to all who believe in him. Jesus, the Son of David, and the Son of Man, a title for the Messiah, declares that he is “Lord of the Sabbath.” Jesus healed on the Sabbath and he showed mercy to those in need. All who are burdened can find true rest and refreshment in him. Do you seek rest and refreshment in the Lord and in the celebration of the Lord’s Day?
Lord Jesus, you refresh us with your presence and you sustain us with your life-giving word. Show me how to lift the burden of others, especially those who lack the basic necessities of life, and to refresh them with humble care and service.
1 Save me, O God, by your name, and vindicate me by your might.
2 Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth.
3 For insolent men have risen against me, ruthless men seek my life; they do not set God before them. [Selah]
4 Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.
6 With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you; I will give thanks to your name, O LORD, for it is good.
7 For you have delivered me from every trouble, and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies.
Daily Quote from the Early Church Fathers: Withered hands – withered minds, by Athanasius of Alexandria (295-373 AD)
“In the synagogue of the Jews was a man who had a withered hand. If he was withered in his hand, the ones who stood by were withered in their minds. And they were not looking at the crippled man nor were they expecting the miraculous deed of the one who was about to work. But before doing the work, the Savior ploughed up their minds with words. For knowing the evil of the mind and its bitter depth, he first softened them up in advance with words so as to tame the wildness of their understanding, asking: ‘Is it permitted to do good on the sabbath or to do evil; to save a life or to destroy one?’ For if he had said to them, ‘Is it permitted to work?’ immediately they would have said, ‘You are speaking contrary to the law.’
“Then he told them what was intended by the law, for he spoke as the One who established the laws concerning the sabbath, adding, ‘except this: that which will be done for the sake of a life.’ Again if a person falls into a hole on a sabbath, Jews are permitted to pull the person out (Matthew 12:11). This not only applies to a person, but also an ox or a donkey. In this way the law agrees that things relating to preservation may be done, hence Jews prepare meals on the sabbath. Then he asked them about a point on which they could hardly disagree: ‘Is it permitted to do good? (Matthew 3:4, Luke 6:9) But they did not even so much as say, ‘Yes,’ because by then they were not in a good temper.” (excerpt from HOMILIES 28)