Plucking Grain on Shabbat
1 One Shabbat during that time, Yeshua was walking through some wheat fields. His talmidim were hungry, so they began picking heads of grain and eating them. 2 On seeing this, the P’rushim said to him, “Look! Your talmidim are violating Shabbat!”
Violating Shabbat! Literally means in Greek, “doing what is unlawful on Shabbat,” that is, doing something the P’rushim considered to be against the Torah. The argument was not over whether it was permitted to pick grain by hand from someone else’s field, for that is expressly allowed by Deuteronomy 23:25, but whether it could be done on Shabbat. At issue behind this seemingly minor matter is whether the Pharisaic tradition – which evolved into what rabbinic Judaism calls the Oral Torah, later committed to writing in the Mishna, Gemara, and other works – is God’s revelation to man and binding on all Jews.
3 But he said to them, “Haven’t you ever read what David did when he and those with him were hungry? 4 He entered the House of God and ate the Bread of the Presence!”—which was prohibited, both to him and to his companions; it is permitted only to the cohanim.
Though Leviticus 24:5–9 allows only cohanim to eat the Bread of the Presence set aside for display before the Ark in the House of God (Tabernacle), 1 Samuel 21:2–7 recounts how King David and the priest Achimelekh violated this mitzvah of the Written Torah – which the P’rushim would accept as more authoritative than a rule in the Oral Torah.
5 “Or haven’t you read in the Torah that on Shabbat the cohanim profane Shabbat and yet are blameless?
The Torah itself specifies that some mitzvot are more critical than others (see Yochanan 5:22–23, Galatians 2:12). Keeping Shabbat is essential, but the animal sacrifices required by Numbers 28:1–10 are more so that the cohanim work on Shabbat to offer them.
6 I tell you, there is in this place something greater than the Temple! 7 If you knew what ‘I want compassion rather than animal sacrifice meant, you would not condemn the innocent. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of Shabbat!” ~ Matthew 12:1-8
Healing A Man’s Shriveled Hand
9 Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue. 10 A man there had a shriveled hand. Looking for a reason to accuse him of something, they asked him, “Is healing permitted on Shabbat?” 11 But he answered, “If you have a sheep that falls in a pit on Shabbat, which of you won’t take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore, what is permitted on Shabbat is to do good.” 13 Then to the man, He said, “Hold out your hand.” As he held it out, it became restored, as sound as the other one. 14 But the P’rushim went out and began plotting how they might do away with Yeshua. ~ Matthew 12:9-14
One should save an animal’s life on Shabbat, but whether lifting a sheep out of a pit would, in the first century, have been considered a violation of the rule against work (carrying) on Shabbat is not clear.
Yeshua Heals Others
15 Aware of this, He left that area. Many people followed Him, and He healed them all16 but warned them not to make Him known. 17 This was to fulfill what had been spoken through Yesha’yahu the prophet: (42:1-40)
18 “Here is My servant, whom I have chosen,
My beloved, with whom I am well pleased;
I will put my Spirit on Him,
and He will announce justice to the Gentiles.
19 He will not fight or shout
no one will hear His voice in the streets;
20 He will not snap off a broken reed
or snuff out a smoldering wick
until He has brought justice through to victory.
21 In Him the Gentiles will put their hope.” ~ Matthew 12:15-21
Yesha’yahu 42:1–4 is the first of several “suffering servant” passages in Yesha’yahu 42–53. Some parts of these passages seem to refer primarily to Israel’s people, others to the Messiah yet in Yesha’yahu’s future. This fact emphasizes the close identification of the Messiah Yeshua with the Jewish people.
Our next post will learn that Yeshua Appoints His Emissaries, Great Crowds Gather, and we begin to examine the Sermon of the Mount.