Matthew 12:3-8 – He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread — which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. 5 Or haven’t you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent? 6 I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” NIV
Here we have one of the times that the Pharisees were looking for Jesus and His disciples to break their Sabbath rules. Certainly, #4 of the Ten Commandments is Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. (Exodus 20:8). However, the Pharisees had written a bunch of Sabbath rules that in their opinions defined what that meant. Jesus and His disciples had just walked through a grain field, and some of his disciples had grabbed a few heads of ripe grain and were munching on the kernels of grain as they walked. From the Pharisees point of view, they were working…harvesting and threshing.
Basically, I believe that Jesus was saying “Really?” He then goes on to cite instances in the Old Testament where the rules were broken. The first instance was when David and his men were running from Saul (1 Samuel 21:1-4). The priest gave David and his men some consecrated bread that had been removed from the Tabernacle and replaced with fresh bread that was reserved for the priests. Jesus, also, asks if they hadn’t read that the priests work on the Sabbath but are exempted because they are serving God by serving others.
He then quotes Hosea 6:6 which talks about God desiring mercy and not sacrifice. It isn’t just about the rules. It’s about the heart. And God wants us to show His mercy and love as well as obey His commandments. The problem comes when people are looking to fault other people about breaking commandments or even rules about commandments and then neglect to display godly attitudes as they deal with others. Some of the Old Testament prophets said similar things. (Isaiah 1:11-17, Micah 6:6-8)
Jesus then asserted His rule over the Sabbath, which probably angered the Pharisees even more. They were trying to tell the “Lord of the Sabbath” how to keep it! Question for most of us are: Do we keep the Sabbath? If so, how do we keep it? If not, why not?