In my last post, I shared some thoughts surrounding Jesus' conflict with the Pharisees over their exalting of man's rules at the expense of men themselves, In this post I would like to continue that line of thinking as it relates to Jesus' response.
But He said to them, "Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions, how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone? Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent?" (Matthew 12:3-5 NASU)
The disciples had been picking heads of grain as they walked through the fields on the Sabbath. In order to eat the grain, they needed to rub the heads of the stalks between their hands, breaking off the husks and revealing the kernels. According to the Pharisees, not only had the disciples harvested grain, but had also 'winnowed' it and therefore were in violation of Sabbath laws (this prohibition can be seen in the Jewish collection of laws and traditions known as the Mishna, specifically in Shabbat 7.2.3, 5, 6. While the Mishna was not codified until around 200AD, it reflects rules and traditions which had been advocated for many generations. But I digress.) These regulations became the grounds for accusation and condemnation. In response, Jesus appeals not to man's rules, but the perfect Word of God, as He calls to their minds events in the life of David (see 1 Samuel 21:1-6) as well as the ministry of the priests on the Sabbath (see Numbers 28:9-10 for example). Jesus trumps man's law with the plain truth of God's Word.
Our appeal must always be to the plain teaching of God's Word. So often we hold up the opinions and viewpoints of men- this popular teacher says this while that 'sage' of our time says that; but "have you not read"? Do we not have God's Word to guide us? True, there are portions which we struggle to grasp or agree upon, but the great majority of the Word is plain and open, and only a deliberate twisting of the text causes confusion.
The Pharisees were so locked in by their rules that they could not see the broader teaching of God's principles; but before we vilify them, should we not confess that we too fall into the same trap? Don't we often become blinded by our own social, political or theological perspectives? It is so easy to believe in our own rightness and we struggle to admit that we could ever be wrong or incomplete in our understanding; so we become arrogant, closed off and unteachable. We must open ourselves to be taught by the Word of God and the Spirit which inspired the writing of that Word.