Tag Archives: Matthew 12:1-8

The Lord of the Sabbath

“The Lord of the Sabbath”
A reflection on Matthew 12:1-8
Friday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
©️2021 by Gloria M. Chang

The Father’s “house of bread” includes the tabernacle (where David fled in Nob), the cosmic tabernacle containing wheat (the Sabbath crowns creation on the seventh day in Genesis), and Jesus himself (the “bread of life” born in Bethlehem which means “house of bread”).

At that time Jesus was going through a field of grain on the sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry, how he went into the house of God and ate the bread of offering, which neither he nor his companions but only the priests could lawfully eat? Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath the priests serving in the temple violate the sabbath and are innocent? I say to you, something greater than the temple is here. If you knew what this meant, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned these innocent men. For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.”

Matthew 12:1-8

David went to Ahimelech, the priest of Nob, who came trembling to meet him. He asked, “Why are you alone? Is there no one with you?” David answered the priest: “The king gave me a commission and told me, ‘Do not let anyone know anything about the business on which I have sent you or the commission I have given you.’ For that reason I have arranged a particular meeting place with my men. Now what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves, or whatever you can find.” But the priest replied to David, “I have no ordinary bread on hand, only holy bread; if the men have abstained from women, you may eat some of that.” David answered the priest: “We have indeed stayed away from women. In the past whenever I went out on a campaign, all the young men were consecrated—even for an ordinary campaign. All the more so are they consecrated with their weapons today!” So the priest gave him holy bread, for no other bread was on hand except the showbread which had been removed from before the Lord and replaced by fresh bread when it was taken away.

1 Samuel 21:2-7

The Law Incarnate

Divine Mercy Icon

22nd Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday (Year II)

Luke 6:1-5

While Jesus was going through a field of grain on a sabbath, his disciples were picking the heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands, and eating them. Some Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?” Jesus said to them in reply, “Have you not read what David did when he and those who were with him were hungry? How he went into the house of God, took the bread of offering, which only the priests could lawfully eat, ate of it, and shared it with his companions?” Then he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.”

With hawk-eyed precision, the restless experts in the law spent their Sabbath “rest” measuring the Immeasurable and his disciples. Walking through a field was unobjectionable, but picking, rubbing, and eating grain amounted to the forbidden labor of reaping, threshing, winnowing, and meal preparation on the Sabbath.

David, Jesus pointed out, received divine sanction to consume the holy bread of the tabernacle and share it with his starving companions (I Samuel 21:1-6). Not one iota of the law was transgressed, for mercy is the spirit of the law. Without mercy, the letter of the law is dead (Hosea 6:6). 

Jesus, the giver of the Sabbath, could not contradict himself by transgressing the law. By his merciful actions on the Sabbath, he demonstrated the heart and spirit of the law. What appeared to be transgression was the fulfillment of the law. 

“For the just man there is no law, he is a law unto himself,” St. John of the Cross discovered in his mystical Ascent of Mount Carmel. The deified person no longer operates on the earthly plane alone, but moves in synergy with the Holy Spirit. Divine and human action are virtually indistinguishable at the top of the mount, where self-emptying and detachment have given way to radical transformation by divine grace. 

As long as the law remains external, it judges and condemns persons. But when “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me,” true freedom becomes possible (Galatians 2:20). Deification is complete identification with the law who is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

“The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath,” declared Jesus, the Law Incarnate and gate to the deification of humankind. The person who has become one with the law “can judge everything but is not subject to judgment by anyone” (I Corinthians 2:15).

-GMC

Related post: Another Point of View

Another Point of View

Close-up view of wheat. Licensed by Bluemoose under CC BY-SA 3.0.

15th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday (Year II)

Matthew 12:1-8

Jesus was going through a field of grain on the sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the sabbath.”

If the wheat plants in this story could speak, they might shake their heads in wonder and ask, “Who is picking on who?”

As Jesus and his disciples were picking their heads of grain, a bunch of busybody Pharisees with wandering eyes began to pick on the pickers. 

A strange scenario! The wheat, for their part, joyfully welcomed the Lord of the sabbath to pick their heads and eat them. That is what they were made for. Never was a greater “honor” bestowed on wheat than to nourish their own Maker, though honor was not in their vocabulary. 

The whole field pricked up their wheat ears as Jesus explained: “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry, how he went into the house of God and ate the bread of offering, which neither he nor his companions but only the priests could lawfully eat?”

Silent applause. A glorious day in the history of wheat was being recounted, when the youthful David, the great champion over Goliath and future king of Israel, nourished himself and his companions with the holy bread at the hands of the noble priest Ahimelech (I Samuel 21:1-6). 

“Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath the priests serving in the temple violate the sabbath and are innocent?”

Deep silence. How were the Pharisees going to respond to that obvious incongruity in their charge against Jesus? If picking grain on the Sabbath was unlawful, why not the more laborious work of temple sacrifice and ritual?

All of this sounded like nonsense to the wheat, for whom nature was simple and straightforward. When a creature was hungry, it ate. When thirsty, it drank. Every day belonged to the Lord of creation; simply to exist was to give him praise. The rules and regulations of humankind were simply baffling, and not a little unnatural (in the humble opinion of the wheat). 

“I say to you, something greater than the temple is here. If you knew what this meant, I desire mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned these innocent men. For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.”

Thunderous silent applause from the acres of wheat surrounding the conversation. Mercy! What a novel idea! Didn’t the humans realize that to be was to be merciful? To live was to love? The wheat knew this and gave thanks continually for the sun and soil, water and air, and the diligent hands of the farmer who nurtured them day after day. The simplest things eluded the most intellectual of creatures. 

As Jesus and his disciples departed, the Spirit of the Lord whispered to the wheat, “Today you have nourished your Maker and become his Body and Blood. In days to come you will work with me to divinize his brothers and sisters by feeding them his Body and Blood.”

The wheat entered into a silent alliance with the Spirit but did not consider it an honor. Their obedience was wholly spontaneous and unself-conscious.

-GMC

Related post: The Law Incarnate