Mark 2: 23-28 – Plucking Grain on Sabbath (Fourth Conflict Story)

This is a Sabbath controversy. Jesus’ disciples pluck ears of grain on a Sabbath while crossing a grain-field. This action of the disciples results in a controversy and the Pharisees question Jesus. The Pharisees had made the Sabbath rest a very important religious practice. According to the Pharisees, almost every activity was forbidden on a Sabbath. The strict legalism of the Jews had interpreted even plucking ears of grain and rubbing them in one’s hands as equivalent to reaping and therefore forbidden on the Sabbath. Jesus’ answer does not refer to the Sabbath observance, but to the human need. Pointing to what David did when he was hungry (Cf. 1Sam 21: 27), Jesus justifies the action of his disciples. Jesus states that basic human needs such as hunger override all prescriptions of the law. Jesus’ priority is the human person. Material needs of the poor are above even the most sacred laws. Jesus, thus, marks a reversal of values in the religious practices of his people. He interprets the law from the point of view of the rights of the needy. While the Pharisees see the law from the angle of a legalistic religion. The Sabbath is for man according to Jesus, and not man for the Sabbath. Mark 2: 28 gives the justification for his stance and indirectly for the action of the disciples. Jesus has authority over the Sabbath, because he is Lord even of the Sabbath.

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