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Luke 6:1-11: Law vs. mercy: Does picking grain violate the Sabbath?

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The complementary texts give us different flavors of Yeshua’s halacha (rule for living, interpretation) on this issue. Believers have struggled with this issue. There are three main classes of interpretation:

  1. Torah is obsolete so since Yeshua is Lord of the Sabbath and “Greater than the Temple”, Yeshua is heralding the “end of Torah” and the “beginning of Grace.”
  2. For those who divide the law into Moral and ceremonial, they interpret this text is Yeshua was simply correcting unwarranted additions to the Torah.
  3. For those who consider the Torah still in effect and that God has delegated authority to “bind and loose” Torah, Yeshua is talking about a “higher standard” for the Torah.

Relevant texts: Luke 6:1-11; Matt. 12:1-14; Mark 2:23-3:6; Ex. 31:14; Hos. 5:14-6:6

“Why do you do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” This was the question these elders asked Yeshua. Was he breaking the Sabbath? We see in the text in Exodus that the Tanak (Torah, Prophets and Writings, i.e. the Hebrew Scriptures) holds the Sabbath in such high regard that profaning it carried a death sentence so the question of the elders towards Yeshua merits serious contemplation.

The Hebrew word for “work” is מלאכה melacha (Strong’s lexicon No. H4399). This is the word that is used to described God’s creative power as well as use to explain what can be done on the 6 days of the week and what should not be done on the Sabbath. The sages used the examples of the work to build the tabernacle as guides for how to interpret what is lawful work during the week and what is considered unlawful work on the Sabbath. These are recorded in the Mishna.

Yeshua did not challenge the Pharisees on the point of whether the disciples were harvesting or not. Since Yeshua doesn’t dispute that point, we presume he agreed with that point. His key argument was bringing up specific examples of exceptions to the rule rather than arguing that the sages were interpreting the definition of work incorrectly.

Rather than arguing that the sages were defining work incorrectly, Yeshua brings up the examples of David eating the showbread which was unlawful for David, as a non-Levite, to eat. David came to the tabernacle and asked for food. The only food the priests could offer David was the show bread.

In the name of compassion and mercy for David and his men, who were extremely hungry, the priests gave David and his men some of the bread. There’s also a rabbinic interpretation that this event happened on the Sabbath so it is possible that the priests were baking bread on the Sabbath.

There are situations where keeping the commandments can be broken in the name of saving a life. However, no commandment should ever be taken lightly and the breaking of a particular commandment should be taken lightly.

The alleviation of human suffering is more important than the Temple and the Sabbath. If you understand what you’re doing and break the Sabbath, you are not guilty but if you don’t understand what you are doing and break the sabbath, you are guilty. You have to have the heart of God to understand that line.

Reader: David De Fever. Speaker: Jeff Quackenbush. Summary: Tammy Quackenbush.


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