Breaking the Sabbath

January 12, 2023 in Today's Devotion by TGV


Bible Study Guide/ Matthew 12, (40-BSG-12Y)/ Question: Did Christ’s disciples Break the Sabbath?

Key Text: “At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!” (Matthew 12:1–2, NKJV)

Background: Pharisees’ hostile attitude toward Jesus even before this chapter is well documented in Matthew 9:11-12, 34-35, etc. Their hatred of Jesus is growing and closing in, “in their evil hearts,” and will soon bear the rotten fruit of a desire to murder Him (Mt 12:14). These legalistic Pharisees were filled with envy and were always lurking and looking for Jesus to make a “slip up.” So, they sent out spies everywhere Jesus was.

“Upon one Sabbath day, as the Saviour and His disciples returned from the place of worship, they passed through a field of ripening grain. Jesus had continued His work to a late hour, and while passing through the fields, the disciples began to gather the heads of grain, and to eat the kernels after rubbing them in their hands. On any other day, this act would have excited no comment, for one passing through a field of grain, an orchard, or a vineyard, was at liberty to gather what he desired to eat. See Deuteronomy 23:24, 25. But to do this on the Sabbath was held to be an act of desecration. Not only was the gathering of the grain a kind of reaping, but the rubbing of it in the hands was a kind of threshing. Thus, in the opinion of the rabbis, there was a double offense.” – [Ellen Gould White, The Desire of Ages, Conflict of the Ages Series, (Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1898), 3:284].

Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17). Yet Jesus’ disciples –(according to the Pharisees) — deliberately and knowingly picked grain on the Sabbath. This aroused Christ’s enemies’ wrath and accused Him of doing what was “not lawful to do on the Sabbath” (Matt. 12:2). Well, were they right?

Did Christ’s disciples Break the Sabbath? No! Jesus kept God’s law perfectly (Mt 5:17–18). By eating grain on the Sabbath when hungry, Jesus’ disciples did not break God’s law. However, it did violate the Pharisees’ law. Jesus often rebuked the Pharisees for adding their “traditions” (cf. Matt. 5:43 and 15:6) to God’s laws. Deeds of mercy and necessity were permitted on the OT Sabbath. Jesus’ disciples were not harvesting “bushels full of grain” on the Sabbath. They were merely eating handfuls of it as they passed through the field, which was permitted by OT law (see Deut. 23:25). Further, as Jesus noted on this occasion, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). He also pointed out that “the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (Matt. 12:8). In short, Jesus is in charge of the Sabbath; hence He is the author of this law (Gen 2:1-3, Ex 20:8). While Christ was focusing on meeting the immediate need for His disciples (food) and other acts of mercy (cf. Mt 12:9-10), the Pharisees were focusing on finding fault in Him so they might accuse and put Him to death (verse 14). Likewise, we should emulate Christ by doing what is good on the Sabbath.


Admonition: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done without leaving the others undone.” (Matthew 23:23, NKJV)

Have a Blessed Night: “Then He said to them, “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:11–12, NKJV)

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