Jesus and the Pharisees: Study #4

This is our fourth study on this topic. Please click HERE for an intro to this study.
We will focus our study for this post on Matthew 12:1-8.

Matthew 12:1-8

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. 2 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”

3 He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread — which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. 5 Or haven’t you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent? 6 I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”


Here are four things we may observe about this passage.

1. Though the Pharisees immediately jumped at Jesus for His disciples’ “unlawful” acts on the Sabbath, they were wrong. Gleaning grain from a neighbors’ field to satisfy one’s hunger was permitted.

If you enter your neighbor’s grainfield, you may pick kernels with your hands, but you must not put a sickle to his standing grain (Deut. 23:25).

2. Jesus also pointed out (from 1 Samuel 21:4-6) that David’s men did the same thing in the temple when they were hungry.

But the priest answered David, “I don’t have any ordinary bread on hand; however, there is some consecrated bread here — provided the men have kept themselves from women.”

5 David replied, “Indeed women have been kept from us, as usual whenever I set out. The men’s things are holy even on missions that are not holy. How much more so today!” 6 So the priest gave him the consecrated bread, since there was no bread there except the bread of the Presence that had been removed from before the Lord and replaced by hot bread on the day it was taken away (1 Sam 21:4-6).

3. I’m sure the Pharisees were quite shocked when Jesus said to them that He was greater than the temple and was Lord of the Sabbath. I’m sure they were fuming with anger. Yet Jesus was not afraid to speak the truth.

4. This passage shows us how ignorant the Pharisees were on the moral nature of the law and had the wrong focus of the law—only looking at the outward, ritual aspects of keeping the law.


It would do us well to study the word in order to be informed, in case someone should question us or accuse us of something. It will not only serve to protect us, but it will aid us to correctly instruct another and even lead them to Christ.

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