And it came to pass on the second sabbath after the first, that he went through the corn fields; and his disciples plucked the ears of corn, and did eat, rubbing [them] in [their] hands. And certain of the Pharisees said unto them, Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath days? And Jesus answering them said, Have ye not read so much as this, what David did, when himself was an hungred, and they which were with him; How he went into the house of God, and did take and eat the shewbread, and gave also to them that were with him; which it is not lawful to eat but for the priests alone? And he said unto them, That the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.Luke 6:1-5
Jesus spent a large portion of His public ministry “setting the record straight,” in both teaching and living example. In the following confrontation with the Pharisees (one of many regarding observance of the Sabbath), Jesus teaches us much more than just the true purpose of the Sabbath. He refutes many of the false ideas of the Pharisees and shows that the law was never intended as a step-by-step guide on how to get to heaven.
Jesus argues two very interesting points as He sets the record straight.
First of all, Jesus shows that the law is not merely a set of rules and steps on how to get to heaven. He mentions the case of David in 1st Samuel chapter 21. In this event, David and his men eat the shewbread in the temple and are not put to death for violating the ordinance. If the law was to be interpreted as the Pharisees say, then we would have record of God requiring David be put to death, but we do not!
Next, Jesus mentions the work of the priests on the Sabbath day. If we take a look at Numbers 28, it is easily seen that the work the priests do on that day far exceeds the commandment to “do no servile work.” And yet they are not punished either. Why? Because adherence to the law is not the way to heaven, the law shows us the holy and righteous character of God. It was given to teach man reverence for a God that is far greater than anything in His creation. It is to help man better understand God and his relationship to the Almighty.
When this is applied to the observance of the Sabbath we can understand why Jesus concluded in Mark 2:27
And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:
By this law, man can understand that he is a creature designed by God. He can see that God instructs him to take much needed rest.
We will learn later that the Sabbath, as well as most other aspects of the law, are shadows of much greater things to come. But here we can see that that design of the Sabbath, rather than adding to the list of things “to-do,” is God showing care and compassion for His creation.