In order to understand the New Testament we must first understand the foundation on which it sits: the Old Testament. The passage that Jesus is making reference to is found in I Samuel 21. It is of most importance to note that Jesus affirmed that it was lawful only for priests to eat the bread. Leviticus 24 details how the bread (or cakes ) were prepared and arranged. The text also makes clear that the bread was only for Aaron and his sons. In addition, the text strongly presents the bread as holy, so much that it could be eaten only in the holy place, and only by priests. So how was David able to get away with this?
Its not that he got away with anything and that is what I will try to prove.
According to Christianity Jesus fulfills the office of Priest, Prophet and King. David is very unique in that he is the only other person in the scriptures that fulfills these offices as well. David wrote about the messiah. There is no doubt he is one of Israel's greatest prophets. The same can be said of him as king. But we rarely see him as priest. This is a mistake as there is a tremendous theological connection. I Samuel 21:7 says
so the priest have him holy bread, for no other bread was at hand except the showbread which had been removed from the Lords presence and replaced by fresh bread when it was taken away.
David ate holy bread. What's intriguing is that it was with the blessing of a priest. What's more intriguing is that he was the future king of Israel. Even more is how he partook of it with his men. And how they had kept themselves pure and consecrated for days prior to their arrival. David knew the bread was for priests only. His men knew it was for priests only.The priest knew it was for priests only. Yet something felt right about it. Something was right about it. Even with God. The bible says that the showbread was "removed from the Lords presence" just for David. This was no ordinary man. No ordinary anointing. No ordinary call. Had he partaken in an unworthy manner he would have fell dead the moment he ate the bread.
Jesus goes on to say something that gives us more insight into the matter. In Matthew 12, after he mentions David and his men eating the bread, Jesus says,
or have you not read in the law that in the Sabbath the priests serving in the temple violate the Sabbath and are innocent?
This is significant because by saying this Jesus is connecting the innocence of David with the innocence of the priests and ultimately with the innocence of the Apostles. What is important here is that the only way David can be innocent is if he is a priest and Jesus connects his innocence specifically to that of a priest.
Lastly, in II Samuel 6:12-14, after David was anointed and made king, he brought back the ark of the covenant and he sacrificed an ox and a fatlling. Sacrifices, as we know, were done by priests and In this passage we not only see David sacrificing but also wearing a linen apron which is just what a priest would wear.
Eating holy bread. Sacrificing. Wearing a linen apron. Building temples. Yes, I think he was a priest. I know he wasn't a Levite. But neither was Jesus. Or Melchizedek.
In conclusion, one of the most beautiful theological messages of this passage has to do with the bread and the fact that everyone that was with David partook. I believe this is symbolic of the body of Jesus. The bread is Jesus.