Matt 12:1-8,

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat. But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath.” But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions, how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone? Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent? But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire compassion, and not A sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. Lord of the Sabbath For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

In this passage we see the Pharisees condemn the disciples of breaking the Torah by picking grain and eating it on the sabbath. Then Yeshua asks them in short, my translation, “did David and his men break Torah when they ate the consecrated bread, which would include the high priest who gave David the consecrated bread”. He continues, “Are the priests in the temple guilty of breaking Torah every Sabbath when they work in the Temple”. And lastly, “is Yeshua (Jesus) guilty of breaking Torah by healing on or allowing his disciples to pick grain on the Sabbath”?

  • Well, as part of your research in the asking of the question - did Jesus break (any) law at all by healing (whatever day of the week he did it on) ? ? ?
    – Nigel J
    Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 22:46
  • Is that a rhetorical question? If you have an opinion regarding the question you should write a well studied and thoughtful answer instead of trying to insinuate an answer by asking a question.
    – JLB
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 1:19

4 Answers 4


Great question! In Rabbinical Judasim there are 39 Melachot (works) which are forms of prohibited 'work' that are as following:

Sowing Plowing Reaping Binding Sheaves Threshing Winnowing Selecting Grinding Sifting Kneading Baking Making Material Curtains

Shearing Wool Cleaning Combing Dyeing Spinning Stretching the Threads Making Loops Weaving Threads Separating the Threads Tying a Knot Untying a Knot Sewing Tearing Making Leather Curtains

Trapping, Slaughtering, Skinning, Tanning, Smoothing, Ruling Lines, Cutting, Making the Beams of the Mishkan,

Writing, Erasing, The Putting up and Taking down of the Mishkan,

Building, Breaking Down, The Mishkan's Final Touches,

Extinguishing a Fire, Kindling a Fire, Striking the Final Hammer Blow, Carrying,


Now, the accusation against Yeshua's disciples would seem to be that they had, by picking grain and rubbing the chaff off in their hands before eating it, done work prohibited by the 39 Melachot. This is dubious from a common sense perspective: no reaping instrument was involved. Yet the rabbis had prohibited picking of any kind. However, Yeshua was not doing what his disciples were, indicating he knew that it appeared to some that this was breaking the Shabbat, or perhaps he simply wasn't hungry. As he implies, the work of the priests and the David's acts were holy: 1. to keep other Torah commands and 2. to preserve life. Eating off a plant to preserve one's own life is similar, hence it's not REALLY breaking shabbat, though it appears to be to some.

Even the rabbis will circumcise on the Sabbath, thereby engaging in cutting, hence 'work' under the cause of the greater good. Yeshua was calling them out and saying, "even you take your animals to the well to give them water on the Sabbath." Hence, people eating food from a plant is not work if it is done out of necessity and not to gather a harvest. Healing people on the sabbath is similar. It's not the 'work' of a physician if its done to save life, and not for payment. He's saying, yes this could be considered 'work' but it is a type that is actually allowed because it's for a GOOD reason: it's lawful to do good on the Sabbath, to save life, to lift burdens. This is the good work the Father does, and the good work the Son does.

  • Thanks for the answer and compliment on the question. If you want you can upvote the question to promote it in the community.
    – JLB
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 1:21
  • @Jacob כָּל הַכָּבוֹד!(Well Done!)
    – Tau
    Commented May 5, 2018 at 21:57

No they did not sin in the acts mentioned

The Pharisee was famously blind to the intent of the Law of Moses! (chiefly being a law in, a moral sense, to show love and mercy and in a ceremonial sense to foreshadow in various symbols the future Christ and judicial sense to threaten sinners in order that they might stop trying to find righteousness through the loss but in a total loss look forward to the promised Christ)

So how did Jesus arrest the Pharisees in their tracks?

First he says, 'Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions, how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone?' In other words don't you realize that when David was in need of food out of necessity he had to break what would otherwise be forbidden?

So we see mercy extended to someone in necessity overrides an external rule that would otherwise be the norm.

Then he appeals to the priests who are exempt from resting as they have duties in the temple every Sabbath. 'Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent?'

Finally Jesus rebukes them for the depth of their ignorance because Jesus is the real temple and any service to him is greater than those services made by the priests.

'But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here.'

Again he calls out their whole attitude of always judging from evil motives, not showing mercy and understanding in love. Having no compassion on either the necessity or the service that his disciples, whose righteousness greatly exceeded theirs. It's their wicked desire to judge and proud stubborn attempt to exalt themselves, in a greedy desire to draw attention and praise from men, that Jesus frequently rebuked on several occasion. That's why the wanted to murder him for early on in the gospels.

"But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire compassion, and not A sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. Lord of the Sabbath For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."

So ultimately the problem with the Pharisee was his blind view of the Law, not knowing that those who blindly tried to follow the law the most, without faith in Him, ironically, broke it the most.

Israel’s Unbelief 30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 as it is written,

              “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; 
  and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Ro 9:30–33). (2016). Crossway Bibles.


Yes, David sinned without a doubt. His sin was not imputed.

Romans 4:7 -8

7 Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin. (Psalms 32:1-5)

Jesus is greater than David. He was born of the line of David, the promised one. He is the only man who was sinless. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He demonstrated his "authority" to the religious leaders and he openly broke the Torah without sin, demonstrating the more perfect way.

Christ did not say, "Whosoever cometh to me, and keeps the Torah or the laws of Moses..." What he did say is, "Whosoever comes to me and hears my saying and does them is like a man which built a house upon a rock" Luke 6:47.

Anyone who thinks that "love your enemy" is obeying the law of Moses doesn't know the law of Moses.

Anyone who thinks "except for fornication" is in the law of Moses, hasn't read the law of Moses.

Anyone who thinks "don't look on a woman to lust after her" is in Torah doesn't know Torah.

Anyone who thinks that gathering corn to eat on the Sabbath and telling a man to take up his bed on the Sabbath is not breaking the Sabbath simply hasn't read the old covenant laws (Numbers 15:33-35; Exodus 16:5; Jeremiah 17:21-22).

Christ did not do these things because they were permitted in the "spirit of the law which had been lost in the traditions of the elder." He did them to demonstrate "that he was Lord also of the Sabbath" (Luke 6:5).

Christ, like Moses, was a reformer and a law-giver. "The Lord your God will raise up unto you a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren like unto me; unto Him ye shall hearken" (Deuteronomy 18:15).

"Which [tabernacle of Moses] stood only in meats and drinks and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until [but only until] the time of reformation. “Christ being come" (Hebrews 9:10 & 11).

The supremacy of the Messiah is established, and the greater than Moses arrived. Hebrews 7:12 "For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also."

Jesus proceeded to change the law, his commands were given to him by the Father and they were in part reiteration and others completely new.

John 12:48-50

48 He that rejecteth ME, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. 49 For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.

John 14:15

If you love me, keep my commands.”

John 14:21

He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

John 14:31

But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence.

1 John 3:23-24

And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. And he that keepeth his {the Son's} commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.

John 15:10

If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.

John 15:12

This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

John 15:17

These things I command you, that ye love one another.

Romans 13:9

For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."

1 John 3:23

And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.

1 John 4:21

And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

2 John 1:5

And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another.

2 John 1:6

And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.

Romans 13:8

Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.

Romans 13:10

Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Galatians 5:14

For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

The new and better covenant is in force today.

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At that time, Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. – Matthew 12:1 ESV

The disciples weren’t harvesting, they reached out and picked heads of wheat. They weren’t threshing, they were rubbing the heads between their hands to remove the husks. They then ate the uncooked seeds.

But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” – Matthew 12:2 ESV

The Pharisees had constructed innumerable additional requirements, man-made fences, around Torah to prevent accidental violations. However, in context, the Pharisees were intent on finding fault with Jesus. But Jesus continues with . . .

"And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord [i.e. judge] of the Sabbath.” – Matthew 12:7,8 ESV*

Jesus is referencing Micah 6:6-8:

“With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God." - Micah 6:6-8 ESV

This clearly establishes the intent of Torah as a model of behaviors resulting from the values of righteousness.

Jesus continues with the Father’s intentions and the Son’s authority. But Jesus qualifies his assertion by affirming that Torah remains as the standard.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." – Matthew 5:17 ESV

This cuts to the heart of the matter—why did Jesus come?

Dr. David H. Stern wrote in his forward to the Complete Jewish Bible (the spectacular Study Bible version was published in 2016), that “The common Greek word plērōsai means “to fill.” He rejects the translation of this word as “to fulfill,” choosing instead to translate it as “to complete” in the sense that Torah still stands but Jesus personally needed to be a perfect sacrifice without blemish. Then in John 15:10, 15 ESV, we read

"If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love . . . This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

So there’s a key substitution described here: As Jesus kept Torah perfectly, remaining in the Father’s love, so Jesus expects his disciples to keep the commandments of Jesus remaining in his love.

Through Jesus, the Father cleanses (kathairó, SG2508) us to be ritually clean (katharos, SG2513) as described in John 13:10,11 and John 15:1-3 ESV. According to Dr. Stern, Paul reaffirms this concept in Romans 10:4 as “the goal, purpose, consummation” (Greek * télos*, SG5056) of Torah rather than its termination. Of course, the entire letter that Paul wrote to the Galatians addresses this question. For one example

I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. – Galatians 2:21 ESV

And finally, Dr. Stern wrote:

The Greek phrases erga nomou and upo nomon were coined by Sha’ul and used by him in three of his letters—Romans, Galatians, and 1 Corinthians—where each appears ten times. The CJB’s B’rit H, Hadashah, following the lead of Cranfield, takes these phrases as not referring to the Torah itself but to man’s legalistic perversion of it.

This is precisely what Jesus addressed to the legalistic Pharisees on this occasion as well as his subsequent encounter with the Pharisees when he healed a man on the Sabbath.

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