25

Jesus defended his disciples gleaning on the Sabbath by retelling a story about David. Mark 2:23-28 (ESV):

One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

It seems the point of the story compares the act of gleaning on the Sabbath with the act of eating the bread of the Presence in time of great need. It also seems that Jesus compared his authority to the authority of David. But how did the argument work exactly?


How did the Pharisees understand Jesus' answer? Does it matter that David was acting in a deceitful manner according to the story in 1 Samuel 21? The week old bread belonged to the High Priest and his descendants (Leviticus 24:9) so David essentially stole it. Gleaning was clearly permissible and the only question was whether it counted as work for purposes of the Sabbath law. What the disciples were doing was arguably permissible under the law, but I have a hard time seeing David's actions as justified.


Note: There's a related question about the name of the priest.

10

In my understanding the key is the final verses:

“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

These two statements are not unconnected truths. The point being that God's (or the 'Son of Man's') intention with regard to the Sabbath law trumps obedience to the 'letter of the law'. Jesus explains the Sabbath "was made for man" (i.e. to bless him) not the other way round so if a man breaks the Sabbath law to avoid harm coming to himself, he is more in tune with God's intention than if he keeps the law to his harm (as an illustration, a starving man who works on the Sabbath for food does not displease God though he breaks the law).

In essence Jesus seems to be saying obedience to God is not the same as obedience to God's law—even if the law gives insight into how to please God. As another illustration consider a minimum speed limit and whether it is the intention of the relevant authorities that you do not drop below that speed even if there is a person on the road in front of your vehicle.

Perhaps related is John 5:18 and preceeding:

18This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.   ESV

  • Good example of the minimum speed limit. (But I had to read it a few times to get the gist. Maybe I'm being dense today. I think it would help to spell out the two possible interpretations of the minimum speed, i.e, never drop below it or sometimes safety requires stopping. ;-) – Jon Ericson Oct 28 '11 at 17:13
  • "In essence Jesus seems to be saying obedience to God is not the same as obedience to God's law." Reminds me of Johannes de Silentio's question in Fear and Trembling: "Is there a teliological suspension of the ethical?" He argues your statement exactly. As it is stated, however, I don't agree. – Kazark Jun 1 '12 at 19:31
  • 2
    I'm not sure I see how this addresses the issue. The disciples in Mark 2:23 aren't on the verge of starving or anything; they're simply out for a Sabbath stroll and picking grains. I'll have to think on this some more. – Soldarnal Jun 1 '12 at 21:23
  • 1
    @Soldarnal - agreed, I didn't mean to imply that was their reason, just to illustrate the difference between obeying the law and pleasing the law-giver in principle. It is the Pharisees inability to see below the surface of the law into the heart of the one who gave it that provokes Jesus to chastise them. – Jack Douglas Jun 2 '12 at 18:54
14

Reading this passage today made me want to research it. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath, and He came to fulfill the law not break it. This passage has several aspects that are best read together as Jesus combines them:

Jesus and Disciples Pluck and Eat Grains on the Sabbath

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!”

The Law is concise about the Sabbath (Lev. 23, Duet. 5) and makes a general statement not to work. Plucking grains on your neighbor's property was permitted by the Law (Duet. 23).Reading the Law at face value, the disciples were not breaking Biblical law, but Rabbinical Law. Reaping is one activity forbidden on the Sabbath based on the Misna Shabbat.

David Eating the Showbread

But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?

Jesus states that David eating the showbread was unlawful, as it was lawful only for priests for eat the showbread per Biblical Law. One can either read this passage as Jesus then condoning breaking Biblical Law because David was hungry or that Jesus was highlighting the inconsistency of His opponents. Since Jesus came to fulfill the law and obeyed God in everything He did, it is more likely that the latter reading is accurate, especially considering how serious God took priestly matters.

With this interpretation, The Pharisees revered David and possibly did not condemn him for his eating of the showbread. Jesus asks then why they condemn Him and his disciples when they did not break the law.

Both King Saul and King Uzziah were punished by God for acting as priests. It is clear that God showed mercy on David in that situation. Nothing in Samuel indicates that David was esteeming himself as a priest by eating the showbread but rather eating due to hunger.

Priests Working on Sabbath

Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?

Jesus is speaking with hyperbole saying that the priests profaned the Sabbath by working on the Sabbath to point out that even all work was not forbidden on the Sabbath. The priests and Levites were assigned altar duties, and later in Numbers, God calls for a Sabbath offering (Num. 28).

Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath

Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. But 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 even of the Sabbath.”

As Jesus often does in addressing others' questions or comments towards Him, He uses this situation to make a statement about Himself or the kingdom of God. Jesus declares that He is greater than the temple and is "Lord even of the Sabbath." Yet as Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus does not break the Law or condone breaking the Law. Jesus clearly had respect for the Law (Matt. 5:18).

Summary

  • Jesus and His disciples were not breaking Biblical law by plucking grains to eat and satisfy their hunger in the moment. The Sabbath law required some interpretation since it was general, and Jesus interpreted it as allowing the actions of Him and His disciples.
  • David's action was unlawful to eat the showbread, but he did claim to keep himself and men holy beforehand. God had mercy on David in this situation.
  • God permitted some types of work, priestly work, on the Sabbath, and even Rabbinical law accepted saving someone's life as permitted on the Sabbath, thus medical work for saving a life would be allowed by their strict interpretation.
  • Jesus states that He is greater than the Temple and Lord of the Sabbath, which only God can be. He is more capable of interpreting Sabbath law than the Pharisees.
  • This is a really excellent answer. I'm interested how you interpret John 5:18: it seems to be John's voice saying Jesus was breaking the Sabbath (different case of course, but for me it casts doubt on "Jesus does not break the Law" at least in the superficial sense) – Jack Douglas Jan 12 '14 at 20:10
  • I think Jesus was breaking the Sabbath in the mind of the Pharisees, and John is saying at least that is their charge against Him. That verse especially refers to Jesus' healings on the Sabbath. The Jews would help someone in need on the Sabbath, and that is what Jesus is doing in John 5:18. – YellowJacket Jan 19 '14 at 3:10
  • 1
    My only issue with your answer is this statement Reaping is one activity forbidden on the Sabbath based on the Misna Shabbat that implies reaping was not breaking Biblical law. Exodus 34:21 (NKJV) forbids plowing and harvesting on the Sabbath: "Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; in plowing time and in harvest you shall rest." The disciples were not reaping by picking a few heads of grain to satisfy their hunger, but reaping itself was in fact breaking the Sabbath according to Biblical law. – Bʀɪᴀɴ Dec 14 '15 at 21:20
5

I think that the argument could be stated very simply:

Jesus is in effect stating that, "You are trying to lambast us for a perceived infraction (rabbinic law), but one of your heros actually broke the mosaic law without it reducing your opinion of him."

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4

Unlike what some consider to a blatant mistake, the argument from David and the Showbread works to show the identity of Jesus as the Lord of the Sabbath who is also the Son of God.

The original narrative (1 Samuel 21:1-9) includes David, the High Priest Ahimelech, 12 loaves of week old showbread, and Doeg the Edomite. David’s men are discussed but not present. Likewise, Ahimelech’s son, Abiathar, is not mentioned as present, yet he is introduced (retrospectively?) when he reports Saul’s (i.e. Doeg's) killing of the priests to David (1 Samuel 22:20-23).

The events center on the Bread of the Presence:

”You shall take fine flour and bake twelve loaves from it; two tenths of an ephah shall be in each loaf. And you shall set them in two piles, six in a pile, on the table of pure gold before the LORD. And you shall put pure frankincense on each pile, that it may go with the bread as a memorial portion as a food offering to the LORD. Every Sabbath day Aaron shall arrange it before the LORD regularly; it is from the people of Israel as a covenant forever. And it shall be for Aaron and his sons, and they shall eat it in a holy place, since it is for him a most holy portion out of the LORD's food offerings, a perpetual due.” (Leviticus 24:5-9) [ESV]

David comes to Ahimelech on the Sabbath and the only bread Ahimelech has are last week’s loaves which were replaced by hot bread (1 Samuel 21:6). These loaves are supposed to be eaten by Aaron and his sons in a holy place:

Sabbath                         Sabbath
Aaron replaces the bread        Ahimelech replaces the bread
Aaron and sons eat old bread    Ahimelech and sons eat old bread

Even though Abiathar is not specifically placed in the scene between David and Ahimelech, the instruction in Leviticus does. If taken literally, David arrives after Ahimelech has replaced the bread and he and his sons are about to eat. However, if this is too much to read into 1 Samuel, at a minimum Abiathar is represented by his portion of the loaves.1

Logically, one should question how the 12 loaves were to be divided. How many loaves of hallowed bread did David receive? Some Rabbinic traditions hold the High Priest’s share was 5 loaves. This would correspond to David’s request (21:3):2

Sabbath                        Sabbath
Ahimelech – 5 loaves           David – 5 loaves
Ahimelech’s sons – 7 loaves    David’s men – 7 loaves

Regardless of the specific distribution among the priests, Jesus’ use of the event alludes to how the Law required the bread to be handled. On the Sabbath Day the High Priest and his sons are to eat the week old bread; on the Sabbath Day David asked for 5 loaves and Ahimelech gave the hallowed bread for David and his men. If David received all 12 loaves,3 Ahimelech gave away both his portion and his son’s. Also within the context of the actual event, David’s lie to Ahimelech is irrelevant since Ahimelech knew David had men and believed the bread (belonging to he and his sons) was going to both David and his men. How to reconcile Mark 2:25-26 with 1 Samuel 21:1-5?

In the Gospel, Mark states the disciples (not Jesus) plucked grain. The Pharisees see this and confront Jesus. Therefore Jesus’ use of the example places Him in the role of Ahimelech who gave David the showbread. This is how the example Jesus cites works:

Sabbath                                  Sabbath
Jesus allows disciples to pluck grain    Ahimelech gives hallowed loaves
[Jesus does not pluck grain]             [Ahimelech & sons do not eat bread]
Disciples pluck grain                    David [and his men] receive loaves
Pharisees observe                        Doeg the Edomite observes

There remains the question of how Jesus applied these elements:

And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” (Mark 2:25-26)

First, by asking if they have read, Jesus is pointing the Pharisees to what is written, not an oral tradition4 and as noted above, a careful reading of the event also suggests Jesus has cast the Pharisees in the role of Doeg the Edomite.

While the reference to Abiathar can be taken as an error, based on the written records Mark's citation has several mistakes:

Item            1 Samuel             Mark
Priest:         Abimelech            Abiathar  
Where eaten:    Left with the bread  In the house of God
Who ate:        David                David and his men  

The criticism for citing Abiathar conveniently ignores all of what Mark says and what is written. In light of all the "errors" it is obvious Mark presents Jesus as using the David event as a midrash to respond to the Pharisees claim He has allowed His disciples to break the Mosaic Law.5

There are two paths the midrash Jesus used can continue. The most obvious is claiming Abiathar not his father Ahimelech gave the bread. What Jesus has done is to attribute the actions of the father (Ahimelech) to the son (Abiathar):

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. (John 5:19)

That which Mark implies, John states explicitly: it was not Jesus who allowed His disciples to pluck grain on the Sabbath it was His Father. Although Mark does not make the explicit connection since his emphasis is on the Son of Man (not The Father) who is the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28).

A more subtle ending to the midrash is found in following the life of Abithar who eventually is stripped of his priestly status and exiled by David’s son:

And to Abiathar the priest the king said, “Go to Anathoth, to your estate, for you deserve death. But I will not at this time put you to death, because you carried the ark of the LORD God before David my father, and because you shared in all my father's affliction.” So Solomon expelled Abiathar from being priest to the LORD, thus fulfilling the word of the LORD that he had spoken concerning the house of Eli in Shiloh. (1 Kings 2:26-27)

Unlike Abiathar who was removed as High Priest but allowed to live in exile (because he shared in the father's affliction), Jesus will not be acknowledged as High Priest. He will be executed outside of Jerusalem by the actions of the father and son team of High Priests, Annas and Caiaphas, and the orders of the Roman “king” Pilate. Therefore, in the end just as Ahimelech the High Priest who gave David bread was killed, Jesus the Lord of the Sabbath who allowed His disciples to pluck grain on the Sabbath will be killed.


Notes:
1. Jesus' inclusion of Abiathar has merit and should be considered in that vein.
2. Any textual or historical criticism of the passage which fails to consider the number of loaves David received is deficient. Moreover, the existence of any tradition the High Priest's share was 5 loaves would imply Jesus understands David asked only for the High Priest's share. In this case, Jesus recognizes a subtlety critics of Mark miss: the ambiguity of Ahimelech's concerns. In other words, Ahimelech will give David his 5 loaves and now focuses on the loaves which belong to his sons which he is considering to give (or so he thinks) to David's men.
3. This means Jesus is elucidating the passage from 1 Samuel.
4. The Pharisee's claim the disciples are doing "what is not lawful" is based solely on their oral tradition. There is nothing written to support this charge.
5. This is exactly how Jesus responded to the two previous challenges (eating with the tax collectors and sinners and not fasting). It also misses the irony in what is described. After Jesus was challenged (by John's disciples) over not fasting, the disciples are hungry on the Sabbath. The implication is they have (now) been fasting.

  • Good associations and food for thought. One comment, instead of the high priest - having to be son or father maybe what He is implying is - if the father is high priest so is the son, which would correspond to what the OT expresses as the fact. – JLB Feb 24 '18 at 14:33
2

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.

  • 1
    It is a big leap to imagine the David ate the show bread lawfully because he is somehow A priest. If we make that leap we still have a problem with how he could eat lawfully. Seems more likely that Jesus is pointing out an inconsistency in the Pharisees thinking. If they had theologically worked out a way for David to be innocent Jesus remark would catch them in their hypocrisy. Jesus statement is not to justify David. His argument would then be "you despise the law when you work out a system to justify David and then condemn my disciples when they are not breaking the law." – user6719 Jan 17 '15 at 13:52
1

Heb 10:1 ¶ For the law having a shadow of good things to come, [and] not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.

A shadow of something is not the thing. It is attached to the thing and is revealed by the light. The law has a shadow of the "good things coming". The good thing coming was the cross of Christ. This is a direct statement speaking of the sensus plenior. It is a picture of Christ hidden in the law.

Jesus uses an indirect reference to Uzziah and Azariah as a combined picture of himself. Uzziah represents Christ in the flesh, and the intentional mistake of calling him Azariah, tells us in the language of prophetic riddle, that he would be made the high priest in resurrection. Jesus references a narrative of Ahimelech, but replaces him with his son. Ahimelech represents Christ in the flesh as he was killed for helping David, and his son replaces him as high priest in a picture of resurrection.

The object of the riddle is the Messiah. He is the man in all the riddles. God rested on the Sabbath not because he needed rest, but as a prophecy of his future rest offered to mankind. He gave the law, not because God needed something to enforce, but as a prophetic riddle revealing the nature of God. Any particular law is only a partial revelation of God's character.

But God's character is more important than the law which reveals it. When the picture of his character conflicts with his character, his character wins out.

Jesus is the source of the future rest. The law is a picture of Jesus. Since Jesus is present, the picture has no more effect. This is the thesis statement of the book of Hebrews. What is past is the shadow, Christ is the reality.

Mt 11:28 Come unto me, all [ye] that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

The answer then revolves around how does the bread represent the cross? Jesus said that the bread wash his body given for us. The bread hidden in the temple would be made available to all through the cross. As such, the picture of David eating the bread, and giving it to his men is a prophetic picture of the last supper, and even more so of the cross, wherein we partake of his flesh, and through which we enter into his rest.

Reality trumps the shadow.

The question accuses David of acting dishonestly, but does so through concept feeding in the question. It should be removed from this question and asked directly so that it can be addressed without distracting from the main point here.

1

Good points by all concerning a challenging statement by Jesus.

It seems like Jesus's invocation of Abiathar is the key to his statement. This means we need to consider the whole story. Ahimelech and 84 other priests were slaughtered shortly after giving the bread of the presence unlawfully to David (1 Samuel 22:18). The way Jesus says that Abiathar gave the bread to David implies that Abiathar was complicit in the unlawful activity of Ahimelech, yet only Abiathar was shown mercy, and I believe this is why Jesus mentions him by name.

This gets more profound when we consider that Ahimelech actually spoke in David's defense before Saul. Though everything he said of David was true, he counted on his own words and his own position to defend him from Saul. Ahimelech appreciated with David's character and sympathized with his cause but did not join him. Remember 1 Samual 21:1 records that Ahimelech came to David trembling. He knew he was in danger, but chose to go it alone. On the other hand, Abiathar fled to David and counted on the Messiah himself for his protection, and he received mercy.

In the Old Covenant, harvesting on the Sabbath was a refusal to receive God's blessing. God provided Manna for the Sabbath on the 6th Day, and this pattern was intended to persist after manna ceased to be provided. So when Israel was rebuked for going out to gather on the 7th day in the wilderness (Exodus 16:27-30), they had provision and instruction to store manna on the 6th day. On the other hand, the disciples, like David's group, were not without provision because of lack of faith or because of lack preparation but because of circumstance. As the "Lord of the Sabbath," Jesus is free to enforce the Sabbath in accord with God's desire for mercy (Luke 12:7-8), and furthermore, he is free to defend those who seek his protection in the same way that David protected Abiathar and his own men (Mark 2:26).

Or something like that.

-1

There are two major dispensations in the Bible. One is the law of Moses under which only the Levitical priesthood could eat the bread in the temple. The other is Grace which has the priesthood of Melchizedek in a shadow as the High Priest and Jesus as the anti-type or the high priest. Now look at Jesus's speech in heaven before he becomes a man;

Heb 10:5-9 (KJV)
5 Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: 6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. 7 Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. 8 Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; 9 Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.

Jesus came to take away the first covenant that he may establish that one of Grace. Under the law, there were conditions. If a man fulfilled the conditions of the law, he could obtain righteousness but this was not possible for all sinned and fell short. The law and its requirements made nobody perfect. The only other way was to obtain this righteousness by faith like Abraham and not by fulfilling the conditions of the law. Jesus and David by not observing the ritual of the law and it's ordinances are in effect showing allegiance to the new covenant of grace where righteousness is by faith and not observance to the law.

David is declared righteous by faith in a different covenant than that of the law in which the Pharisees put their trust. Jesus merely illustrated to them that there was a man (David) who had eaten holy bread against the ordinances of the Law and yet was not condemned. This should have prompted the question "How was that possible actually? Which priesthood would have covered him?"

The answer in essence pointed to the possibility of another priesthood by which a man could be saved and not condemned under the law. By doing under the ordnances of the law what should not have been done, Jesus identified himself with that man to whom it was not a transgression to do what the two of them did in like fashion.

This would achieve another end as well. It would not only hint to the Pharisees that there was a different rule in operation, but it would also serve the purpose of hinting to them that He who had done as David, also knew as David. Jesus was pointing to both a question as well as to it's answer, being himself the author of that new way and also it's high priest. Above all he was saying more or less to the pharisees "Your old order was always not it. There is a different way and David and I know that way to no condemnation." The essence of that passage was that there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus who live not under the law but under grace by faith.

Act 13:39 (KJV)
And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.

-1

The argument works because Jesus is the priest who has greater authority than Ahimalech, giving the bread of life, rather than just the showbread, to those who, aside from the mercy and grace of God, ought not have it. Albeit against the law to have given David what was holy, it was good, and through the act of sustaining David with this holy food, much everlasting fruit would come, because David was sustained from it. Likewise, Jesus, being the Highest Priest, gave to His disciples (us included) that which would do similar things in us. And just as Ahimalech was murdered because of it, so was Jesus, who gave us this bread to eat. Doeg is a tupe of Judas, and Saul is a type of Pharisee; David is a type of the disciples, and Ahimalech and the House of God itself are a type of Jesus. Jesus not only forces them to conceed on the point that they too regard David and Ahimalech as blameless in this deed, but that despite this, having the earthly authority, they will seek His life in the same manner that Saul used his authority to kill Ahimalech and everyone associated with him that they could find, but that they man seek to destroy His work as Saul sought to destroy David, but would not be able.

This meaning is well confirmed when Jesus continues (in the Matthew version) to speak of how the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are blameless. Why? Because like the priests in the temple, Jesus’ disciples are in Him, and He is greater than the temple. Likewise, Paul would later confirm this thinking when he said, to one man one day is holy, but to another man every day is holy.” Paul gets it, that like the priests in the temple, those who are in Christ are always working, doing those things which are their dity and those things which are pleasing to God, serving him everyday, Sabbath included. In the temple, in Him, every day is holy, because every day is all about Him and doing whatever pleases Him! All along we had this model provided for us, showing us that as priests in Christ, we constantly tend to His will, and every day is holy, and thus we see that just as the temple was greater than the sabbath, so Christ, who is greater than the temple, is greater the sabbath too. The point is not to be slave of the holy letter, but to be faithful children of the Holy Father. Having rejected the true priesthood in Him who is greater than the temple, they would soon receive judgment upon the priesthood of the earthly temple. Refusing to repent, they did receive that judgement and that priesthood was abruptly and violently removed at the destruction of the earthly temple, being measured back to them by the same violent measure they used.

There is even more, but that should answer your question. His argument not only worked, it worked on multiple levels, and even prophesied concerning their impending treacherous response (murder) to His current actions.

  • 1
    Hi John and welcome to the site. Your answer seems to cover a lot of ground so I'm not sure what is the actual answer to the question. Can you please highlight where you provide the answer to the question? Thanks. – Ruminator Nov 18 '18 at 18:11
  • The whole body of the comment is the answer, as the question requires an explanation of relevance that cannot easily be comprehended in a snippet. Taken altogether, comprehended, it as a whole answers the question, not with a word, but with an understanding that comes from considering it. – John Hadwin Nov 26 '18 at 0:58
  • Namely that Jesus’ authority was not being compared as much with David’s, but with the authority of the house of God/temple, and/or the High Priest. David is the recipient who is blameless—the disciples are the recipients who are blameless. If David was blameless having been given what is holy by the high priest, how much more were the disciples blameless, having been given what is Holy (JC) from The High Priest(JC)? Just as the priests of old were blameless when they worked on the Sabbath, because they were in the temple about His business, so were the disciples as they went about His work – John Hadwin Nov 26 '18 at 1:10
  • Keep trimming until we get just the key sentence; thanks. – Ruminator Nov 26 '18 at 1:13
  • So, that encapsulates the answer Jesus gave and also reveals the specifics of His case and point, arguing from the high ground of having been “One greater than the temple.” The Sabbath is made to serve God, not to be a frustration against God, stopping His servants (priests/disciples) in His house(temple/Jesus) from serving Him. Thus the priests worked every day, this they gave David the showbread, thus the disciples who are doing God’s work in Christ also pick heads of grain on the Sabbath. Does this need more unpacking? – John Hadwin Nov 26 '18 at 1:20

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