Jesus passed through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick and eat some heads of grain. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!”
He said to them, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and those who were with him were hungry—how he entered the house of God, and they ate the sacred bread, which is not lawful for him or for those with him to eat, but only for the priests? Or haven’t you read in the Law that on Sabbath days the priests in the temple violate the Sabbath and are innocent? But I tell you that something greater than the temple is here! If you had known what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:1-8)
God doesn’t love rules. He loves people. And some rules really are made to be broken. God told his people to keep the Sabbath. And he told his priests what all their duties were. So sometimes the priests violated God’s Sabbath and never felt guilty about it. They sometimes had to offer sacrifices on the Sabbath. And sometimes they had to perform circumcisions on the eighth day after a birth, even if that eighth day was the Sabbath.
So Jesus told his critics that they had forgotten the whole purpose of the Sabbath, which was simply that people needed time off. The need to satisfy hunger took precedence over the minutia of the law. Just as David and his men, fleeing from Saul for their lives, needed food for their journey and took what they could find, so the disciples were doing nothing wrong by eating a few grains of wheat from a field as they walked along. The prohibition of “working on the Sabbath” could not be allowed to prevent people from doing what needed to be done.
Jesus claimed to be the Lord of the Sabbath. What does that mean? His use of the term “Lord” didn’t just mean that he was the boss. When Jews said the word “Lord” they meant “God.” Jesus told his critics that he was God and since he approved of what the disciples were doing, the discussion was over.
The rules aren’t supposed to get in the way of us doing what’s right.