What Matters

One Sabbath when Jesus and his disciples were walking through some wheat fields, the disciples picked some wheat. They rubbed the husks off with their hands and started eating the grain.

Some Pharisees said, “Why are you picking grain on the Sabbath? You’re not supposed to do that!”

Jesus answered, “You surely have read what David did when he and his followers were hungry. He went into the house of God and took the sacred loaves of bread that only priests were supposed to eat. He not only ate some himself, but even gave some to his followers.”

Jesus finished by saying, “The Son of Man is Lord over the Sabbath.”

On another Sabbath Jesus was teaching in a Jewish meeting place, and a man with a crippled right hand was there. Some Pharisees and teachers of the Law of Moses kept watching Jesus to see if he would heal the man. They did this because they wanted to accuse Jesus of doing something wrong.

Jesus knew what they were thinking. So he told the man to stand up where everyone could see him. And the man stood up. Then Jesus asked, “On the Sabbath should we do good deeds or evil deeds? Should we save someone’s life or destroy it?”

After he had looked around at everyone, he told the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did, and his bad hand became completely well.

The teachers and the Pharisees were furious and started saying to each other, “What can we do about Jesus?” (Luke 6:1-11)

What’s the meaning of “is?” That’s the sort of question that the religious leaders in Israel enjoyed puzzling over. The Pharisees, the Sadducees, the scribes—they concerned themselves with riddles regarding the Law. The commandment to “keep the Sabbath” was not as simple as it appeared. When God said that one must not work on Saturday, what did he mean by “work?” Was harvesting grain work? Obviously. How about threshing grain? Also obviously. But then what was “harvesting?” What was “threshing?” By simply plucking a few ears of wheat from a field, the disciples had “harvested” the wheat. By rubbing the husks off in their hands, they had “threshed” it.

You can almost hear Jesus rolling his eyes in response to this line of reasoning. He responded by pointing out that their line of reasoning took them to an absurdity when they tried to use it on the people in the Bible. Jesus wanted them to understand that in interpreting the Bible, it was important to pay attention to the whole thing. If you get lost in the details, you may simply get lost.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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