The Lord of the Sabbath

Luke 6: 1-5
Col 1: 21-23 / Psa 54

Then He said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
(Luke 6:5)

All acts of piety are useless
If bitterness in our hearts remain;
Don’t let your faith be dry and worthless
Like chaff separated from the grain.

Now it happened that Jesus was passing through some grainfields on a Sabbath, and His disciples were picking the heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands, and eating the grain.

Some Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” Jesus said to them in reply, “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 took and ate the consecrated bread which is not lawful for any to eat except the priests alone, and gave it to his companions?” Then He said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” (Luke 6: 1-5)


The Sabbath was very strictly observed as a day of rest when no kind of work whatsoever was to be performed. Not even eating, when it involved some kind of manual effort, like separating the chaff from the grain. Thus when some of the disciples picked some grains of wheat, and rubbed them in their hands to eat them, the Pharisees asked Jesus: “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” And Jesus answered: “Have you not read what David did when they were hungry? How he went into the house of God and ate the bread of offering, which only the priests could lawfully eat?” Not only did Jesus point out to these so-called scholars of the law their ignorance of scriptures, but more importantly, our Lord was implying that if King David could break the law, how much more for the Son of Man Who was the Lord of the Sabbath? Jesus referred to Himself as the Son of Man in reference to the prophet Ezekiel, who similarly addressed himself thus, and prophesied against the sins of Israel, a “rebellious house; they have eyes to see but do not see, and ears to hear but do not hear” (Ezek.12:2). Like their ancestors, the Jews had made the Sabbath and their man-made laws their idols, and had become blind and deaf to the One true God in their midst. The Sabbath was meant to be a day of rest, and Jesus was its embodiment. He said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).

The Pharisees were like the chaff removed from the grain, dry and worthless, blown by the wind. They had no substance, superficial, their beliefs skin-deep, their sole concern the observance of rituals and laws that they themselves had crafted, which only served to burden their fellowmen. When the Messiah came, He rubbed them the wrong way, and exposed them for what they really were. His teachings brushed their antiquated laws away — to reveal the essential food that would nourish men’s souls.

Even in this modern age, there are still many “Pharisees” among us who go to Church and receive the sacraments regularly, and then go home to maltreat the servants or the children, and in the office cheat on their income tax payments or business transactions. They observe the Sabbath and go to Mass, but leave their faith inside the church, to pursue other worldly concerns. Let us thank God for the strong spiritual support and peer pressure we receive in our community that keeps us faithful to the values that we apply in our homes and places of work. We are fed constantly by the Lord’s grains of truth in our regular reading of His Word.

Lord, please help us to discern the chaff from the grain. Sometimes we are more concerned about rituals and regulations which bear no relation to the true meaning of compassion, understanding and mercy. Help us to be “poor in spirit”, and to humbly accept the things that we cannot understand. Make us realize that it is better to be forgiving than to be right, and that charity weighs far more than justice. Help us to live the real meaning of love in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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