Jesus Plucks Grain on The Sabbath

The story was told some years ago of a pastor who found the roads blocked one Sunday morning and was forced to skate on the river to get to church, which he did. When he arrived the elders of the church were horrified that their preacher had skated on the Lord’s day. After … More


Jesus and His disciples were walking through the grain fields (probably wheat) on the Sabbath day (Saturday). Fields were not fenced but marked out by stones, so that taking shortcuts through planted fields was not unusual. As they walked the disciples plucked some heads of grain. The Pharisees saw what the disciples were doing and immediately complained to Jesus. They were not suggesting that the disciples were stealing. The Mosiac law specifically stated that anyone could help themselves, to the heads of grain when walking through some ones field (Duet. 23:25). Instead they were accusing the disciples of working on the Sabbath.

Jesus answered their criticism by reminding them of how David ate the sacred bread in the Temple when he was fleeing from Saul and became hungry (I Sam. 21:1-6). The Pharisees had concluded that David was justified in eating the sacred bread rather than starving.  In this comparison Jesus was saying that the satisfying of human need is more important than the observance of religious ritualism, just as they had already concluded in David’s case.

This passage confronts us with certain essential truths which it is easy for us to forget.

  1. Christianity does not consist in rules and regulations.
  2. The first claim on any man is the claim of human need.
  3. The best way to use sacred things is to use them to help men.


Many of the Pharisees were so caught up in their man-made laws and traditions that they lost sight of what was good and right. God provided the Sabbath as a day of rest and worship, but He didn’t mean that concern for rest should keep me from lifting a finger to help others.

Mark 2:23-28 (English Standard Version)

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."

View this passage in NIV (Bible Gateway) »