In this important chapter, the rejection of the Lord as the Messiah by the Jewish people has become obvious.  I’m reminded of John’s words in John 1:11, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.”  How sad and tragic it is that this blessed One who came to “save His people from their sins” was hated and rejected by the very ones He came to save.

Let’s read Matthew 12:1-8, “At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day. But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless? But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.”

What law did the disciples break?  If we read this account from the book of Luke we see in Luke 6:1, “And it came to pass on the second sabbath after the first, that he went through the corn fields; and his disciples plucked the ears of corn, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands.”  It seems these nitpicking Pharisees considered the disciples rubbing the wheat together in their hands to separate the wheat from the chaff to be ‘servile work’, which was prohibited on the Sabbath, as we read in Numbers 28:25, “And on the seventh day ye shall have an holy convocation; ye shall do no servile work.”  There was no law broken by their action, yet they sought a way to accuse the Lord.  In fact, we find several times that these self-righteous men looked for most anything they could think of to accuse the Lord of sin.  They were never successful.

In response to their accusation here, as concerning the disciples’ hunger, the Lord reminds them of how David, while in exile, took his men and entered the tabernacle, which was prohibited, and ate the showbread, which was also prohibited under the law.  I encourage you to read of this event in 1 Samuel 21:1-6.  How are we to understand this?  Does this mean that we can pick and choose what we want to obey and what we want to ignore of God’s Word.  Absolutely not!  It was because he and his men were under great distress that this action of David was not condemned.  It was a sinful nation that had rejected David and caused him to be in exile.  Through no fault of his own, David was hungry and this act was obviously permitted by the Lord.  We must notice that David did not ‘take’ this showbread, but we see in 1 Samuel 21:6 that, “the priest gave him hallowed bread.”  It was no coincidence that the Lord used this incident to correct these Pharisees.  David, the rightful king of Israel was in a state of rejection by Israel.  The Lord, the rightful King and Lord of all, was also in a state of rejection by Israel.

Then, as concerning the ‘servile work’ of the disciples by rubbing their hands together to eat the wheat, the Lord reminded these Pharisees that the priests performed ‘servile work’ on the Sabbath and were not condemned.  Under a ‘mis-application’ of the law, one might consider the priests as working on the Sabbath, even as it was a ‘mis-application’ of the law that caused them to criticize the disciples for working on the Sabbath.  The Lord then goes on to proclaim that He is greater than the temple, that the Lord delights in mercy rather than sacrifice, He declares the disciples ‘guiltless’ and that the Lord Jesus, is Himself, the Lord of the Sabbath.   Without ever breaking the law, the Lord always acted in authority and proper application of the law.  (183.4)