Did Jesus’ disciples break the Jewish Sabbath law? (Matthew 12:1-5)

PROBLEM: Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17). Yet Jesus’ disciples deliberately and knowingly picked grain on the Sabbath, thus arousing the ire of the Pharisees by doing “what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath” (Matt. 12:2).

Matthew 12:1 - 5

ESV - 1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, "Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.

Clarify Share Report Asked April 29 2020 My picture Jack Gutknecht

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Mini Aurel Gheorghe
Before addressing the question I would point out that the Bible talks only about the Sabbath of the Lord (Ex 20:10; Matt 12:8). There is not a single mention of the Sabbath of the Jews or Jewish Sabbath in the Scripture: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27, 28). 

Furthermore, the Matthew 12 story has nothing to do with the Fourth Commandment or with Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:17. The Pharisees were accusing the disciples of harvesting on the Sabbath because they picked up a few grains from the field. 

The religious lenders devised 39 different work categories prohibited on Sabbath; harvesting was one of them. According with their law, picking an apple or a few grains on the Sabbath was work thus they were breaking the Sabbath. These laws were man-made traditions not part of God’s Law and Jesus rightfully rebuked them for their hypocrisy (Matt 23:27, 28; Luke 11:46).

The Bible does not record any instances in which the disciples broke the Sabbath, although it is possible, they were sinful men (Luke 5:8). 

Moreover, Matthew 5:17 makes it clear that Jesus did not destroy the Law but fulfill it. If there is earth under our feet and haven above our heads that means “not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law” (Matt 5:18). 

Finally, we know Jesus’ disciples were very careful in keeping the Sabbath - after His death they stopped the burial preparation because the Sabbath was about to start (Luke 23:54-56). Obviously no one told them the Sabbath was done away with.

April 30 2020 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

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