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Today’s Reading: Mark 2:23 – 3:6

23 One sabbath he was going through the grain fields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” 25 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: 26 how he entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the showbread, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” 27 And he said to them, “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath 28 so the Son of man is lord even of the sabbath.”

1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. 2 And they watched him, to see whether he would heal him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come here.” 4 And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out, and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

Today’s Commentary:

Have you never read: A stinging insult to the educatedPharisees. See note on Mt 12:3. what David did: Jesus recalls 1 Sam 21:1-6 to shed light on the present circumstances.

David was permitted to override the Mosaic ritual Law by letting his hungry companions eat the sacred bread of the Tabernacle reserved for the priests. Since Jesus is the Messiah and thus greater than David (12:35-37), he should not be condemned for suspending the Sabbath to meet a legitimate need (hunger) for his own disciples. Should the Pharisees denounce Jesus, they would unwittingly denounce the honored King David.

Is it lawful . . . ?: Jesus implies that doing good for the sake of mercy or necessity does not constitute a violation of the Sabbath. One should abstain from servile works, not good works. or to kill?: An alarming alternative to saving life. Common sympathy might allow for the preservation of lifeon the Sabbath, but not its destruction.

Jesus may allude to the precedent of 1 Macc 2:41, where the Jews temporarily suspended Sabbath observance to permit defensive warfare. This was necessary in order to save life from military attacks on their sacred day of rest. If Israel could sidestep the Sabbath to preserve life, then surely Jesus can heal a man’s hand on the same day.