Gospel of Mark 2:23-28
As Jesus was passing through a field of grain on the sabbath, his disciples began to make a path while picking the heads of grain. At this the Pharisees said to him,“Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?” He said to them,“Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions were hungry? How he went into the house of God when Abiathar was high priest and ate the bread of offering that only the priests could lawfully eat, and shared it with his companions?” Then he said to them,“The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”
The Pharisees were the Jewish scholars. They studied law that had been passed on from generation to generation of Jewish people since the time of Moses. All good Jews knew that God had set aside the Sabbath as a holy day. Recall the second Commandment: Remember, keep holy the Lord’s day. For the Jews, to keep the day holy was to avoid all unnecessary work so that the day might be totally ordered toward worshipping God. To pick grain on the Sabbath was considered a violation of the Jewish Law.
The Pharisees are outraged that Jesus’s disciples would be picking grain and , in their understanding, “doing what is unlawful on the sabbath.” Does it seem odd that the Pharisees would be present as Jesus and his disciples are “passing through a grain field on the sabbath”? Jesus is not sitting in the Temple preaching when they challenge him. He is not publicly speaking to crowds. He is walking through a field on his way to his next destination.
Why are the Pharisees there? We do not know for sure. But perhaps, they are following Jesus, waiting to catch him making a mistake or doing something wrong.
In a letter to an early Christian community, St. Paul writes, “I have heard that you are not keeping busy, but are being busy bodies…” There is a great temptation to insert ourselves in the affairs of others so as to be their judges. We would be much closer to the Heart of Christ, if we would stay focused on the tasks that God sets before us rather than interfering with the paths of others.