The Sabbath (from Hebrew shabbath, “to rest, desist”) is the day of rest and abstention from work enjoined upon the Israelites. A gift from God like the Torah, it was a cornerstone of Israelite religious practice. Two major rationales are presented: (1) as a memorial of God resting from work of creation (Gn 2:1-3), and (2) as a humanistic approach—to give servants, strangers, and working animals an opportunity to rest (Ex 23:12).
Here Jesus objects to the strict Pharisaic interpretation, the mere material observance of the Sabbath that admits no exception. He interprets the law in humanitarian terms, according to human needs, as God would have it. God established the seventh day as a period of joy and refreshment.
Gospel • 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.”
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