Meals with Jesus
Eating Ripe Corn in the Fields
"Rules, Regulations, Religion and Reality"
It was the law that laid out that travellers and foreigners who did not own land were permitted to pluck grain as it stood at the edges of the fields and eat it. It was stated that provision should be made for those who had nothing and therefore the landowners, even at harvest time had to leave strips of standing grain all around their fields. A way of making provision for those could not harvest their own food.
Remember the story of Ruth gleaning around Boaz's fields, she was not permitted to cut the stalks but she was encouraged to pick up that which was left behind, indeed, Boaz's men were told to pull some loose stalks out of the sheaves to make life a little better for her.
That all makes sense, doesn't it - a sort of latter day foodbank, a way of ensuring that those who had least were provided for. Sensible and commendable and a good way to live, sharing the good things that were grown on the land.
And then we hear this little account of what happened one day when Jesus and his disciples were strolling alongside a corn field, they did what would be considered the norm on any normal day, plucked some grains, rubbed them in their hands to get rid of the husks and then ate what they held, the grain a simple meal to stave off hunger.
Ooops - that's where things were going wrong because it was not a normal day . . . it was the Sabbath and witnessing the actions of the Jesus and his friends were the Pharisees, so bound up in the laws - and not so much the good laws - and they were beside themselves at this gross misconduct.
Four sins committed simultaneously by the band of travellers: reaping, winnowing, threshing and preparing a meal!
We might think the accusations ludicrous but that was one of the problems that Jesus knew he had to address. Over the years the religious authorities had included more and more and more rules and regulations that actually served to squash and hamper the lives of ordinary people. The disciples had broken religious laws and this was a matter so serious to be of life and death importance to the Rabbis and Pharisees.
Jesus dips deep into the Scriptures reminding the teachers of the law that in times of trouble God's servants had broken similar laws, a starving David had helped himself and those with him to sacred bread in the tabernacle. Bread that sustained life.
Jesus makes the point that the Sabbath was created for the good of God's people, a chance to worship, to learn and to refrain from hard work - a day of rest and recreation. The Sabbath was made for humankind to be of benefit but the extra layers of legalism had the effect of making the Sabbath more like a day of traps for the unwary.
It would be easy to follow Jesus if all we did was observe Sunday worship and keep the rules one day a week - well, maybe not that easy but certainly easier than living out his example every day. Our religious practice or our faith should be more about doing things - good things for others - than in refraining from doing things.
People are far more important than rituals - especially people in need, hence why Jesus cited the example of David and the sacred bread. People are more important than systems, so says William Barclay in his commentary on this passage, and one of the best ways of worshipping God is to help our brothers and sisters.
Jesus as he shared this Sabbath meal with the disciples made the point that nothing is so sacred that it cannot be used to help God's people, human beings come first over rules that trip people up.
Now, we remember as always that he did not come to abolish the law but to call time on some of the excesses - the ten commandments are there for a reason, the laws about leaving food for the hungry traveller or stranger - refered to as 'aliens' in the Hebrew Bible - are good laws but some of the add ons actually prevent people receiving the benefits intended.
Jesus used mealtimes throughout his ministry to teach, to educate, to show the right way to live, a way that ensured fairness and justice to those most in need.
A thought not just for Sunday worship but one that should guide our actions throughout our lives as we follow the Lord of the Sabbath.
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