Monday, May 30, 2011

Scribes and Pharisees Rebuke Jesus for Shucking Wheat

The Hebrew word “Sabbath” means “repose or rest,” which helps to explain why Matthew put Jesus’ teaching about the Sabbath at this point in his gospel – it comes right after Jesus’ statement at the end of Matthew 11:28-30
“Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Put on my yoke, and learn from me. I’m gentle and humble. And you will find rest for yourselves. My yoke is easy to bear, and my burden is light.”
[Remember that a rabbi's "yoke" was his teaching]

True spiritual rest comes from delighting in God and in His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, not from observing religious rituals, no matter how uplifting they might seem, or purifying.

So on this Sabbath day, Jesus and His disciples were walking through a grainfield and they were hungry. It was lawful to satisfy your hunger from your neighbor’s field
If you go into a vineyard that belongs to someone else, you are allowed to eat as many grapes as you want while you are there. But don't take any with you when you leave. In the same way, if you are in a grain field that belongs to someone else, you can pick heads of grain and eat the kernels. But don't cut down the stalks of grain and take them with you.(Deuteronomy 23:24-25)
God instructed farmers to leave the corners of their fields unharvested to allow those who were poor glean the grain there, so Jesus and His disciples gatheres some kernels of wheat, into their hands, as they walked through the field. They shucked the husks, and began to snack on the raw kernels.

Israel didn’t always have scribes, or Pharisees. Before Judah and Israel had been deported, God’s law was protected and kept by the Levites. But when Nehemiah led the tribes of Judah and Benjamin back to rebuild Jerusalem, Ezra the scribe went with him to help, you can read all about this in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

The Jews must have learned about scribes from the people who deported them. Nehemiah eventually gave Ezra the scribe full authority to teach God’s law and rule over religious affairs so that never again would Israel allow idols, neglect the temple and its sacrifices or dishonor the Sabbath.

Over the next few hundred years scribes took on more and more honor. The scribe was considered to have ultimate authority on all questions of faith and practice.
* It was said a scribe’s dignity and importance were unlimited.
* It was believed that scribes would be first in heaven, that even God Himself paid honor to scribes, and the angels would praise them.
* They were to be absolutely believed and obeyed, even if they said that from now on your right hand was your left hand and vice versa.

In their own writings they claimed that their words were even more binding than God’s, and had more weight than the prophets. What rules in your own home have taken on that kind of aura? Do you say, “Because I said so,” or do your children know that your rules harmonize with biblical principles?

The scribes and Pharisees laid the most stress on the observance of the Sabbath. No other subject in the rabbinical teaching got as much space, or as many detailed regulations.
The four rules the disciples broke were:
1) Plucking the wheat kernels = reaping
2) Rubbing them in their hands to loosen the husk = threshing
3) Shaking the kernels so the chaff would fall away = winnowing
4) And doing the whole thing = preparing a meal.

Jesus’ disciples were Jewish. They knew quite well that they were breaking the rabbinical Sabbath laws, so they would never have dared to do it without Jesus’ permission, even though they were hungry.

According to the Mishnah, Sabbath desecration was one of the most grossly wicked crimes a person could commit, and the penalty was stoning to death. By accusing Jesus’ disciples of transgressing the Sabbath laws, the Pharisees were implicating Jesus as well – that He was also sinning by allowing them and not stopping them.

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