And Jesus answering them said, "Have you not even read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him, how he entered the house of God, and took and ate the consecrated bread which is not lawful for any to eat except the priests alone, and gave it to his companions?" And He was saying to them, "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." (Luke 6:3-5 NASB)
In legal defense, I am told, precedent is critical. If something was deemed lawful in the past, that decision can be used to justify a present act as lawful, too. Jesus uses the principle of precedent masterfully in this passage. When the Pharisees complained that the disciples were breaking the law by picking and eating the grain, Jesus referred them back to the actions of David.
The story is told in 1 Samuel 21. Jonathan had warned David that King Saul was determined to execute him, and David ran for his life. The men who fought with him were safely hidden, but there was no food. In desperation, David went in search of something for his men to eat. He turned to the priest at Nob, Ahimelech, and asked for prayer and for bread. (In a later passage, we learn that Ahimelech had been "inquiring of the Lord" for David for years, and was David's personal intercessor.) The only bread the priest had was the bread that had been the bread of the Presence before The Lord. This bread was replaced daily, but the bread that had been removed was still considered consecrated. It was supposed to be used for the priests' consumption. This bread, the removed but consecrated bread, was what the priest gave David to feed his men.
Jesus established two principles that day. First, his reference to David and the bread reminded them that the things of God are not to be hoarded when there are those in need.
Second, Jesus made it clear that HE was equal with God. He referred to Himself as the Son of Man (a subject for another day) and equated the Son of Man with God as The Lord of the Sabbath.
Imagine the Pharisees' surprise! They thought they had caught Jesus and His disciples breaking the law and Jesus told them, "No, I made the law and I'm the boss of the Sabbath. What they did was fine with Me." Their response was not recorded, but you can be sure they were fuming!
The Pharisees thought they were the protectors of the law. In a way, they considered themselves in charge of compliance. Jesus clarified that without any confusion at all. "Nope," He was saying, "I'm in charge here." We would do well to remember that Jesus is still in charge, and He still wants thing done a certain way. Oh that our greatest concern would be doing things His way! What a difference that would make in our lives and in our world!
Today, pray that we and our loved ones would be more concerned about pleasing Jesus than about complying with the Pharisees of the world.