Jesus and His disciples were simply picking some heads of grain as they walked along the grain fields. The Pharisees accused them of "doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath" (Mark 2:24). So Jesus reminded them of their own history.

David was on the run. The king of Israel, Saul, had made it abundantly clear (1 Samuel 20:30-33) that David must die. David fled to Nob, where he met the priest Ahimelech. He asked the priest for bread, but all the priest had was consecrated bread, which was devoted to God. He gave the bread to David - there was a practical need, and Ahimelech understood what Jesus taught in Mark 2:25-26 long before Jesus came to Earth: "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath."

Still not getting the point, the Pharisees challenged Jesus again, this time in the synagogue. Jesus asked a man with a shriveled hand to stand before the crowd. Jesus asked the crowd, "which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?" (Mark 3:4)

No one answered.

If the answer is not obvious to you, counseling may be in order. Jesus did good: He healed the man. The Pharisees got it wrong - they went out, on the sabbath, and plotted to kill Jesus!

So the Sabbath is not just a day of leisure, it's a day to do good. And just as in Jesus' day, there are those today who will get it wrong, doing evil and killing - and not just on the Sabbath.

Whether it's the Sabbath or not, resolve to do good - to save life - and resist society's bent toward doing evil and killing.

The Pharisees were legalists - putting their own perverse interpretation of the law above the safety of the very people it was designed to protect! We can barely go a day without hearing it repeated today in our courts, our cities, and all over the world.

If we're going to err in applying our laws today, let's see that we always err on the side of the people, that they may love the law that protects and never know the law that oppresses.


Jesus explains the purpose of the Sabbath by telling of David and the consecrated bread, and by healing the man with the shriveled hand, saying, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath."


  1. Jesus compares picking grain to eat on the Sabbath to David's eating consecrated bread (Mark 2:23-28)
  2. Jesus heals a man's shriveled hand on the Sabbath (Mark 3:1-6)


To cause the audience to balance law and compassion as Jesus taught