And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went…
Jesus passed "through the cornfields," in the course of fulfilling his great mission of preaching, healing and blessing. His "disciples began as they went" to pluck the ears of corn growing in abundance and probably lying across their path. It was the day of delights, a day hallowed and blessed. The plentifulness of the Divine beneficence, the quiet of the sabbath calm, the glow of the bright light, would bring near to these self-sacrificing disciples thoughts of him who now most truly must provide for them their daily bread, the firstfruits of whose care they now gather. Gladly the lynx-eyed Pharisees arrest the great Teacher with their "Why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?" The direct reply is reserved, and the inquirers thrown back upon themselves and their carelessness in reading "what David did when he had need." The reply rests upon this word "need," and the following word "bungled," as in the second instance it rests upon "to do good, and to save a life." And we are reminded at once of the two classes of circumstances in which, as we have been accustomed to hear, the sabbath form may be broken without infringing the sabbath law, yea, even when that is done which at other times "it is not lawful" to do, viz. in works of necessity and works of charity. But underlying and overarching the whole is the law which the "Lord of the sabbath" now utters, a law wider in its application than the many details of sabbath observance - "The sabbath was made for man."
I. Let us first learn that THE SABBATH WAS MADE. It was a Divine institution. It was ordained of God. It was no mere accident that led men to mark the sabbath day with a special sanctity. From the many days, each laden with blessing, it pleased God to choose each seventh day for rest. To the toil-worn and weary how great an addition of blessing is this! The sabbath was not an imposition. It was designed to ease the heavily laden; to give time for song; to brighten the house by the presence of the father, who from morn till night was torn from his family by the necessities of labour; to minister to the demands of the higher nature; to bring all into closer alliance with things spiritual, by reflection and by worship. Truly this is to crowd it with blessing. It was not to be a dull day, for it was blessed; it was not to be a common day, for it was hallowed.
II. BUT THE SABBATH WHICH WAS MADE, WAS MADE FOR MAN, It was made in his interests, to promote his weal. Therefore, anything that can prove itself to be "for man" - for man at large - is in harmony with sabbath law and the sabbath spirit. And the strictest sabbath regulations must break down in presence of human necessities, provided they are indeed and of a truth necessities. Yea, the need of the ox or ass must be considered, whether it be the need of rest or deliverance from the pit. It is "lawful to do good," it is lawful "to save life," it is lawful to feed the hungry - even the sacred temple bread yielding service to needy men. The highest interest to be considered is the interest of human life. All must be sacrificed to it. The temple service itself must be stayed if the priest be needed to pluck one out of fire.
III. SINCE IT IS MADE FOR MAN, HE WHO, BEING SON OF ALL, IS LORD OF ALL, IS OF NECESSITY AND RIGHT LORD OF MAN'S SABBATH. Thus this great gift, the Divine preservation of which was always a sign of blessing, and the removal of which a sign of cursing, - this Lord's day and man's day, by the Lord's appointment and ordination, must, if men would be wise, be observed in such a way as to promote the highest interests of men, as they are interpreted by him who is Lord of them and Lord of their day. Oh, how well were it if the tight-laced, and the loose-laced also, would consider this great law, and make the sabbath a day over which its true Lord rules! Learn the sin of him who breaks the sabbath and who teaches men so.
1. He sins against God who made it to be a sabbath.
2. And he sins against man who needs it to be a sabbath, and for whom it was made. Is it a sabbath if the son of toil, after six long days of labour, is compelled to serve a seventh? This is contrary to the Law of the Lord. Far less is it a sabbath if all opportunities for religious worship, for spiritual refreshment, for family fellowship, are sacrificed; and still less if the day be spent in merely worldly amusements and pleasures; and least of all if it be devoted to evil. Then the day, designed for the good of body and soul, is spent to the injury or ruin of both. And so the Lord's day becomes the devil's day. - G.
Parallel VersesKJV: And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn.