1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat.
2 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!”
3 But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him:
4 how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?
5 Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?
6 Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple.
7 But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.
8 For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
This account is also found in Mark 2:23-28 and Luke 6:1-5.
at that time (v.1) — right after the Lord’s loving invitation in Matthew 11:28-30
through the grainfields (v.1) — A person was allowed to walk through another’s grain field and take by hand enough to feed himself (Deuteronomy 28:25)
Sabbath (v.1) — sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday. The Sabbath was a token of God’s covenant with Israel (Ezekiel 20:12-20), so God has dominion over it. It is also a witness to God’s deliver of Israel from Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:14-15) and to His creation (Exodus 20:10-11).
not lawful (v.2) — Exodus 20:10, but taken to a ridiculous extreme by the Pharisees
read what David did (v.3) —1 Samuel 21:1-6
The reason why David was blameless in eating the showbread was the same as that which made the Sabbath-labor of the priests lawful. The Sabbath-Law was not one merely of rest, but of rest for worship. The service of the Lord was the object in view. The priests worked on the Sabbath, because this service was the object of the Sabbath; and David was allowed to eat of the showbread, not because there was danger to his life from starvation, but because he pleaded that he was in the service of the Lord, and needed this provision. The disciples, when following the Lord, were similarly in the service of the Lord; ministering to Him was more than ministering in the Temple, for He was greater than the Temple. If the Pharisees had believed this, they would not have questioned their conduct, nor in so doing have themselves infringed that higher Law which enjoined mercy, not sacrifice. — Pentecost, page 165
only for the priests (v.4) — Leviticus 24:5-9
priests in the temple (v.5) — Numbers 28:9
Work necessary for the service and worship of God was justifiable. This was the principle to which Jesus appealed an in so doing, incidentally made a claim for Himself of superiority to the Temple and therefore to the Sabbath, since the Temple service superseded the Sabbath. — Pentecost, page 166.
greater than the temple (v.6) — God Himself
I desire mercy and not sacrifice (v.7) — Hosea 6:6. See notes on Matthew 9:13.
Verse 8 is a clear declaration by Jesus Christ of His deity.