Thoughts for the Day

Friday, 16th July 2021: Breaking the Sabbath Law

Law Pharisees Matthew 12 Pharisee Disciples Jesus

Reading : Verses from Matthew, Chapter 12

Jesus and the disciples

At that time Jesus went through the cornfields on the sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. When the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, 'Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the sabbath.'

(Church in Wales Lectionary, New Revised Standard Version)


The disciples are accused of breaking the Sabbath Law by the Pharisees when they pluck the ears of corn on the Sabbath and eat them. To us this seems a ludicrous accusation, but in fact it's very serious, for no Jewish leader would advocate the breaking of this law. However, the law was complicated. The disciples were not stealing, for the law allowed travellers to pluck ears of corn to eat. It was the fact that this was happening on the sabbath that was the problem. In the book of Exodus we read:

'You shall keep the sabbath, because it is holy for you; everyone who profanes it shall be put to death; whoever does any work on it shall be cut off from among the people. For six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord.' (Exodus 31.14-15).

By the time of Jesus the Sabbath laws had grown out of all proportion, for instance it was forbidden to prepare a meal, or thresh corn, so plucking some ears of corn was considered reaping, and the law was broken.

While we may not sympathise with the Sabbath law, perhaps we can learn something from this little incident. The law allowed for people to take time out. In a world where many now spend all their hours working - even checking office emails and texts on their day off or on holiday - can we re-evaluate our own time off? Can we set aside real space for God in our diary, as well as for our family and friends? Can we make sure we stick to it as well?


Lord Jesus,
help us to find time for You
and not squeeze You into the tiny spaces
of our life.
Help us to take time off
for our family and friends
and not to spend all our life
on other things.

Follow Up Thoughts

You might like to look at this article on the Sabbath and the Sabbath Laws:

Return to index