Jesus said that “the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” (Matt. 12:1-14; Mark 2:23-3:6; Luke 6:1-11; Deut. 23:25). But have we misunderstood His point entirely? Please, allow us to explain.
One Sabbath, a group of hungry disciples were walking through a Judean field, picking heads of grain to eat (cereal grains are the world’s single best source of energy). The Pharisaic Jews, however, construed this action as a form of harvesting, a task forbidden on the Sabbath.
Jesus responded that King David himself ate food the showbread in God’s Temple – food that was forbidden to non-priests. He further reminded the Pharisees that, “On the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate (treat something ‘holy’ as ‘common’) the day and yet are innocent.”
In other words, David’s eating the Temple showbread proved that the needs of the children of God (humanity) rank higher than the ordinances of Israel’s temple. Likewise, the priests doing things otherwise forbidden on the Sabbath, showed that the Temple activities ranked higher than the Sabbath itself.
In other words, if the Temple ordinance ranks higher than the Sabbath, and the suffering of the sons of man (humanity) ranks higher than the Temple ordinance, then it must logically follow than human need ranks higher than the Sabbath!
By saying that, “the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath,” Rabbi Jesus was not overriding Torah’s clear prohibition regarding harvesting on the Sabbath day. On the contrary, He sought to uphold the ultimate authority of God's Word (Torah) by arguing that the needs of the humanity ranked even higher than either the temple ordinance or the Sabbath!
By Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg and Jared Seltzer