The rules were very clear, at least to some people.
If you are in a field and you are hungry and you pick some of the grain and eat it because you are incredibly hungry from living on the move, you are wrong.
Not because if you eat too many oats you’ll get sick like the eight-year-old kid I was in camp with whose name I don’t remember but who ate way too many oats while we were hiking to a cookout and got sick. I mean really sick.
That’s the kind of rule that makes tremendous sense. It protects other 8-year-old boys and their counselors from unnecessary cleanups in the middle of the night. No, this rule said that grabbing some grain just to take the edge off the growling of your stomach counts as full-blown harvesting of grain. And on the Sabbath, harvesting of grain is wrong.
I understand the larger rule. The todo list will never get done. There is a place for rest. There need to be limits. To make, however, grabbing a handul of wheat to chew on a major rule is, it seems, a little over the top.
Which is what Jesus says.
The rule of the Sabbath is, Jesus suggests, a principle. It is better to eat and break the rule than to pass out but be obedient. It is better to look for mercy than to measure the sacrifices. It is better to value people than to build elaborate rule structures that devalue them. It is better to look at what is happening than to blindly apply human rules. It is better to talk with the Maker of the rules than to condemn him.
It is better to be with Jesus in a field on a Sabbath picking grain than anywhere else.