No snacking – Tuesday, Memorial of St Anthony the Abbott – Mark 2:23-28

Chapter 2 of the Gospel of Mark begins with five controversy narratives. Our text of today highlights the fourth controversy, this time with the Pharisees. Earlier in 2:1-12 he had a run in with the scribes. In Mark 2:13-17 it was the scribes of the Pharisees who objected to Jesus’ dining with sinners and tax collectors. In 2: 18-22 it was the disciples of John the Baptist and the Pharisees who got together to targets Jesus on the issue of fasting and now we have the Pharisees who take umbrage with Our Lord.

More than the miracles of Jesus, it was the statements that he uttered on those occasions that got the ears of the Pharisees all puckered up. To compound matters, Jesus then calls Levi, a tax collector to be a disciple and much to the horror of the Pharisees dines with him and his friends. At first, the Pharisees merely questioned the actions of this rabbi but then begin to get agitated. “Why does this fellow speak in this way?” (2:7) Finally, they take their ire and irritation to the door step of Jesus in order to chastise him for being a bad example to his disciples.

Who knew that a Sabbath snack would kick up such a ruckus? The Old Testament, especially the First five books of the Law, has just one thing to say about the Sabbath; keep it holy (Exodus 20: 8- 11). The Rabbis seemed unhappy with such a basic law and found it necessary to specify thirty nine actions as forbidden on the Sabbath; amongst them were reaping, winnowing, threshing and preparing a meal. But every law has an exception and this was no different. Humanitarian grounds exempted one from these actions on the Sabbath. Saving a life took precedence over keeping the law.

The disciples are hungry and walking through the grain fields now perform three actions which for the Pharisees constituted as work on the Sabbath; the plucked, they threshed or rubbed it in their hands and they ate (the entire process cumulatively seems like they baked some bread). The Pharisees now have their cause to pick to a fight with Jesus.

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