What does Mark 2:27 mean?Pharisees are accusing Jesus' disciples of breaking the laws of the Sabbath by picking and eating grain. In response, Jesus has pointed out that those same Pharisees would defend David's act of taking ceremonial bread from the temple—a far more blatant violation. In Matthew's account of this same incident, Jesus also points out that the priests work on the Sabbath (Numbers 28:9–10; Matthew 12:5); He uses the hyperbole they "profane the Sabbath" to express just how hard they work. And yet they are guiltless. It is also permitted to water and feed animals and relieve unnecessary suffering. Why not have the same concessions for people?
In short, Jesus makes it clear that the Law has a greater purpose than to be followed with blind, careless literalism. There is a meaning behind God's law, and some of God's purposes are higher than others. Caring for the needs of the needy, for instance, is more important than ceremonial rituals.
Once again, Jesus uses the Jewish tradition that the Pharisees follow to prove His point. In one commentary on Exodus 31:14, a rabbi suggests that "it is holy for you" actually means "holy unto you," or "You shall keep the Sabbath for your sake." Another comments "The Sabbath is given to you but you are not surrendered to the Sabbath." This means that, according to the Pharisees' own line of logic, strict Old Testament rules regarding the Sabbath are for the people's benefit. They are not intended to be a burden or a sacrifice.
Jesus addresses this in Matthew 12:7, a parallel account of Mark 2:23–28. He says, "I desire mercy, and not sacrifice." The Sabbath is to be a mercy, not a sacrifice, and allowing hungry people to eat is a great mercy. If this is true for the disciples, it's true for us, as well. Although the church is not required to observe the Sabbath in the same ceremonial ways as the Jews, it would still do us good to take God's offer to rest.