What does Mark 2:23 mean?
ESV: One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain.
NIV: One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain.
NASB: And it happened that He was passing through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples began to make their way along while picking the heads of grain.
CSB: On the Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and his disciples began to make their way, picking some heads of grain.
NLT: One Sabbath day as Jesus was walking through some grainfields, his disciples began breaking off heads of grain to eat.
KJV: And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn.
NKJV: Now it happened that He went through the grainfields on the Sabbath; and as they went His disciples began to pluck the heads of grain.
Verse Commentary:
Sabbath" or Shabbat is from the Hebrew root word shin-beit-tav meaning "to cease, end, or rest." The Sabbath is an extremely important part of Judaism. It is the fourth of the Ten Commandments and God commonly condemned the Israelites when they refuse to honor the Sabbath (Ezekiel 20:13, 16, 21). The purpose of the Sabbath is to honor the seventh day of creation, on which God rested (Exodus 20:11), trust Him for provision (Exodus 16:22–26), rest (Exodus 20:9–10), exhibit righteousness (Exodus 31:14), and especially to display a distinct separation between Israel and pagan nations (Ezekiel 20:12).

Per customs and laws of the time, the disciples are not stealing by plucking grain heads out of someone else's field. As long as they use their hands and not a sickle, it is allowed under Deuteronomy 23:25. The question at hand is if plucking grain is allowed on the Sabbath or does it fall under the category of "work" as given by Exodus 20:10?

Around the time these events took place, Jewish leaders had created thirty-nine Melachot (working) prohibitions to ensure no good Jew came close to breaking the Law. It's reasonable to assume these Pharisees lived by similar prohibitions. By plucking grain, separating the wheat from the chaff, disposing of the chaff, and eating the grain, the disciples violate at least four of the Melachot: reaping, threshing, winnowing, selecting.

It's important to note that Jesus neither plucks nor eats the grain. His disciples do, but as their Rabbi He accepts responsibility for their actions.
Verse Context:
Mark 2:23–28 demonstrates how, the more Jesus shows His authority, the more the Pharisees resent Him and take notice of His unorthodox ways. Here, as Jesus' disciples break the Sabbath, is the first time the Pharisees directly confront Him. The Law's Sabbath-day restrictions were preparing food (Exodus 16:23–26), working (Exodus 20:8-11; 31:12–17), kindling a fire (Exodus 35:3), farming (Leviticus 25:1–7), and carrying a burden (Jeremiah 17:19–22). But priests (Numbers 28:9–10; Matthew 12:5) and guards (2 Kings 11:4–9; Nehemiah 13:15–22) still worked. Rather than arguing whether the disciples broke the letter of the Mosaic Law, Jesus argues that it's all moot: He is the Lord of the Sabbath. This story is also found in Matthew 12:1–8 and Luke 6:1–5.
Chapter Summary:
Mark chapter 2 follows the typical style of Mark's gospel with a rapid succession of stories. Jesus heals a man who cannot walk, but only after declaring the man's sins to have been forgiven. Jesus then calls Levi, one of the publically-reviled tax collectors, as a disciple and is seen eating with those the Pharisees view as ''sinners.'' Jesus then answers a challenge about fasting and defends His disciples when they violate the Pharisees' views on keeping the Sabbath. All of these events are met with some resistance from Jesus' critics. He responds in each case with a spiritual, reasonable defense.
Chapter Context:
In Mark chapter 1, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist then led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit where He was tempted by Satan. He also taught and healed in Capernaum and throughout Galilee. In chapter 2, having returned to Capernaum, Jesus displays authority over four particular areas: the forgiveness of sins, social traditions, extra-biblical religious traditions, and the Sabbath. In response, the Pharisees—legalistic religious leaders—escalate their antagonism toward Him, culminating in a direct condemnation of His teachings. This sets the scene for Mark 3:6 when the religious and national leadership first get the idea to destroy Jesus.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Mark emphasizes both Jesus' servanthood and His role as the promised Messiah: the Son of God. This is done through a concise, action-packed style. Mark provides relatively few details, instead focusing on actions and simple statements. This relates to the Gospel's authorship, which is believed to be based on the memories of the apostle Peter. These include many of Jesus' miracles, in contrast to other Gospels which include many more of Jesus' teachings and parables. Mark also makes frequent mention of Jesus' ministry being misunderstood by others.
Accessed 5/30/2024 5:30:23 AM
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