Did you notice what Jesus did in this passage according to Mark 2:23-3:6? He applied a scripture story to a situation that appears, at first, unrelated. What we see in this passage is Jesus using different parts of the bible to engage with a current situation. His disciples, who are hungry, are doing work on the sabbath. The Pharisees, using our first reading today as the basis for their interpretation, question Jesus. Jesus, on the fly, remembered a part of scripture where someone was hungry. And so he introduces to all of us a story about David.

This incident in David’s life comes from 1 Samuel 21. David is on the run. David is a fugitive from Saul, the king of Israel. David is on his own and he has two pressing problems: he needs food and weapons. He visits the town of Nov (north of Jerusalem, near the Temple) and meets the local high priest. David pretends to be on a mission from Saul, telling the priest that he needs food to do what Saul wants him to do. The priest counters saying that they only have the bread of the Presence nearby. This bread was used for special rituals and fed to the priests when the priests were ritually pure. David says that he is ritually pure and so the priest, believing what David told him, David the bread. David then takes from the Temple the sword that Goliath once held. Armed and fed, David flees into a foreign country.

Jesus took this story about David and made a bold claim about the sabbath. The sabbath, like all holy things, are designed to give life. Hunger hurts, mains, and kills. Jesus can only respond to hunger by feeding others. Jesus is centered on giving life. Yet this feeding (and healing) on the sabbath is not what gets Jesus into trouble. What becomes the big problem is his claim that the “Son of Man” (i.e. himself) is lord over the sabbath. Jesus is making a claim about his identity. He is saying that he is the Messiah, Emmanuel, God-with-us. And the world around him (and us) can’t help but challenge that claim.