Eating on the Sabbath (Mt 12:1-12:1)

“At that time,

Jesus went through

The grain fields,

On the sabbath.

His disciples

Were hungry.

They began to pluck

Heads of grain

To eat them.”

 

Ἐν ἐκείνῳ τῷ καιρῷ ἐπορεύθη ὁ Ἰησοῦς τοῖς σάββασιν διὰ τῶν σπορίμων· οἱ δὲ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ ἐπείνασαν καὶ ἤρξαντο τίλλειν στάχυας καὶ ἐσθίειν.

 

Matthew has Jesus with his disciples on the Sabbath day walking in a grain field.  This is similar to Mark, chapter 2:23, at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  It is also the same as Luke, chapter 6:1.  Once again there is a transition statement of Matthew, “At that time” (Ἐν ἐκείνῳ τῷ καιρῷ).  Jesus was traveling through the grain fields on the Sabbath (ἐπορεύθη ὁ Ἰησοῦς τοῖς σάββασιν διὰ τῶν σπορίμων).  This is the only use of the word “σπορίμων” in all the biblical literature.  All three synoptics use this word that meant a sown field or a grain field.  His disciples were hungry (οἱ δὲ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ ἐπείνασαν).  They began to pluck the heads of the grain in the field (καὶ ἤρξαντο τίλλειν στάχυας).  Once again, this is a unique word “τίλλειν.” “plucking” that only appears in the New Testament literature in this story of the three synoptics.  They then ate these grain heads (καὶ ἐσθίειν).  This sets up the problem of plucking grain on the Sabbath.

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What to bring with you (Mt 10:9-10:10)

“Take no gold!

Take no silver!

Take no copper

In your belts!

Take no bag

For your journey!

Do not take

Two tunics!

Do not take

Sandals!

Do not take

A staff!

Laborers deserve

Their food.”

 

Μὴ κτήσησθε χρυσὸν μηδὲ ἄργυρον μηδὲ χαλκὸν εἰς τὰς ζώνας ὑμῶν,

μὴ πήραν εἰς ὁδὸν μηδὲ δύο χιτῶνας μηδὲ ὑποδήματα μηδὲ ῥάβδον· ἄξιος γὰρ ὁ ἐργάτης τῆς τροφῆς αὐτοῦ.

 

Equivalent passages to this can be found in Mark, chapter 6:8-9, and Luke, chapter 9:3.  Jesus told them what they could not bring with them on their mission.  They were not to bring with them any gold (Μὴ κτήσησθε χρυσὸν), silver (μηδὲ ἄργυρον), or copper (μηδὲ χαλκὸν) in their money belts (εἰς τὰς ζώνας ὑμῶν) since they did not need money.  They were not to take any bag or sack for their journey (μὴ πήραν εἰς ὁδὸν).  They were not to take two tunics (μηδὲ δύο χιτῶνας) since one would be enough.  They were not to take any sandals (μηδὲ ὑποδήματα) or a staff (μηδὲ ῥάβδον).  However, these laborers did deserve their food (ἄξιος γὰρ ὁ ἐργάτης τῆς τροφῆς αὐτοῦ).  They did not need any money or material things, but they certainly needed something to eat or nourishment.  This was a very strong demand on these missionaries of Jesus.

The Pharisees complain (Mt 9:11-9:11)

“When the Pharisees

Saw this,

They said

To his disciples.

‘Why does your teacher

Eat

With tax collectors

And sinners?’”

 

καὶ ἰδόντες οἱ Φαρισαῖοι ἔλεγον τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ Διὰ τί μετὰ τῶν τελωνῶν καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν ἐσθίει ὁ διδάσκαλος ὑμῶν;

 

This story about the Pharisees complaining about this dinner party is similar to Mark, chapter 2:16, and Luke, chapter 5:30, but here it is only the Pharisees speaking out, since there is no mention of scribes here, as in the other two stories.  These Pharisees saw this dinner party (καὶ ἰδόντες οἱ Φαρισαῖοι) from the outside.  Then they asked the disciples of Jesus (ἔλεγον τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ), and not Jesus himself, why was Jesus, their teacher (ὁ διδάσκαλος ὑμῶν), eating with tax collectors and sinners (Διὰ τί μετὰ τῶν τελωνῶν καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν ἐσθίει).  The Pharisees were a political party, a social movement, and a religious school of thought that became the basis for later Rabbinic Judaism.  They had they own expert explanations of Jewish law that sometimes appeared to be hypocritical or arrogant, with the letter of the law above its spirit.  They had a form of Judaism that extended beyond the Temple.  The Pharisees in the New Testament, engaged in conflicts with Jesus and his disciples, as here.  However, Paul the Apostle may have been a Pharisee before his conversion.  Maybe Jesus and some of his followers were Pharisees, so that these arguments with the Pharisees may have been internal arguments.  Or is this portrait of the Pharisees in the New Testament a caricature, since the late first century Christians were fighting with the emerging Rabbinic Pharisees?

Seek the kingdom first (Mt 6:31-6:33)

“Therefore,

Do not be anxious!

Saying.

‘What will we eat?

What will we drink?

What will we wear?’

The gentiles

Strive for all these things.

Your heavenly Father

Knows

That you need

All these things.

But strive first

For the kingdom!

Strive

For his righteousness!

Then all these things

Will be given

To you as well.”

 

μὴ οὖν μεριμνήσητε λέγοντες· Τί φάγωμεν; ἤ· Τί πίωμεν; ἤ· Τί περιβαλώμεθα;

πάντα γὰρ ταῦτα τὰ ἔθνη ἐπιζητοῦσιν· οἶδεν γὰρ ὁ Πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ οὐράνιος ὅτι χρῄζετε τούτων ἁπάντων.

ζητεῖτε δὲ πρῶτον τὴν βασιλείαν καὶ τὴν δικαιοσύνην αὐτοῦ, καὶ ταῦτα πάντα προστεθήσεται ὑμῖν.

 

Once again, Luke, chapter 12:29-31, has a similar Jesus saying, indicating a common Q source.  The same theme continues.  They should not be worried or anxious (μὴ οὖν μεριμνήσητε λέγοντες).  Why are they anxious about what to eat (Τί φάγωμεν), to drink (ἤ Τί πίωμεν), or to wear (ἤ·Τί περιβαλώμεθα)?  Those are the kind of questions that gentiles ask about (πάντα γὰρ ταῦτα τὰ ἔθνη ἐπιζητοῦσιν).  Matthew continued his attack on the gentile, non-Jewish people.  Their heavenly Father knew about everything that they needed (οἶδεν γὰρ ὁ Πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ οὐράνιος ὅτι χρῄζετε τούτων ἁπάντων).  Thus, they should seek or strive first (ζητεῖτε δὲ πρῶτον) for the kingdom (τὴν βασιλείαν) and his righteousness (καὶ τὴν δικαιοσύνην αὐτοῦ).  Then all these other things would be taken care of for them (καὶ ταῦτα πάντα προστεθήσεται ὑμῖν).  A couple of manuscripts say kingdom of God (βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ), instead of just the kingdom, but that is not in the main manuscripts.  Matthew always used the kingdom of heaven, not the kingdom of God.

The birds do not worry (Mt 6:26-6:27)

“Look at the birds

Of the air!

They do not sow.

They do not reap.

They do not gather

Into barns.

Yet your heavenly Father

Feeds them.

Are you not

Of more value than they?

Can any of you,

By worrying,

Add a single hour

To your life span?”

 

ἐμβλέψατε εἰς τὰ πετεινὰ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ, ὅτι οὐ σπείρουσιν ὅτι οὐ σπείρουσιν οὐδὲ συνάγουσιν εἰς ἀποθήκας, καὶ ὁ Πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ οὐράνιος τρέφει αὐτά· οὐχ ὑμεῖς μᾶλλον διαφέρετε αὐτῶν;

τίς δὲ ἐξ ὑμῶν μεριμνῶν δύναται προσθεῖναι ἐπὶ τὴν ἡλικίαν αὐτοῦ πῆχυν ἕνα;

 

Once again, Luke, chapter 12:24-26, has a similar Jesus saying, almost word for word, indicating a common Q source.  Luke called the birds ravens.  Matthew has Jesus tell his disciples to look and see the birds of the heavenly skies (ἐμβλέψατε εἰς τὰ πετεινὰ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ).  The word “οὐρανοῦ” means heaven, sky, or air.  These birds do not sow or scatter (ὅτι οὐ σπείρουσιν), reap or harvest (ὅτι οὐ σπείρουσιν), or gather crops (οὐδὲ συνάγουσιν) into a granary or barn (εἰς ἀποθήκας).  They are freeloaders.  Yet they are able to eat off the land, because the heavenly Father feeds them (καὶ ὁ Πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ οὐράνιος τρέφει αὐτά).  Are the disciples or followers of Jesus not more valuable than these birds (οὐχ ὑμεῖς μᾶλλον διαφέρετε αὐτῶν)?  Is worrying going to add one cubit or one hour to your life span or age (τίς δὲ ἐξ ὑμῶν μεριμνῶν δύναται προσθεῖναι ἐπὶ τὴν ἡλικίαν αὐτοῦ πῆχυν ἕνα).  Probably, the opposite is true.  Don’t worry!  Be happy!

Do not worry (Mt 6:25-6:25)

“Therefore,

I tell you!

‘Do not worry

About your life!

Do not worry

About what you shall eat!

Do not worry

About what you shall drink!

Do not worry

About your body!

What you shall put on?

Is not life

More than food?

Is the body

More than clothing?’”

 

Διὰ τοῦτο λέγω ὑμῖν, μὴ μεριμνᾶτε τῇ ψυχῇ ὑμῶν τί φάγητε, ἢ τί πίητε μηδὲ τῷ σώματι ὑμῶν τί ἐνδύσησθε· οὐχὶ ἡ ψυχὴ πλεῖόν ἐστιν τῆς τροφῆς καὶ τὸ σῶμα τοῦ ἐνδύματος;

 

Once again, Luke, chapter 12:22-23, has a similar Jesus saying, indicating a common Q source.  Matthew has Jesus begin with his solemn saying (λέγω ὑμῖν) that if they were to serve God only (Διὰ τοῦτο) as just explained, then they did not have to be worried or anxious (μὴ μεριμνᾶτε).  They should not worry about their life (τῇ ψυχῇ ὑμῶν), their food (τί φάγητε) or their drink (ἢ τί πίητε).  They should not worry about their body (μηδὲ τῷ σώματι ὑμῶν) and what to wear (τί ἐνδύσησθε).  Their life was more than food (οὐχὶ ἡ ψυχὴ πλεῖόν ἐστιν τῆς τροφῆς).  Their body was more than clothes (καὶ τὸ σῶμα τοῦ ἐνδύματος).  If they were serving God, and not wealth, they would not have to worry about life, food, drink, or clothes.  Life and the body were more important than these incidentals of life.

The fourth beatitude about righteousness (Mt 5:6-5:6)

“Blessed are

Those who hunger for righteousness,

Those who thirst for righteousness,

They shall be filled.”

 

μακάριοι οἱ πεινῶντες καὶ διψῶντες τὴν δικαιοσύνην, ὅτι αὐτοὶ χορτασθήσοντ

 

The happy, blessed, and fortunate ones (μακάριοι) were those who hungered and thirsted for righteousness (οἱ πεινῶντες καὶ διψῶντες τὴν δικαιοσύνην).  They would not go away empty handed.  They would be satisfied or filled (ὅτι αὐτοὶ χορτασθήσοντ).  Isaiah, chapter 55:1-2 has an invitation to those without money to come to drink and eat.  They could have water, wine, milk and bread.  They would enjoy themselves at this banquet.  Matthew may have been referencing Psalm 107:4-9, where Yahweh had helped a small group of lost Israelites who were hungry and thirsty, while wandering in the desert.  He satisfied their thirst and filled their hunger with good food.  In their distress, they called out to Yahweh, who heard them.  He led them in a straight path to an inhabited town.  Thus, they gave thanks to Yahweh.  So too, those who hungered and thirsted for righteousness, the right way of doing things, would be satisfied or filled with this righteousness.