Once again Jesus cut right across the scribal rules and regulations. When He and His disciples were going through the cornfields one Sabbath day, His disciples began to pluck the ears of corn and eat them. On any ordinary day, the disciples were doing what was freely permitted (Deut. 23:25). So long as the traveler did not put a sickle into the field, he was free to pluck the corn. But this was done on the Sabbath, and the Sabbath was hedged around with thousands of petty rules and regulations. All work was forbidden. Work had been classified under 39 different heads; four of these heads were reaping, winnowing, threshing and preparing a meal. By their action, the disciples had technically broken all these rules and were to be classified as lawbreakers.
The Pharisees immediately launched their accusation and pointed out that Jesus' disciples were breaking the law. They obviously expected Him to stop them on the spot. Jesus answered them with the story found in 1 Samuel 21:1-6. David was fleeing for his life; he came to the tabernacle in Nob; he demanded food and there was none except the shewbread. Exodus 25:23-30 tells of the shewbread. When it was changed, it became the property of the priests and no one else might eat it (Leviticus 24:9). Yet in his time of need, David took and ate that bread. Jesus showed that scripture itself supplies a precedent in which human need took precedence over human and even divine law.
"The Sabbath," Jesus said, "was made for the sake of man and not man for the sake of the Sabbath. Man is not to be enslaved by the Sabbath; the Sabbath exists to make his life better.