1. Mark 2:25–26 (ESV)
  2. Exposition

What made the current circumstances exceptional, rendering the Pharisees' accusation not applicable?

Mark 2:25–26 (ESV)

25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him:

Jesus first gives an example from David’s life, in which Scripture itself shows that the law of the Lord was not applied to David in a particular situation. David and his men were also hungry—a comparable situation. It must have been a Sabbath then too, that is, the day on which the bread of the Presence was changed, so that the high priest could legitimately say that he could dispose of the bread (Leviticus 24:8; 1 Samuel 21:4, 1 Samuel 21:6). The reference to his story was sufficient to remind the listeners that David came to the tabernacle in haste and that he told the high priest that he was on an urgent mission (1 Samuel 21:2, 1 Samuel 21:5). Mark makes this clear when he uses the clause “when he was in need” (Mark 2:25, χρείαν ἔσχεν). David himself had been anointed as king and was in a rush. He did give the impression that he had set out in the service of king Saul for the benefit of the nation. Regardless, David was not on a journey of his own. That made the difference for the high priest. For the entire temple service existed for the benefit of the people. And when the welfare of the people is at stake, the priests can renounce their rights in order to serve the king and the people in this special situation. The exception arose because David had an extraordinary task. The example is suggestive. The Pharisees see Jesus as an Israelite who has to observe the law. But he compares himself to David and indicates that today he has to travel in the service of the King (God) and that higher commissions confer greater freedoms. Just as the need to offer sacrifices on the Sabbath excuses the priests who make the sacrifices (Matthew 12:5), so also the disciples are excused by the need to travel with Jesus in God’s mission work on the Sabbath. The issue is not how you regard the Sabbath, but how you regard Jesus and his work. The example concedes the position of the Pharisees about the Sabbath, but rejects their negative judgment of Jesus. Because of David’s stature, his companions were also able to eat of the bread that was not intended for them. Because of Jesus’ holy commission, his disciples also eat in a manner that is not proper for the Sabbath. This is not a case of “necessity knows no law,” but of the law being subject to the lawgiver. This is apparent from what follows in the last two verses.1