The Healing of Shimon’s Mother-in-law, a tender story of familial intimacy, offers a unique glimpse of Jesus’ compassion.
The debate between Jesus and the Pharisees about plucking and eating corn did not concern labour on the Sabbath but concerned eating food which was allowed only to priests.
The biblical prohibition against working on the Sabbath, as interpreted by the rabbis, included carrying burdens (Mishnah, Shabbath 7:2). If one had to flee on the Sabbath one would be forced to leave behind nearly all of one’s possessions. One would not be permitted to take any money, would be allowed to carry only enough food for three meals and a maximum of eighteen different pieces of clothing (Mishnah, Shabbath 16:2, 4).
In “Something Greater Than the Temple” we investigated the incident of the plucking of the grain on the Sabbath (Matt. 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:15). We saw that Jesus’ four-fold justification of the action of his disciples drew first from the experience of David and the holy bread (1 Sam. 21:1-6).
One of the difficult sayings of Jesus is his justification of the disciples’ plucking and/or rubbing heads of grain on the Sabbath. Fortunately, research in recent years among Jewish scholars in Jerusalem has shed new light on what the questionable action might have been.
Every Saturday morning in synagogues throughout the world the Torah is read aloud. Following ancient practice, seven men in turn read the weekly Torah portion. However, Professors Shmuel and Chana Safrai have recently discovered that a different custom prevailed until the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D.: until at least the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D., a single reader performed this task.
The detailed description of Jesus’ visit to the Nazareth synagogue found in Luke 4:16-21 provides substantial information about synagogue life and customs in the early first century C.E. An examination of this passage will help us understand Jesus more clearly and accurately. This account in Luke’s Gospel agrees with other contemporary and especially rabbinic sources. Together they provide a complete picture of the synagogue in that period.