Mark 2:23-28 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, ‘‘Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?’’ He answered, ‘‘Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.’’

Jesus was not given to legalism. Rather, he was gracious, bent on mercy. Legalistic people can be extremely frustrating. Most of us can probably remember a bureaucrat we may have had dealings with who was not willing to lift one finger or involve one neuron in his brain to go beyond the letter of the instructions he was asked to follow. Obviously such people do not believe they are paid to think or to care about or empathize with others. Legalism occurs when one values an easy decision over true justice. Legalism appears to preserve the rights of all, but on the contrary, reduces the rights of all and adds power only to the law itself, and not to those the law was intended to serve. The difference between a good administrator and a ‘‘paper-pusher’’ often boils down to this one trait. Because it is easier to be legalistic, we are all prone to legalism. Therefore we must guard against it. Like Jesus, we must take into consideration the immediate circumstances, the intended purpose of the ‘‘law,’’ and the people whose interests it is designed to protect, each time there is a conflict.

Jesus protected his followers. Since he was giving them direction, he assumed responsibility for their actions. It is difficult to envision Jesus saying to these accusers, ‘‘Go ask them! They are the ones eating grain, not me!’’ or, ‘‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’’ Instead, Jesus stood up for them. Consider how this must have made the disciples feel. They must have felt very safe when Jesus was around, and they must have felt very loved. The Bible teaches that ‘‘love always protects.’’ In fact, one of the most visible and compelling acts of love in a parent-child or a marriage relationship is the offering of protection from harm, accusations, or the threats of others. Employees who see

their boss ‘‘go to bat’’ for them will feel secure and will be more eager to produce. It’s no wonder that the ‘‘Me Decade’’ has given birth to greater amounts and depths of insecurity than have ever been seen before. We need to protect those around us and to feel their protection.

‘‘But,’’ the skeptic will say, ‘‘Jesus died and left his disciples to fend for themselves.’’ In response to this, consider the confidence that Jesus instilled in his disciples that they would be able to follow his example and stand up to their opponents. In Luke 21:15, Jesus is recorded as saying, ‘‘For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.’’ Jesus also said, ‘‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’’ And, even better, Jesus assured them (and us) that God would continue to provide them with protection after his departure:

‘‘And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’’ (Matthew 28:20)

‘‘But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.’’ (John 16:7)