“Have ye never read?” (Mark 2:25, AV)
If you are a Christian, wouldn’t it be insulting for someone to ask you if you actually read your Bible? Surely you’ve read your Bible, right? Most Christians do, I would assume. Or, should I assume that? I’ve always been told that assumptions are bad things, and in this case, perhaps it is as poor an assumption as any.
This question is not without precedent, though. Jesus asked it to some of the most biblically literate people of his day. When he and his disciples were in need of food on the Sabbath, they wandered into a field (B.W. Johnson says that many roads in Palestine are flanked by such fields) and took enough grain to sustain themselves (Mark 2:23).
There were laws that regulated reaping on the Sabbath and Jesus and his disciples did not violate those laws. Much to the contrary, they were in compliance with them (Deuteronomy 23:25). But the Pharisees (who apparently had nothing better to do than follow Jesus around on the Sabbath), tried to use the Scriptures as a weapon against Jesus (the irony makes me grin).
What’s interesting is that Jesus did not quote Deuteronomy 23:25 in reply. This passage permitted Jesus and his disciples – to the letter – to do precisely what they were doing. Rather, he went completely outside the Law and took an example from the playbook of David.
He reminded them of the time that David ate showbread from the Temple when his life was in jeopardy, but was considered “guiltless” (1 Samuel 21:1-6). In other words, the Pharisees had plenty of time to cast the first stone at David, but they hadn’t, and neither did the Lord.
This proved (1) they had, in fact, read about David, (2) that the Pharisees in principle agreed with Jesus, which means (3) they were capable of thinking correctly, and therefore (4) in this case, they were just plain dishonest. They didn’t seek truth, but only such “facts” as might seem to support their purposes.
So there is a difference between reading, and reading. The difference? Honesty.
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