To read the texts click on the texts: Isaiah38:1-6,21-22,7-8; Mt 12:1-8
The story, which forms the text of today, may be termed as a Sabbath controversy. Matthew refers here to Sabbath for the first time in his gospel.
The point of contention is not very clear in Matthew, because the law permitted a person passing through a neighbour’s grain field to pluck heads of corn and eat them (Deut 23:23-25). The question here seems to be whether such an act could be done on the Sabbath. While in Mark the Pharisees ask a question, in Matthew, they are clearly hostile and make a charge.
In his response to them, Jesus refers to the story of David in 1 Samuel 21:1-6, where David went beyond the rule to satisfy the need of his men. If David could do such a thing, then Jesus who is greater than David can do so even more.
The Matthean Jesus also refers to the text from Numbers 28:9-10 where the priests in the Temple sacrifice there on the Sabbath, indicating that sacrifice is greater than the Sabbath. Since mercy is greater than sacrifice, it is surely greater than the Sabbath.
Reaching out in love to anyone in need takes precedence over every rule, law and regulation. It is the human who must always come first. The rule, law and regulation follows.