The Gospel of Luke - Part 18: The Lord's Sabbath - Luke 6:1-11

(These notes are based on lesson notes prepared by Rob Mahon for Connection Class Leaders at Hoffmantown church.)



This morning we start Luke 6, which could be titled, Lessons in Lordship. This chapter seems to emphasize two related truths: the Lordship of Jesus and His call for us to be true disciples. Lots of people call themselves Christians, but how many of us are really disciples? Jesus helps us to see some key qualities to actually being His disciple.

Lordship boils down to choices. We choose either to obey or ignore what God has said.

 

A.W. Tozer put it this way:

"Millions call themselves by His name [Christians], it is true, and pay some token respect to Him, but a simple test will show how little He is really honored among them. Let the average person be put to the proof on the question of who is above, and his true position will be exposed. Let him be forced into making a choice between God and money, between God and men, between God and personal ambition, God and self, [God and our traditions] and God will take a second place every time. Those other things will be exalted above. However the person may protest, the proof is in the choices he makes day after day throughout his life."

 

In the early 1990s, when the first President George Bush had fiery John Sununu as his White House chief of staff, a reporter asked Sununu if his job was difficult. He quickly answered, "No." The reporter thought Sununu had misunderstood the question, so he asked again, and got the same reply.

Sununu, a former governor of New Hampshire, then explained why he felt his job was easy: "I have only one constituent." He knew his job was to please the President.

That’s a pretty good description of lordship. We have only one constituent. Our job is to please the president, our president, God.

Surrendering to Jesus’ Lordship is not a one-time decision. It is a daily choice. And we can learn a lot from the Gospels about what it means to genuinely have Jesus as our Lord. This chapter can teach us a lot. Keep this theme in mind as we study each section of this chapter.

Luke Chapter 6 can be broken down to the following sections:

 
Lessons in Lordship
The Lord’s Sabbath6:1-11
The Lord's Apostles6:12-19
The Lord's Perspective6:20-26
The Lord's Love6:27-38
The Lord's Disciples6:39-49

 

A.   The Lord's Sabbath - 6:1-11

It starts in a grain field.

Now it happened that He was passing through some grain fields on a Sabbath; and His disciples were picking the heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands, and eating the grain. But some of the Pharisees said, “Why do you do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” And Jesus answering them said, “Have you not even read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him, how he entered the house of God, and took and ate the consecrated bread which is not lawful for any to eat except the priests alone, and gave it to his companions?” And He was saying to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” On another Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching; and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him. But He knew what they were thinking, and He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” And he got up and came forward. And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to destroy it?” After looking around at them all, He said to him, “Stretch out your hand!” And he did so; and his hand was restored. But they themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus. --Luke 6:1-11
Here is how Matthew recorded this same event.
At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat. But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath.” But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions, how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone? Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent? But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means, ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT A SACRIFICE,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” Departing from there, He went into their synagogue. And a man was there whose hand was withered. And they questioned Jesus, asking, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” —so that they might accuse Him. And He said to them, “What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable, then, is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand!” He stretched it out, and it was restored to normal, like the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him. --Matthew 12:1-14
Mark relates it as:
And it happened that He was passing through the grain fields on the Sabbath, and His disciples began to make their way along while picking the heads of grain. The Pharisees were saying to Him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” And He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions became hungry; how he entered the house of God in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the consecrated bread, which is not lawful for anyone to eat except the priests, and he also gave it to those who were with him?” Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. “So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” --Mark 2:23-28
Then in Chapter 3 Mark continues:
He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there whose hand was withered. They were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” And He said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent. After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him. --Mark 3:1-6
Let’s look at some of the questions in this section.
But some of the Pharisees said, “Why do you do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” --Luke 6:2
The disciples were not actually breaking God's law. No where in the Bible had God forbidden eating grain from the field. Here is what He did say:
When you enter your neighbor’s standing grain, then you may pluck the heads with your hand, but you shall not wield a sickle in your neighbor’s standing grain. --Deuteronomy 23:25
So what's the problem?

The problem was that the disciples were disobeying the "tradition of the elders". The "tradition of the elders" was the elaborate interpretations of Scripture developed by the rabbis, especially during the period between the Old and New Testaments. These interpretations, designed to regulate every aspect of Jewish life, were considered as binding as the written Law and were passed on to each generation.

For example, the Scriptural command concerning the Sabbath was clear and simple, don't work on the Sabbath. God had said:

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. --Exodus 20:8-10
Also:
Observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant or your ox or your donkey or any of your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you, so that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to observe the Sabbath day. --Deuteronomy 5:12-15
Over the years, the rabbis developed more and more "laws" defining what was and wasn't work. Eventually 39 different tasks would be classified as "work" and forbidden on the Sabbath, including tying and untying a knot! The Pharisees considered picking grain as "harvesting" and rubbing them in their hands as "threshing"!

What are some areas where Christians sometime give tradition the same weight as Scripture?

In verses 3-4 Luke tells us:
And Jesus answering them said, “Have you not even read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him, how he entered the house of God, and took and ate the consecrated bread which is not lawful for any to eat except the priests alone, and gave it to his companions?” --Luke 6:3-4
The first response Jesus gives is to point them back to the Scriptures. Jesus reminds them of a time when David ate bread reserved only for the priests. 
Then David came to Nob to Ahimelech the priest; and Ahimelech came trembling to meet David and said to him, “Why are you alone and no one with you?” David said to Ahimelech the priest, “The king has commissioned me with a matter and has said to me, ‘Let no one know anything about the matter on which I am sending you and with which I have commissioned you; and I have directed the young men to a certain place.’ Now therefore, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever can be found.” The priest answered David and said, “There is no ordinary bread on hand, but there is consecrated bread; if only the young men have kept themselves from women.” David answered the priest and said to him, “Surely women have been kept from us as previously when I set out and the vessels of the young men were holy, though it was an ordinary journey; how much more then today will their vessels be holy?” So the priest gave him consecrated bread; for there was no bread there but the bread of the Presence which was removed from before the LORD, in order to put hot bread in its place when it was taken away. --1 Samuel 21:1-6
The authority used by the Pharisees was their tradition; Jesus' authority was the Bible.

Jesus also addressed this issue of authority in Mark 7:

And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” --Mark 7:6-8
Mark records a second reason that Jesus made in this conversation:
The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. --Mark 2:27
Jesus encourages us to be function-oriented rather than merely form-oriented.

Sunday is not the Sabbath:

It’s important for us to understand that Sunday is not the “Sabbath”. The Sabbath is an old covenant command, not binding under the covenant of Christ. In fact, there are only two references to the Sabbath in the New Testament after the book of Acts. One is in Hebrews, and the other is in Colossians:

So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. --Hebrews 4:9

Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. --Colossians 2:16-17
The Good News Translation says:
So let no one make rules about what you eat or drink or about holy days or the New Moon Festival or the Sabbath. All such things are only a shadow of things in the future; the reality is Christ. --Colossians 2:16-17
Notice how this verse emphasizes that observing the Sabbath is not binding to believers. Though a day of rest is Biblical, making rules and telling people what they should or shouldn’t do is exactly what Jesus is condemning in this passage of Luke.

Warren Wiersbe says:

“To call Sunday ‘the Sabbath’ is to confuse the first day and the seventh day and what each signifies. The Sabbath is a reminder of the completion of ‘the old creation,’ which the Lord’s Day is a reminder of our Lord’s finished work in ‘the new creation’. The Sabbath speaks of rest after work and relates to the Law, while the Lord’s Day speaks of rest before work and relates to grace.”
Luke’s verse 5 says:
And He was saying to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” --Luke 6:5
This is a third reason Jesus give to justify their conduct. This is a strong assertion of Jesus' deity.

Luke then continues:

On another Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching; and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. --Luke 6:6

Jesus wasn't discarding the Sabbath - He obeyed His Father's command to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. In fact, teaching in the synagogues on the Sabbath seems to be a pattern in Jesus' ministry

And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. --Luke 4:16

Then He got up and left the synagogue, and entered Simon’s home. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Him to help her. --Luke 4:38

These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum. --John 6:59
What Jesus did here in Luke 6:6 was to discard all the un-Biblical teachings that the Jewish teachers had added to God's command over the years.

Then Luke tells us the real purpose of the questioning by the Pharisees:

The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him. --Luke 6:7
They apparently have no compassion. Here is this poor man with a withered right hand. Notice how the Pharisees show absolutely no compassion for him. Their only interest is in accusing Jesus. We need to remember that compassion is very important to Jesus: In Mathew 12:7, Jesus said:
But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. --Matthew 12:7
Jesus is quoting Hosea 6:6 here.
For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. --Hosea 6:6
The Pharisees also had no heart for God. The Pharisees and scribes weren't there to learn. Their hearts were hard toward God as well as toward Jesus. They refused to consider the miracles of Jesus.

The Pharisees knew the Bible, they were in the synagogue every Sabbath and they looked and acted religious. But they had no real heart for God.

We can fool people by going to church and acting religious but we can't fool God. God wasn't fooled by them and He is not fooled by us. Each of us needs to take inventory: are we just acting religious or do we really have a heart for God? Maybe we need to ask Jesus into our lives. Maybe we need to confess our hard-heartedness and ask God to soften our hearts toward Him.

Luke continues:

But He knew what they were thinking, and He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” And he got up and came forward. And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to destroy it?” --Luke 6:8-9
Jesus was not violating any command of God's in healing this man. Both Matthew's account and Mark's add information to this conversation. In Matthew Jesus points out that these Jews wouldn't consider it violating their law to pull an animal they owned out of a pit. Yet they condemn Jesus for helping this man!

Matthew records:

And He said to them, “What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” --Matthew 12:11-12
This did not sit well with the Pharisees.
But they themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus. --Luke 6;11
Mark 3:5 gives insight as to how Jesus felt about this situation:
After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. --Mark 3:5
This is the only specific reference to Jesus being angry in the Gospels. When he turned over the tables in the Temple, it was righteousness indignation.

Interesting contrast, isn’t it? Jesus was angry at the hardness of their hearts. But why were the Pharisees angry? Maybe it was because Jesus discredited them by healing the man. Maybe it was because they had failed in their attempts to discredit Jesus. Clearly, their anger had nothing to do with caring for people or devotion to God.

What makes you angry? It's significant that the only recorded instance in Scripture of Jesus becoming angry was the hard-heartedness of these people, their uncaring attitude toward the suffering of others.

Are you a caring, compassionate person?

Are we (as a class) a caring, compassionate community?

But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. --1 John 3:17-18
The Living Bible Says:
But if someone who is supposed to be a Christian has money enough to live well, and sees a brother in need, and won't help him -- how can God's love be within him? Little children, let us stop just saying we love people; let us really love them, and show it by our actions. --1 John 3:17-18 (LB)

__________

Next week:

We will pick up with more discussion about this section. We will look at the Lord’s Apostles. Re-read Luke 6 to be prepared.

 

 
Lessons in Lordship
The Lord’s Sabbath6:1-11
>The Lord's Apostles6:12-19
The Lord's Perspective6:20-26
The Lord's Love6:27-38
The Lord's Disciples6:39-49