Luke 6:1-2 (NIV) 1 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. 2 Some of the Pharisees asked, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
On verses 1-2: People living in Israel were allowed to walk through a fellow Israelite’s grain field and pick kernels with their hand to eat, just as Jesus’ disciples were doing here. This was specifically allowed in Deuteronomy 23:24-25 as a way for Jewish landowners to show grace and mercy to the poor. However, because Jesus’ disciples were doing this on a Sabbath day, the Pharisees were offended, for the Pharisees taught that picking heads of grain and eating it on a Sabbath day was “work” which violated God’s command that His people rest and not work on a Sabbath day. The Pharisees had misapplied God’s command to rest on the Sabbath day to an absurd, ridiculous and unhelpful extreme. As a result, laws that were meant to encourage grace, mercy and rest for people were replaced with a strict kind of legalism that just placed more burdens on everyone.
The Pharisees had fallen into legalism, which can be defined generally speaking as an overemphasis on rules to the point of missing God’s heart. Legalism can come in at least three forms:
1. Legalism can come in the form of thinking that our salvation is the result of our own performance and strict adherence to God’s commands rather than seeing salvation as a gift of God’s grace;
2. Legalism can come in the form of trying to strictly adhere to a command in Scripture while missing the command’s original intent. A great example is how the Pharisees were so fixated on not eating kernels of wheat on the Sabbath because that was “working” on the Sabbath, all the while missing the fact that God gave the Jews a Sabbath day so that they could rest, worship and enjoy life with God and one another. It’s following the letter of the law while missing the spirit of the law.
3. Legalism can also come in the form of adding new rules that God’s Word never required, something that the Pharisees were notorious for doing as well.
What can we learn from this? When we don’t interpret or apply God’s commands wisely, we create unnecessary burdens for ourselves and others. Ask God for wisdom to know how to apply His Word in your life and how to wisely teach those in your care to obey God’s Word.
Luke 6:3-5 (NIV) 3 Jesus answered them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” 5 Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
On verses 3-5: In defense of his disciples picking kernels and eating them on the Sabbath day, Jesus cites a famous moment in David’s life when he and his companions entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread that was normally reserved for priests (1 Samuel 21:1-6). David’s was a much more serious case where God allowed a concession in the ceremonial and dietary restrictions of the law so as to serve the higher purpose of feeding the hungry. It’s as if Jesus was saying, “Hey Pharisees, if God had no issue with David eating the ceremonial bread, why are you making such a big deal out of this much smaller thing?” Jesus then makes one more statement to justify his disciples’ actions: Jesus tells the Pharisees that he is “Lord of the Sabbath” (v5). In other words, “Hey Pharisees, you’re not the authority regarding what can or cannot be done on the Sabbath. I am. I am Lord of the Sabbath. The command to rest on the Sabbath day was My command, and I know how best to apply that command to daily life.” This must have ticked off the Pharisees greatly.
What can we learn from this?
Earlier in Luke 4-5 we saw that Jesus has authority over evil spirits, over sickness, and over nature. Here we see that Jesus has authority also over how to apply God’s commands like resting on the Sabbath day. No authority compares to Jesus’ authority.
God is not a God of strict legalism for the sake of legalism. God is a practical God with a heart of grace and mercy toward people.
Luke 6:6-11 (NIV) 6 On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. 7 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. 8 But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Get up and stand in front of everyone.” So he got up and stood there. 9 Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” 10 He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was completely restored. 11 But they were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.
On verses 6-11: You can find this story also in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, but here Luke, being a medical doctor, is the only one who points out that it was the man’s right hand that was shriveled (v6). The Pharisees and teachers of the law wanted to see if Jesus would heal this man’s hand on the Sabbath day, for they ridiculously considered healing on the Sabbath to be a violation of God’s command to rest on the Sabbath day. Jesus challenges their thinking and their absurd rules by saying, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” (v9) Jesus proceeds to heal the man’s hand by commanding him to stretch out his hand (v10). This infuriates the Pharisees and teachers of the law, who (in violation of their own Sabbath rules) have a meeting to discuss how to destroy the One who is life, that is, Jesus (v11).
What can we learn from this?
Here we see that the Pharisees and teachers of the law were more in love with their own man-made rules than the work of God in people’s lives — so much so that when Jesus did the miracle of restoring a man’s shriveled hand, all they could think about was how Jesus offended their rules. Don’t be so caught up in the system and rules you have created for your life that you give God no room to what He wants to do. Don’t be so caught up in your own agenda that you miss the miracles Jesus is doing.
Notice that it was only after the man obeyed Jesus’ command and stretched out his hand that his hand was completely restored. It would have been embarrassing for this man to stretch out his hand in front of everyone in the synagogue. Yet this man went in faith and received healing from Jesus. What can we learn from this? When we step out in faith in obedience to God’s command, blessing follows.
Heavenly Father, please give me wisdom to know how to apply Your commands to my life and courage to obey them. Thank You that blessing will follow when I do. Also, I pray that I would not be so caught up in my own rules and systems that I miss what You’re doing or want to do in my life. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!