The Book of Luke, The Sabbath Controversy – Lesson 68
At the end of the passage in Luke 6 after Jesus and his disciples were accused of doing that which was not lawful on the Sabbath, Jesus made the astounding and authoritive statement in:
Luke 6:5, ….. That the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.
In light of the importance of Sabbath keeping by the Jews imagine how this saying astounded the minds of the Pharisees and the scribes.
Here was a man who was saying he was the one who defined the Sabbath.
Imagine how this claim contributes to the rage that will be expressed in the synagogue on the next Sabbath where he will heal the man with the withered hand.
The Lord Jesus by saying that he is the Lord of the Sabbath implies his lordship and authority over the Sabbath.
By saying He is Lord of the Sabbath He is saying that He is greater than the Sabbath, and he is the final authority in matters pertaining to the Sabbath.
To be Lord of the Sabbath is to be Lord over the Sabbath.
When Jesus claimed to be Lord of the Sabbath, He claimed to be the authority over the Sabbath.
And therefore he was infinitely more qualified to obey the spirit of the Sabbath for he knew what the Sabbath was for.
Jesus Christ, being the author of the Sabbath he was therefore the one to define the Sabbath and not the Pharisees.
And he defined it as a gift for man and not as the Pharisee’s defined it as a binding upon man that was just a hindrance to man and not a help to man.
The Sabbath was not designed to be something to gain merit with God by keeping it in such stringent and binding Pharisee defined ways.
It was not to be thought of as a sacrifice, that if obeyed, would earn favor with God.
This same Sabbath account that Luke gives us in verses 1-5 is given in the Gospel of Matthew and Matthew relates additional words of the Lord Jesus Christ:
Matthew 12:7, But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.
If you would have known God’s heart their would have been mercy instead of condemnation.
Jesus by saying this is here referring to Hosea 6:6 which reads, For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.
The definition of “sacrifice” in this verse means: properly a slaughter, that is, the flesh of an animal; by implication a sacrifice (the victim or the act
The Amplified Bible relates Matthew 12:7 in this manner:
And if you had only known what this saying means, I desire mercy [readiness to help, to spare, to forgive] rather than sacrifice and sacrificial victims; you would not have condemned the guiltless.
How many times do we condemn others for their actions but have no interest in providing a hand to help and a heart driven by mercy?
This is what Jesus is saying: I desire kindness, a tender heart, kindly feelings, and conduct toward others - especially toward those who are in need and those who are suffering. I desire this rather than the externals of religion. I wish kindness and I do not accept sacrifice apart from kindness.
Why didn’t’ the Pharisees share their food with Jesus and the disciples instead of hoping for a transgression of the Sabbath?
The Apostle Paul, in I Corinthians 13 relates this principle in this manner.
I Cor 13:1-3, Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
This phrase “though I give my body to be burned” captures the philosophy of the Pharisees for it describes their reaction to Jesus and his disciples “harvesting” the grain on the Sabbath.
They would have them continue their hunger as part of their desire to put down the body so as to please God.
Their philosophy included the suffering of the body as a sacrifice pleasing to God even to the point of burning their body.
But their philosophy did not include mercy and love.
They would be in the same camp as those who think that doing penance such as crawling up stairs until your knees are bloody so as to appease an angry God.
They are the doers of what they think of as holy work without a heart for others, without a heart that extends mercy and loves others.
Watch out Christian worker that you do your work in love lest you take on Pharisaical trappings!
God instituted the Sabbath because of his mercy and all matters pertaining to the Sabbath must be judged in that light.
This, the Pharisees refused to do but insisted upon applying rigid and binding rules to the Sabbath which took away the very purpose of the Sabbath as a day of rest and as a benefit for man.
Although our Sunday is not the Jewish Sabbath the principle of one day of rest in seven still remains valid.
In our observation of that day of rest we are to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has set us free and remember that that day of rest is a gift of God and ought not to be burdened with that which changes the gift into a punishment.
Luke does not record any response to Jesus’ defense of His disciples’ actions.
The Pharisees were silenced and no doubt went off brooding and licking their wounds and planning for another time to trap Jesus.
They only had to wait one week until the next Sabbath.
Let us now read of the second Sabbath incident recorded by Luke in Chapter 6 which was, according to the Pharisees, a transgression by our Lord, who did the “work” of healing on the Sabbath.
For the Pharisees had defined healing as work instead of help.
Luke 6:6-11, On another Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching; and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. 7The 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. 8But 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. 9And 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?” 10After looking around at them all, He said to him, “Stretch out your hand!” And he did so; and his hand was restored. 11But they themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.
We are told in this passage of a man who had a withered hand and was present in the synagogue as Jesus taught on the Sabbath.
The scribes and the Pharisees were well aware of this man’s presence for they were watching Jesus closely to see if he would heal the man.
We don’t know if the man with the withered hand had been “planted” or brought into the synagogue by them.
But we do know that they were trying to find reason to accuse him of breaking the Sabbath law as narrowly defined by them.
They had hoped to trap him into working according to their definition of work.
They wanted the man healed, but not for the man’s benefit.
But Jesus wanted the man healed for the man’s benefit.
They wanted to use the man; Jesus wanted to help the man.
The first is a motive of the flesh, the second is a motive of the spirit.
The motive of the spirit is generated because Jesus loved the man with the withered hand.
The Pharisees did not love the man.
For they cared nothing for the man otherwise they would have rejoiced at his healing.
We have read in Matthew how Jesus had pointed out that the governing principle in keeping the law, especially the Sabbath law, was not sacrifice or ritual, but mercy and compassion.
These Pharisees had no compassion on the man with the withered hand, and yet they were certain that Jesus would have compassion on Him.
They, in their lack of compassion, sought to use the compassion of Christ to their advantage.
What a contrast in the character of the Lord Jesus Christ with that of His enemies.
I do not know whether the man caught Jesus’ eye, or if he pleaded for mercy and healing, or whether he was pointed out to Jesus by the Pharisees or others.
We are told that Jesus was aware of the man, as well as being aware of the scheme by the Pharisees for Luke 6:6-8 tells us he knew what they were thinking.
The Lord Jesus was not one to sidestep this conflict for it would have been easy for him to do so.
He could have privately instructed the man to meet Him at another time or at another place, so as to avoid the attack of the Pharisees.
Jesus as usual wanted to face the issue head-on for there was more to this situation than the healing of a man.
There was light to be broadcast in a dark place.