The Book of Luke, The Sabbath Controversy Ė Lesson 69
Luke 6:6-11, And it came to pass also on another sabbath, that he entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man whose right hand was withered. 7And the scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against him. 8But he knew their thoughts, and said to the man which had the withered hand, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth. 9Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it? 10And looking round about upon them all, he said unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored whole as the other. 11And they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus.
Last week we read in the Gospel of Matthew how Jesus had preached that the governing principle in keeping the law, especially the Sabbath law, was not sacrifice or ritual, but mercy and compassion.
We see in this passage in Luke 6 the contrast in the character of the Lord Jesus Christ with that of His enemies.
The actions of the Pharisees and scribes were motivated by the glorification of the flesh but the actions of the Lord Jesus were moved by the Spirit.
Jesus Christ was never one to be cowed by the religious system or religious leaders of Israel and in this event in the synagogue he faced them with the truth head on for we are told that he knew what they were thinking.
We are told that Jesus was aware of the man with the withered, as well as being aware of the scheme by the Pharisees for Luke 6:8 tells us he knew their thoughts.
The verse that says: Thou God seest me means that God knows your thoughts.
And because Jesus knew their thoughts there was a need on his part to broadcast light in a dark place.
That dark place was Israel because the Pharisees and scribes had turned off the light of Godís word in the way that they followed the law and commanded others to follow the law.
The burdens and barriers that they had erected in their religious system had obstructed the light of the word of God.
But Jesus is light and in him there is no darkness at all.
Because of this, confrontation was inevitable for light and darkness cannot coexist.
Their can be no compromise between light and darkness.
This was then a perfect occasion for the Lord Jesus to spread light in the darkness of Israel in spite of the rage and the resulting conspiracy of the Pharisees and scribes against Jesus Christ.
So He called for the man to rise up and stand forth among them, in the sight of all.
For Jesus wished to make an issue of the healing of this man on the Sabbath.
He did not walk in darkness and there was darkness in the synagogue.
Here was the very heart of the conflict between Jesus and His opponents, the scribes and Pharisees.
The issue which Jesus wished to raise was the purpose of the Sabbath precept.
Why was the Sabbath Law given by God?
The Sabbath law was a revealer of the very nature of God.
And it was of utmost importance for Jesus Christ to be true to the very nature of God for he taught that ďI and my father are oneĒ.
But in corrupting the Sabbath the Pharisees had corrupted the revelation of Godís nature that was given by the Sabbath.
The Pharisees concentrated on the negatives, on the ďDonítsĒ of life.
They used the Sabbath to exert power over people which is the motive of every religion.
Religion is based upon fear, religion is based upon complying with doníts, otherwise your lost .
But the Lord Jesus Christ concentrated on the affirmatives.
The Lord Jesus Christ could not abide a withered hand, a useless hand.
The Lord Jesus Christ was about to do the fatherís will and make that hand fruitful for that is what our God is all about, to be fruitful and to multiply.
Isnít that what the fruit of the Spirit is all about?
But the Pharisees thought that the more a man suffered in such things as fasting, and tithing, the more spiritual he was.
The more he could take on just the appearance of holiness, the better.
They were interested in whitewash only, they were not interested in real fruit but only interested in wax fruit, artificial fruit that had no benefit!
For without the Spirit of God all a man can do is produce fruit that has no eternal quality.
Jesus, by his actions faced them in essence with this question:
IS THE SABBATH GIVEN TO MAKE MAN MISERABLE, OR AS A SOURCE OF BLESSING?
IS THE SABBATH GIVEN FOR MANíS BLESSING, OR TO BE A BURDEN?
IS THE SABBATH THE TIME FOR DOING GOOD OR FOR DOING EVIL, TO SAVE LIFE OF TO DESTROY IT?
The Pharisees view of the Sabbath allowed for one to work only in giving aid to a dying man. They did allow that!
In their system it was allowable to help a man only if he would not live till the Sabbath had ended.
If a man in dire straits could last until sundown then any healing attention could wait.
Sounds like what happens in some of our modern emergency rooms!
Donít you suppose there were many arguments concerning whether a man would survive till sundown?
But the man with the withered hand did not fit into such a dreadful category.
The condition of the man with the withered hand was not life-threatening.
His hand did not just get withered that day and he may not even have had any pain.
The Pharisees therefore believed that Jesus should wait until sundown to heal this man.
Jesus, by His actions, was raising the question, ďWhy?Ē
Most of us would have waited just a few hours in order to appease the Pharisees but Jesus Christ would have none of that for he was light and in him was no darkness at all.
As Jesus studied his audience Mark adds this comment about the condition of their hearts.
Mark 3:5, And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand.
By looking round about them He seemed to let the question simmer in their minds.
What was the Sabbath for, to make men miserable, or to be a blessing?
If the Sabbath was for good, then doing well on the Sabbath could hardly be wrong.
If the Sabbath was not given as a blessing for man, then doing good on the Sabbath would be wrong.
It was that simple. Why was the Sabbath given, for good or evil?
Jesus answered the question by His deeds.
He instructed the man to stretch out his hand.
And when he stretched it out it was immediately healed.
Jesus did nothing but instruct the man to hold out his hand. He did not touch the man.
He only spoke which apparently was within the rules of the Pharisees.
He performed this miracle without breaking even the strict and legalistic rules of the Pharisees.
But this did not satisfy them.
They were not rejoicing along with the man with the restored hand.
They were seething with anger.
Luke 6:11, And they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus.
And all of this hatred and conspiring took place on the Sabbath day, a day that was to be holy, and a gift day of God for rest.
How religion tries its best to corrupt Godís gifts.
How zealous they were of that which was seen by men but had no regard of that which was seen by God.
How twisted they were but they were only following hearts that had so deceived them so as to convince them that they were the righteous ones and Jesus was the wicked one.
At this point we now see the Pharisees as bitter enemies of Jesus.
They are not interested in following Him.
They are no longer open to the possibility of His being the Messiah.
They only wish to be rid of Him, to see him dead, something which they will only later be able, in the providence of God, to accomplish.
The Sabbath controversy was, for them, the last straw.
Jesus and they were deadlocked in a conflict which was diametrically opposed.
Jesus claimed to be God, as the Pharisees well knew, but He did not conform to their conception of God.
Jonah, in the Old Testament, even though he fought the will of God, knew what God was when he fled to Tarshish.
He did not want to be a help in displaying the compassion of God to the Ninivites.
Jonah 3:10 Ė 4:1-2, And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not. 1But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. 2And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.
Jesus was, as Jonah protested about God, a gracious and compassionate God, a God who delighted in the salvation of men.
Jonah and the Pharisees were not compassionate, as Jesus pointed out in Matt. 9:13 where he told the Pharisees to go back to the scriptures and learn what Hosea 6:6 taught.
In the Pharisees mind Jesus was too kind, too caring, too forgiving, and too intimate with sinners.
The Pharisees had a harsh conception of God and that conception of God led them to a harsh interpretation of the law.
It is no different today as people hate the doctrine of the grace of God as people compare themselves among themselves and find themselves worthy of heaven and others unworthy.
Their conception of God is faulty for they only see a God who judges the quantity of good works as the only way to please him.
When God is preached as a gracious God, a God slow to anger, a God of great kindness, a God who only saves sinners, the same rage or madness that the Pharisees displayed comes to the fore.
When a Christian, based upon the authority of the Word of God says without doubt that he is saved he can be laughed at with scorn and that laughter is based on the wrong understanding of God, for in that laughter there is no understanding of Godís mercy and his grace.
People want a God like unto themselves but Jesus was not about to fit into that mold and throughout his ministry made that very plain.
Jesus had the heart of the Psalmist who wrote of his love for the law.
Ps. 119:1, 12-16, 97,
1 Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD.
12 Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes.
13 With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth.
14 I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways.
16 I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.
97 O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.
Contrast this with the Pharisees and scribes who had made the law restrictive and burdensome.
The Pharisees and scribes had banished Godís mercy from their interpretation of the law, and they even were able to feel righteous about it.
But theses verses in Psalm 119 are the essence of what the law should bring to the heart for the law is good if a man use it lawfully.