Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thoughts on Luke 6:1-11 (Lord of the Sabbath)

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. Some of the Pharisees asked, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”  Jesus answered them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry?  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.”  Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

When the Israelites were delivered from Egyptian slavery, they were led to the mountain of God, where Moses received the ten commandments.  One of those commandments was about the Sabbath:

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. 
Exodus 20:8-11

This commandment is to keep the Sabbath holy and to do no work.  After all, God created everything in six days and rested on the seventh.  We are commanded to rest and do no work on the Sabbath day.  Well, this begs the question of what is "work?"  How do you define it?  The Pharisees came up with a whole bunch of rules to determine what is considered work and what is not work.  If you've never seen a book that tells you what you can and cannot do on the Sabbath, you should check it out.  Go to Amazon and type in Sabbath laws.  You will get back several hundred books to guide and simplify complex ideas into something practical.  Do you realize that under the Old Testament, it is very easy to break the Sabbath laws that were common practice in Jesus' time?

So why did God give us this commandment?  He wants us to take a day to rest.  We should use that time to praise and worship our Lord for what he has done for us.  The Pharisees have been so pious and so focused on following the letter of the law that they have missed the point of the Sabbath.  Jesus says that his disciples are hungry, so it is okay for them to eat what God has provided.  He says, even David did what was technically forbidden by law because he and his companions were hungry.  People matter more.

On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. 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. 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.  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?”  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. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.

The Pharisees were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus.  Can you believe this?  Jesus is bigger than the Sabbath.  Yes, it is a Holy day.  That's why he's in the synagogue teaching.  He sees a man in need and has compassion for him.  Jesus then shows them it is more important to good than evil.  It is more important to save a life than destroy it.  He heals the man on the Sabbath, which is considered work.  How is that work?  Is it not more important to show compassion and God's love and mercy?  Yes!  Jesus heals on the Sabbath.  He shows that people matter more.

If a person were to show up at the emergency room bleeding to death, we would expect the physicians to get to work fixing him up so he doesn't die.  Yet this is exactly what the Pharisees would expect.  I'm sorry, the hospital is closed. Please come back during regular business hours.  Ridiculous right?  The person would surely die!  This is what Jesus is saying.  No man-made laws should ever be more important than doing the work of the Lord.  Ever.

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