Luke 6:1-11, “Lord of the Sabbath”
Rest can be a rare thing. For as lazy as our culture can sometimes seem to be, people are getting less rest than ever. A 2013 Gallup poll showed that 40% of Americans get less than 7 hours sleep per night, with overall Americans today averaging an hour less sleep than Americans in the 1940s. Some chalk it up to health problems – others to bad habits (eating, electronics, etc.), but there’s no doubt that many people walk around tired simply because they (we!) are too busy. Even those who receive 7-8 hours sleep each night often have every waking moment filled with activity. Facebook is checked upon waking, kids have to be woken & dressed, work is back-to-back meetings that carry over to home via emails, and by the time the daily chores are done, people are simply exhausted. There hasn’t been any rest all day long.
This same pattern continues over into our relationship with God. For many, they are so busy doing things for God that they never rest in God. They want to know they’ve done the right things, prayed the right prayers, read the right Scriptures, etc., in order to be assured that they are in the good graces of God. And all of that misses the point. It’s not that any of it is bad (good works, prayer, Scripture are all good!) – but we cannot use them to work into our salvation. The only way we are saved is through resting in Jesus. We don’t work; He does – and His work is enough. He offers us the true Sabbath of God.
It is the Sabbath that becomes the point of contention between Jesus and the Pharisees as Luke begins the 6th chapter of his gospel. Conflict has become a regular occurrence between them as Jesus engaged in His Galilean ministry. The Pharisees objected to Jesus’ proclamation of a man’s forgiveness in the synagogue, and they were amazed at the type of people Jesus called to Himself. Not only did this Man have common fishermen as disciples, but He went so far as to reach out to tax collectors & other sinners, even implying that the Pharisees themselves were just as much in need of forgiveness as anyone else.
At this point, the Pharisees were taking a close look at Jesus. If Jesus was going to make these sorts of claims, then they were going to place them under the closest scrutiny. They were ready to pounce at the first mistake…the problem was finding one. That’s what they tried to do with the Sabbath regulations. They thought they caught Jesus and His disciples in lawbreaking, but didn’t. They tried to set Jesus up with a trap to force Him to break the law, but they couldn’t. They worked pretty hard on the Sabbath to get Jesus to violate the Sabbath, but found it was impossible. Why? Because they missed what the Sabbath was all about. The true Sabbath is to rest in the Lord of the Sabbath. The true Sabbath is to rest in the salvation of God.
- Sabbath Day Snacking (1-5)
1 Now it happened on the second Sabbath after the first that He went through the grainfields. And His disciples plucked the heads of grain and ate them, rubbing them in their hands. 2 And some of the Pharisees said to them, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?”
- Those following along in translations other than the NKJV (or KJV) might immediately notice a difference in verse 1. Whereas the NKJV apparently describes a careful chronology, other translations simply say “on a Sabbath.” (NASB, ESV, etc.) This is one of the instances in which there is variation in the available manuscripts, with the older manuscripts (even a papyrus fragment) strongly supporting the shorter reading. The longer reading retained in the NKJV is found in the majority of manuscripts, but the reading is truly strange, literally calling the Sabbath day the “second-first,” and the usage is unprecedented. The majority of scholars believe it to be a transcriptional error as one scribe put in an accidental marking, another attempted to correct it, and it was absorbed into the text. – All of that is said to say this: although there is a difference in the manuscripts, it doesn’t give us less reason to trust our Bibles; it actually gives us more. So many manuscripts exist of the New Testament, that when errors do occasionally arise, they become relatively easy to see & correct. The original writing of the text was inspired by God the Holy Spirit; the multitude of copying the text was not. Yet even in the copying, there is a miracle in that the Holy Spirit ensured that His word was accurately preserved. No other book in history has as much manuscript evidence as that of the New Testament – nothing even comes close. We can know what God inspired for us, and we can have confidence in believing it.
- That’s all peripheral stuff, and it doesn’t affect the main point of the text anyway. The main point is what actually took place on that particular “Sabbath” day (whenever it was). At some point during the day, Jesus and the disciples were strolling through the grainfields having a bit of a snack. Walking among the stalks of wheat or barley (most likely wheat), they plucked some heads of grain along the way, rubbed off the husk, and chewed it as a small snack. The practice was not uncommon at all, and even though the disciples were not likely to be the landowners, it wasn’t considered stealing. In fact, this specific practice is legally permitted in Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy 23:24–25, "(24) “When you come into your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat your fill of grapes at your pleasure, but you shall not put any in your container. (25) When you come into your neighbor’s standing grain, you may pluck the heads with your hand, but you shall not use a sickle on your neighbor’s standing grain." The whole idea is that if God’s people were hungry, they should be allowed to eat – but to gorge themselves was to take it too far. Just eat what you’re hungry for & move on. (Combines the notions of personal responsibility & loving our neighbors.)
- Of course theft isn’t the issue here; Sabbath day regulations are. Whether or not the Pharisees were eyewitnesses to the event, or told about it later, we don’t know – what we do know is that that immediately raised an objection. What the disciples had done was “not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” What was the Sabbath law? The most famous iteration of it is as the 4th of the 10 Commandments: Exodus 20:8–11, "(8) “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. (9) Six days you shall labor and do all your work, (10) but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. (11) For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it." All of that is pretty clear, but it is also pretty generic. The idea is that work/labor is forbidden, but the work/labor is not defined. It didn’t need to be. It should have been obvious when someone was working on the Sabbath day, as it was when a man was caught gathering up sticks for a fire (Num 15:32-36). The focus in the commandment wasn’t so much on what was/was not defined as “labor,” but on the gift of God. God had sanctified the 7th day, set the example by resting upon it, and His people were to do the same. Ultimately, this was to be a covenant sign between He & His nation (Ezekiel 20:12), that the Hebrews trusted God alone for their provision and sustenance. The whole point was for the Hebrews to demonstrate their faith and trust in God; not to impose some sort of bondage upon the people.
- If the practice was Biblically allowed, where did get the Pharisees get the idea that there was a Sabbath day restriction? Not from the word of God, but from the traditions of men. According to Mishnah 7.2, there are 39 activities specifically forbidden on the Sabbath. This included obvious things such as hunting, slaughtering, and skinning – less obvious things like writing two characters/letters or erasing something in order to write them – and it also included basic farming activities such as sowing, plowing, reaping, threshing, etc. It was this category of labor of which the Pharisees accused the disciples of doing. The gathering of wheat kernels in their hand was reaping, the removal of the husk was threshing, and perhaps even the chewing of the grain could be considered kneading (as in bread). On the face of it, it was plainly ridiculous. On any other day, no one would have observed Jesus’ disciples and come to the conclusion that they were farming the fields. Any casual glance would have said they were snacking. If it was snacking on a Friday, how could it be farming on a Saturday? Yet that was the claim of the Pharisees. Contextually, the Pharisees had just found fault with the disciples for eating and drinking (as opposed to fasting), and their objections were easily brushed aside. Now they continue their attacks (seemingly obsessed with the disciples’ eating habits), and they look for any excuse they could find.
- How careful we need to be with the traditions of men! How easy it is to add to the word of God! This isn’t just a danger with Pharisaic Judaism or even Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy – this is a danger faced among Evangelical Protestants as well. We throw in all kinds of definitions on what it means to be a “good” Christian. Do we listen to the right radio stations? Do we back the right political candidates? Do we back the right causes? Do we have our daily quiet time with the Lord in the right quantity? Do we give the right amount of money to the right organizations? None of those things are inherently bad, and most of them are very good. But none of those things ought to define our Christianity. They certainly don’t save us; nor do they define us as saved. When we impose those standards upon others (even upon ourselves), we’re leaving a gospel of grace for a gospel of works, which isn’t a gospel at all. Those things are simply cultural – they are man-made traditions, and they need to have their proper place in our lives: subservient to Jesus.
- Notice the specific question posed by the Pharisees: “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?” The word “lawful” is a key term in this passage, appearing here 6:2, in Jesus’ response to the Pharisees in 6:4, and also in Jesus’ response in the synagogue situation in 6:9. The word refers to something being right, authorized, permitted, etc., and it’s basically a strengthened from of the word “to be.” An act has come “out of” something else already in existence – thereby being authorized by it. What’s the issue? Authority. Where is your source of authority – to what do you turn for permission? For the Pharisees, it was the Scripture plus their tradition – their tradition actually informing how they viewed the Scripture itself. And that was their problem. Scripture IS our authority, and although we all have our own traditions and viewpoints, they need to be informed from the truth of Scripture, rather than Scripture being informed by our viewpoint.
- So that’s the accusation. What was Jesus’ response? Vs. 3…
3 But Jesus answering them said, “Have you not even read this, what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: 4 how he went into the house of God, took and ate the showbread, and also gave some to those with him, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat?”
- Jesus reminds the Pharisees of the events of 1 Samuel 21, when David was on the run from Saul, and came to Ahimelech the priest at Nob. He and his men were truly hungry, and the only food available was the showbread, recently removed from being in the Lord’s presence in the Tabernacle. As Jesus properly notes, it was illegal for anyone except the priests to eat, yet this act was never counted as a sin against David. The priest of God actually brought it out for him & his men to eat. Why did he do it? Because it would have been worse for David to starve to death. All David was trying to do was to stay alive – he wasn’t looking for ways to flaunt the law of God, or disregard God’s holiness. Relatively speaking, his heart (and those of his men) were pure. The priest rightly recognized David’s heart, and that of the Lord God: God’s heart was merciful. He trusted in God’s goodness and grace, knowing that the Lord would rather see David live than die.
- Does knowing all of that give permission to the priest, or David, or anyone else to reinterpret the law according to his/her own needs? Of course not. God’s word is not circumstantially dependent – meaning that if our circumstances are good it is to be obeyed, but if it is beneficial to us & our circumstances that we can ignore God’s word whenever we want to do so. Heaven forbid that we would treat God’s commands so callously! But at that point, we’re trusting in our authority, rather than that of God. When our trust is in God, and in His goodness & character, we can trust that He knows our true heart and motives. He knows when someone is trying to manipulate Him, and when someone is truly in need. God does not punish the hungry. God is not looking for a reason to be angry with us (despite the misconception so many people have of God). God is looking for those people whose hearts are loyal to Him (2 Chr 16:9). God is looking for those who desire to worship Him in spirit and truth (Jn 4:23-24). Obviously we aren’t doing that if we’re looking for loopholes, neither if we’re trying to justify ourselves through our own attempts at legalism. Worship God sincerely – worship Him trusting Him in His goodness, knowing that He will always do what is right.
- Jesus was not about to be trapped by legalistic tradition, nor would He allow Himself to be caught in or manipulated by a manmade religious loophole. Instead, He turned it back upon the Pharisees themselves. Had they never read this account about David? Were these self-proclaimed Biblical scholars unaware of this event in the Bible? Were they that ignorant of the character and nature of God? Yes. They knew much about the Bible, and could have probably quoted this section of Scripture back to Jesus. But none of that intellectual knowledge did them any good if they did not know the Lord God who gave them their intellect. What good does knowledge of the Bible gain for those who do not know the Author of the Bible? And these men did not. How can we be sure? Because they opposed Jesus. When they rejected Jesus, they rejected God. Their own lack of faith was demonstrated by the way they treated God Incarnate standing right in front of them.
- What was true of the Pharisees is true of so many today. How many times have we heard people claim to worship God, but reject Jesus? (Perhaps that even describes someone here!) To reject one is to reject the other, for Jesus IS the Incarnate God. If a person chooses to reject Christianity, he/she chooses to reject the only means by which we can know God. As Jesus Himself said, He is the way, the truth, and the life – no one comes to the Father except through Him. (Jn 14:6)
- Thus far, Jesus has made His argument based upon the actions of David. As the example king of Israel, whatever precedent David set carried a lot of weight. Yet even as king of Israel, David’s authority was limited. The human king could not claim any authority over the commands of God. But that is exactly what Jesus went on to do as He claimed something truly shocking. Vs. 5…
5 And He said to them, “The Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”
- Why is the “Son of Man” the “Lord of the Sabbath”? Because the Son of Man is God. This is a direct claim to deity. Although it was well known and accepted that the Son of Man (Messiah) would be a son of David inheriting all of the promises and kingdom that God appointed for David, the Messiah was known to be more than just another human king. David had many sons & grandson & descendants, but the Messiah would stand out as completely different. He would also be known as God’s own Son (2 Sam 7:14), and was prophesied to come in the power and glory of God (Dan 7:13), ruling over a kingdom that would never end (2 Sam 7:13, Dan 7:14). As the Son of David, the Messiah had no right to do anything with the Sabbath, other than to observe it. Neither David nor Solomon nor any of the other kings had any authority whatsoever over the Sabbath. This had been a gift of God, created by God, and thus only God has the right to do anything with the day itself. Jesus can do something with it, because as the Son of Man, Jesus is God. Jesus is the “Lord of the Sabbath” because Jesus is the Lord. This day was His creation, so He can do with it whatever He wishes.
- None of the Synoptics tell us anything about the reaction of the Pharisees, but wouldn’t you love to know what it was they did? Talk about a truth bomb…Jesus just laid a huge one upon them! Already, Jesus claimed to have the authority to grant forgiveness of sin, and He demonstrated that He had the power to back up His claims (5:23-24). Jesus had demonstrated massive authority from God as He cleansed lepers, cast out demons, and healed the sick – something He would continue to do in the weeks and months ahead. There was no doubt that the blessing of God was upon Him – but to claim actual deity for Himself? Truly that would have shocked the ears of the Pharisees, just as it would shock any of us today. Yet it was true. Jesus is God, and that changes everything people think they know about Him. He isn’t some wise profound teacher; He’s THE Teacher, and what He teaches carries primary authority, not to be ignored. He isn’t some moral guru; He is the very source of all ethical truth, being the personal embodiment of truth itself. He is the Lord – the God of the New and the Old Testaments – the God of the entire universe.
- Because He is, Jesus has the right to describe, define, and even fulfill the Sabbath – which is exactly what He does. The Pharisees attempted to box Him in with their own regulations of the Sabbath law – Jesus shows them that they don’t even know what the Sabbath is all about, and claims ultimate authority over the day itself. So what does this mean for Christians today? Does it mean that the Sabbath is removed & forgotten? Not at all – especially not in the way that many people might imagine. The Sabbath is, and has always been the 7th day of the week, and there is no command from Jesus in the Scripture moving the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. Yet Christians routinely work on Saturday, with our day of worship normally being Sunday. Are we flaunting the law? Not at all! Contrary to the claims of the Sabbatarians, Christians are free to worship God on Sunday, or any other day of the week. (Rom 14:5) The historical precedent for Sunday worship among Christians goes back to book of Acts, with the Christians in Troas gathering with Paul to break bread and listen to his teaching (Acts 20:7). It actually goes back even further to the reason why most Christians worship on Sunday: Jesus’ resurrection. He came out of the grave on the 1st day of the week, and thus we worship Him in celebration of that fact.
- That being said, the Sabbath isn’t so much about the day of worship as it is about rest. God rested from His work on the 7th day, and gave a gift of rest to His people. The Jews had a national covenant with God to rest on the 7th day, as they demonstrated their faith that they were resting in Him. Yet did they ever truly rest? They may have refrained from daily labors on the 7th day, but they still worked in many ways in their attempts to keep the law & to earn atonement for their sin through ongoing sacrifices. Even as they lived in the Promised Land flowing with milk & honey, they still did not rest in the Lord as the God of their salvation. Thus the author of Hebrews writes: Hebrews 4:8–10, "(8) For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. (9) There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. (10) For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His." If that is the case, then the Hebrews never rested. So when would they rest? When they trusted in Jesus. Jesus gave Himself as one sacrifice, perfect & sufficient, and now anyone through faith in Him can experience the true Sabbath rest of God. True rest is the ease of salvation – true rest is the assurance of grace. True rest is only found in Jesus, the Lord of our salvation & the Lord of the Sabbath. He is our Sabbath rest!
- Ultimately, that is what the Pharisees missed in their condemnation of the disciples. They were so busy picking nits from their legalistic tradition that they couldn’t see the true fulfillment of the Sabbath gift standing in front of them. They were working so hard to prove that the disciple weren’t resting that they themselves missed out on the rest God offered. (Don’t make that same mistake!)
- They weren’t done working on the Sabbath. Look what happens as they attempt to set another trap for Jesus…
- Sabbath Day Sting (6-11)
6 Now it happened on another Sabbath, also, that He entered the synagogue and taught. And a man was there whose right hand was withered. 7 So the scribes and Pharisees watched Him closely, whether He would heal on the Sabbath, that they might find an accusation against Him.
- Another Sabbath, another teaching, another person with a need. This time, the man seems to have been used by the scribes and Pharisees as a set-up or sting operation. They were well familiar with what Jesus had done in the Capernaum synagogue (4:31-37) – the news of that event had quickly spread throughout the region. They obviously knew Jesus’ own response concerning His disciples on the earlier Sabbath controversy. This time, they wanted Jesus to work on the Sabbath again, and they wanted witnesses. They would try to force Jesus into action, and make it so obvious that He broke the Sabbath laws that the multitudes would naturally reject Him as a false teacher. They left only one thing out of their equations & plotting: they were dealing with Jesus. As has already been seen, the Son of God will not be trapped nor manipulated by the plans of men.
- Beyond the spiritual blindness & hard-heartedness of the Pharisees, the really sad part is their treatment of this man. He had a real need. His hand was “withered” (paralyzed / shrunken). Was it a life-threatening condition? No…but it certainly was life-affecting. How many of us would be able to work with only one hand? Imagine yourself in 2000 years ago in Roman Judea, where virtually every trade involved manual labor of some sort. Having only one useful hand made it impossible to work, and he would either have been a beggar, or was fully dependent upon his family for food, clothing, and shelter. This man truly needed the help that Jesus could give, yet he was being used as a pawn of the scribes & Pharisees. To them, the man’s individual needs did not matter. All they cared about was their own reputation & their plot to trip up Jesus.
- Thank goodness God sees us as individuals! Each of us matters to Him. We were made in His image, and He knitted us individually within the wombs of our mothers. We may be forgotten by the world, or even used as pawns by others, but God knows us and loves us.
- Notice that the scribes and Pharisees were not looking for the truth – they weren’t interested in the truth. What they wanted was a trap. They were hoping to “find an accusation against” Jesus. Their minds were already made up, being closed to Jesus as the Messiah the Son of God. What makes this so interesting is that they were already convinced of Jesus’ miraculous power. They knew that Jesus had the power to heal this man – their only question was whether or not Jesus would do so on the Sabbath in the synagogue in front of the entire congregation. Yet so opposed were they to Jesus that they ignored the evidence in front of them in their attempt to tear Jesus down.
- How many people are in a similar situation? They’ve seen the evidence around them – they know how God has worked among them & even reached out to them in mercy – yet they spurn Him, looking for any excuse to reject Him. They are absolutely closed to Jesus, no matter how often they see evidence to the contrary. That is someone whose heart is hard, and someone who will receive a terrible wake-up call on the day of his/her death. Every single one of us will see God face-to-face, and we will give an answer for the things done in life. Those who choose to reject Jesus choose to reject their only hope. Don’t close your eyes to the evidence around you! Look to Jesus in truth, and believe!
8 But He knew their thoughts, and said to the man who had the withered hand, “Arise and stand here.” And he arose and stood.
- Jesus “knew their thoughts.” Does this mean that Jesus used His divine omniscience, or was He just perceptive? Yes. J It wouldn’t have been difficult to guess the motives of the Pharisees, but the Son of God has no reason to guess. He knew what was in their hearts, and their plans to use this man’s misery as a trap for Himself. That’s one reason why Jesus called the man to the middle of the room. Think about it: Jesus had other options. He could have willed the man to be healed without ever saying a word or physically making a move. The man would have his hand restored, and there would be no public proof tying Jesus to the miracle with any possible Sabbath repercussions. Problem solved, right? Only if the man’s healing was the only thing that needed to be done. But Jesus wanted to make a point. Jesus wanted a public tie between He & the miracle, because that would be a broader witness that not only is He the Christ, but that He has authority over the Sabbath as God. After all, God wouldn’t do anything to break His own law. God values His word far more than we do – even more than the most legalistic of Pharisees. There is not a person in history who values the law of God more than the Lord God Himself. So if God blessed a miracle in the synagogue on a Sabbath, it meant that God blessed the worker of that miracle, including His earlier teachings. A public miracle would not only be a public rebuke of the manipulations of the Pharisees, but it would be a public testimony to Jesus’ identity as the Son of Man, the Lord of the Sabbath.
9 Then Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one thing: Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy?”
- Talk about “lawful”! The Pharisees were not interested in what was lawful / permitted. They did not search out what was truly good in the eyes of God. If they had, they would have recognized & received Jesus! If they had, they certainly would not have been using this disabled man as bait. The state of the hearts of the scribes and Pharisees was demonstrating evil. They weren’t even honoring the heart of the Sabbath law themselves. Instead of resting in the goodness of God & His provision, they were busy conspiring against God’s Messiah. They were hypocrites, pure and simple.
- How easy it is to fall into the trap of hypocrisy! Instead of looking at how we ourselves might be dishonoring the Lord, we busy ourselves with looking at how everyone else dishonors Him. Thus in addition to all the other sin we’ve already committed, we engage in even more when we unjustly judge our brother or sister. Jesus will soon address the sin of hypocrisy later in Ch. 6 in the sermon on the plain: Luke 6:41–42, "(41) And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? (42) Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye." Even if the other person is engaged in sin, it’s difficult for us to point it out in their lives when we’ve got sin of our own staring us in the face.
- What happens when we unjustly judge one another? We stand in the place of God in their lives. We set ourselves up as their authority, demanding that they answer to us. We need to remember that they already have a Master, and we’re not it. It is to their own Master that they stand or fall, just like it is with us (Rom 14:4). Life becomes a lot less complicated for us when we remember that we are not anyone else’s Holy Spirit. We don’t have the right to be their conscience, and we certainly have enough issues of our own that need to be addressed.
- Does this mean that we do or say nothing when we see Christians heading into sin? Of course not. We are supposed to come alongside on another, love them, and help them bear their burdens (Gal 6:1). But we do so humbly. We remember that we are no better than they, and that we can be tempted just as easily. We don’t impose ourselves upon them, nor do we burden them with legalism or guilt them over non-essential issues.
- The scribes and Pharisees were doing just that, and worse. They weren’t trying to hold Jesus to the law – they were trying to hold Jesus to their tradition. In the process, they violated the law themselves when they did not love their neighbor. They would have rather seen the man remain in his suffering, than to see him healed in the moment. They would rather see Jesus ignore a man’s need, than see Him address it in the power and love of God. And Jesus called them on it, by putting the situation in stark terms. They had the choice on this Sabbath to either do good or do evil – they had the choice to either save life or destroy it. Certainly the man’s life was not in danger, not at least in the next 24 hours, but Jesus is making a broader point. Omitting good works we know to do is just as evil as committing evil works we know not to do. People sin just as much through omission, as we do through commission. It’s one thing to be ignorant about a need; it’s another thing to stare it right in the face & walk away. In fact, the scribes & Pharisees went even further in this when they knew a need, not only choosing not to ask God for help, but dared Jesus not to make a move either. Their motives were downright evil.
10 And when He had looked around at them all, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.
- The hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees was not about to stop Jesus from working. Boldly telling the man to “stretch out [his] hand,” Jesus was already proclaiming the man healed. After all, the one thing that someone with a withered, shrunken hand cannot do, is to stretch it out. Yet at the command of Jesus, he could. What was impossible because possible at the will and word of Jesus.
- Immediately, the man’s hand was “restored.” No partial healing – no gimmicks. When Jesus proclaimed the man’s healing, he was truly healed. But notice that he still had to believe. The man still needed to have faith. How else would he stretch out his hand? Think for a moment how other people might have reacted: “What do You mean, stretch it out? I can’t do that!” “First the Pharisees try to use me, and now You too. I’m done!” We don’t know what was going on in the mind of the man, but it surely wasn’t that. Instead, he responded to Jesus in faith, attempting to do what he would never have been able to do otherwise. And he found that he was healed! If he hadn’t responded, he would have seen nothing. If he had not acted upon the seemingly impossible command, it’s quite possible that he never would have experienced the healing at all. Jesus made the miracle available to him; he needed to act upon it in faith.
- The same principle is at work in regard to salvation. The miracle of eternal forgiveness, the new birth of the Spirit, etc., is freely made available to the entire world – but we need to act upon it in faith in order to receive it. God commands us to do something impossible: to turn away from our sins in repentance & be saved – something we cannot do without the enabling of the Lord Jesus. But that enabling is available to us if we respond in faith. So respond! Our healing is available, but we will not experience it unless we stretch out in faith. God makes His forgiveness available to all through Jesus, but only those who respond to Jesus receive it. Have you responded? Do you believe? You can.
- Beyond the issue of salvation, when Jesus tells you to do something, do it! It may seem impossible, but we can trust God to give us what we need at the time we need it. This man didn’t likely have the strength to stretch out his hand until we actually do it – we likely find the same thing to be true regarding many of the commands of God in our lives. We don’t think we have the ability to share the gospel with someone until we actually open our mouths to do so. We don’t think we’ve got the fortitude to forgive someone for their sins against us until we do it. What God commands, God enables. When He calls us to something, we can be sure He’ll give us what we need to accomplish it.
- Scripture doesn’t tell us the reaction of the man (though surely he was overjoyed) – but it does tell us the reaction of the Pharisees. Vs. 11…
11 But they were filled with rage, and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.
- “Rage.” They weren’t filled with wonder at the miracle – they had no joy for the man – they weren’t even merely shocked at the response of Jesus. Instead, they were angry, “they were filled with rage.” They were furious at how Jesus had outmaneuvered them, and how their hypocrisy & lawlessness was plainly exposed. They would have wanted to claim fury over how the Sabbath law had been broken, but it hadn’t; Jesus made that perfectly clear. Jesus had not done any evil upon the Sabbath day, but they had…and it was painfully obvious to all.
- You can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she respond to the work of God. Even Paul could rejoice when the gospel was preached by men with evil motives, because at least the gospel was being preached (Phil 1:15-18). If a person cannot rejoice in the good things God is doing (even through people he/she might not otherwise like), it needs to be questioned if he/she even recognizes the work of God at all. Christians ought to be able to see the handiwork of our heavenly Father, and we should praise Him for it.
- As for the Pharisees, they didn’t even have a legitimate reason to oppose Jesus, but they did. In their eyes, nothing that He did was good, and thus He had to be stopped at all costs. But how? So began the conspiracy that led to the cross. It is only the 6th chapter of the gospel of Luke, the ministry barely begun, and already the Pharisees plot His death. And just like this failed sting operation, they would get more than they bargained for when they sought to destroy Him. Jesus would certainly go to the cross, but He would also rise from the grave! He would give the ultimate proof that the Son of Man is the Lord of the Universe, and that all who find their rest in Him would be saved.
The Lord of the Sabbath offers the true Sabbath of God: salvation. We have far more than withered hands; we have withered souls. We are dead in our sin, unable to do anything for our eternity – hopeless to work our way out of our mess. Jesus offers healing – Jesus offers rest. Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath, which means He is the Lord of our salvation. He is the Lord God Himself. When we respond to Him in faith, we experience the true rest that He offers to us when we freely receive His grace & gift of eternal life.
The scribes and Pharisees weren’t resting – they were working as hard as possible to deny the evidence in front of them and discredit Jesus. It wasn’t working. Not only was Jesus proven innocent, He continued to claim His deity & demonstrate the power to back up His claims. He truly is the Lord of the Sabbath, having authority over it, because He is Lord of all the earth.
Maybe you’ve been in the position of the Pharisees, struggling hard to push Jesus away, engaging in hypocrisy in a futile attempt to prove yourself right over God. Stop the struggling. As Jesus said to Paul, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads,” (Acts 9:5). God has revealed Himself to you in the person of Jesus Christ, and it is time for you to respond to Him in faith. You’ve fought against God for too long. Stop fighting, and receive the grace that He has always offered.
Maybe you’ve been in the position of the man with the withered hand, kicked around & used by the world. Know this: Jesus sees your pain, and He hasn’t forgotten about you. He loves you, and offers you the healing you need. Receive it! Stretch out to Him in faith, and believe Him for His promises. Believe Him to be who He is: God in the flesh – receive Him as Lord.
For those of us who are already believers, may we be mindful to rest in Jesus. Our natural tendency is to work. We want to prove ourselves good in God’s eyes – we want to know that we’ve earned our place in heaven. We want to assure ourselves of what awaits us in eternity. We can’t. All that does is to take our eyes and trust off of Jesus, placing it onto ourselves. That’s not the gospel. The gospel tells us we rest in the Lord of the Sabbath. Find your rest in Him.