Luke 6: Jesus As Lord And Teacher.
Luke 6:1-5 Lord Of The Sabbath.
Sabbatarians have long argued that Jesus was simply refuting the perversions of the fourth commandment, and not the abrogation or modification on the laws pertaining to it. It is ironic that those who are opposed to theonomy are very scrupulous at seeking the enforcement of all the old testament legislation pertaining to the Sabbath. One can at least say that many of the puritans were more consistent, as they saw the continuing applicability of the civil application of all of God’s law. The law prohibited one from taking a sickle to a neighbor’s grainfield, for this was considered stealing, but it was permitted for one to take what they needed as food for the day (Dt. 23:24-25). But this law does not deal specifically with the Sabbath.
If one looks at the gathering of manna, it was clear that the people were to collect enough on the day before the Sabbath to cover for the Sabbath (Ex. 16:22-30). This would seem to suggest that there is indeed an exception here. However, is the activity of the disciples the same? Surely they could have “gathered” grain the day before to have for the Sabbath. It seems to me that Jesus was arguing for exceptions, and it became an occasion for Him to demonstrate His deity, that He, as the original author of the law (Ex. 20:10), was in fact arguing for an exception for works of mercy and necessity. Matthew highlighted the point that Jesus was arguing for mercy as being greater than sacrifice (Cf. Mt. 12:1-8).
Jesus reference to David and the showbread highlighted an exception from the old testament itself. In fact, it was the showbread, “which had been taken from before the LORD, in order to put hot bread in its place on the day when it was taken away.” (I Sam. 21:6) So one can say that it served its original purpose. It was placed there on the Sabbath and then consumed by the priests. However, it was also the case that an “outsider” was not to eat this showbread, or anything else given as an offering (Ex. 29:32-33; Lev. 24:5-9). It would in fact seem that Jesus was acknowledging that what His disciples did was outside the norm, just as David was. For many this becomes an argument for works of mercy, as well as necessity.
It does seem clear that there is an exception here from what occurred during the manna experience. If this is the case, then we can say that Jesus was arguing for a principle that was active in the old testament itself, that there were exceptions for works of mercy and necessity. There was no necessity for anyone to gather manna on the Sabbath, because the LORD had committed to provide everyone with this miracle provision with double the amount on the day before the Sabbath, but this miracle situation is not the norm either. However, what this means for the church today is not clear. Some would argue that this allows one to eat what they can find on the Lord’s Day.
Some will go to a restaurant on Sunday and some will not. Those who do not argue that it is making others work on the Sabbath. Those who do argue that if one is traveling there may not be the ability or provision to prepare food for oneself. Those opposed will argue that enough could be bought the day before. What if one travels on Sunday and needs fuel. Others would argue that the fuel could be got the day before. What if one’s car breaks down going to church. Must one wait till Monday, when they need their car for work? How will they get home? The Sabbath or Lord’s Day, seems more than any other area, to challenge the church’s understanding of liberty of conscience.
Luke 6:6-11 Do Good.
If the previous verses (1-5) support the idea of works of necessity on the Sabbath, these verses would seem to support the idea of works of mercy (Cf. Lk. 13:14; 14:1-6). The scribes and the Pharisees were opposed to Jesus healing on the Sabbath, but clearly the prohibition against work did not preclude this (Cf. Mk. 3:1-6). Some laws took precedence in certain cases over others (Cf. Jn. 7:23). It became an occasion for Jesus to state a principle which must guide our discussions and behavior on this issue. Jesus asked a rhetorical question. “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy?” (v. 9)
Not only did Jesus justify His work, but He also made a judgment about the failure to act on the part of those opposed. “Jesus presents a choice between doing good and doing evil on the Sabbath, not between doing good and doing nothing. He saw the failure to do good as in itself evil.” (NGSB, p. 1613) They were no doubt waiting for Him to act so that they would have their “proof”. Rather than being thankful to God for the man’s healing, “they were filled with rage, and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.” (v. 11) So very early on in Jesus’ ministry, the battle lines were drawn.
Luke 6:12-16 The Selection Of The Twelve. Prayer, And Being Sent.
On this occasion Jesus had to get away from the crowds and so went up to a mountain to pray (v. 12 Cf. Mt. 14:23; Mk. 5:16; 9:18; 11:1). He would also pray early in the morning, no doubt for the same reason (Cf. Mk. 1:35). On this occasion it no doubt had to do with the selection of the twelve which was to follow. In any case, Jesus does leave us an example, though few of us will stay up a whole night to pray. However, this was an important occasion. Clearly Jesus wanted to enlist the twelve in the building of His church and the extension of His cause and kingdom.
It was very important that He Himself select these men to work with Him while He still ministered among them. These were the ones He chose, including Judas who would betray him (cf. 22:3-6; Jn. 6:70). He also called them apostles, since they were also sent out to do His work (Cf. Jn. 20:21). Even so, though we are not apostles as such, we to are also sent by Him to continue this work, as His ambassadors, to speak His word and do kingdom work. To this end, it is very important that we also take the time to pray and seek His help.
Luke 6:17-19 The Power Of Jesus.
There is always this connection between Jesus meeting with His disciples and then going out to minister to the multitudes. The disciples, and especially the twelve, always held a special place, and they participated with Him in that work. People came from all over to be healed of their various diseases (v. 17), “as well as those who were tormented with unclean spirits. And they were healed.” (v. 18) Jesus reigns victorious over both the physical and the spiritual worlds, to which the scriptures bear witness (Cf. Mt. 4:23-25; Mk. 3:7-12). The testimony is clear, this power came from Jesus (v. 19 Cf. Mt. 9:21; 14:36; Mk. 3:10; 5:27-30; Lk. 8:44-47).
Luke 6:20-23 The Beatitudes.
Jesus sets up a contrast between temporary life on earth and the life we will enjoy in heaven. One may suffer now, but ultimately our reward is in heaven. This is cause for joy and rejoicing! Suffering lasts but for a moment, blessing is eternal. It is also important to note that Jesus is specifically addressing His disciples, and He draws a parallel with the prophets of old (v. 23 Cf. v. 26; Mt. 5:12). The poor are ultimately the spiritually poor, who had the gospel preached to them (Mt. 11:5 Cf. Mt. 5:3-12). Jesus didn’t say, “Blessed are the poor, I will increase taxation through Caesar and elevate you to the middle class.” Having the gospel preached to them was worth far more than this, with the promise of kingdom life (Cf. Js. 2:5). The same holds for those who hunger now, and those who weep now (v. 21). The hungry shall be filled (v. 21a Cf. Mt. 5:6; Rev. 7:16-17).
The point is that this is a salvation which does not require one to be rich materially, for it cannot be bought (Cf. Is. 55:1; 65:13). Those who think they can buy it, or otherwise earn it, are the truly poor ones. Those who are confident in themselves, will ultimately be those who weep in the end (Cf. Is. 65:14). But those who weep now will ultimately laugh with joy (v. 21b Cf. Ps. 126:5). One does not wish to be hated, but it will happen for those who are faithful to the Lord (v. 22). However, we are also promised a blessing with this as well (Cf. Mt. 5:11; I Pet. 3:14; 4:14). In all this we have joy and rejoicing knowing that great is our reward in heaven (v. 23 Cf. Mt. 5:12). But we can also rejoice in this life, knowing that we have been “counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” (Acts 5:41 Cf. Col. 1:24). There is also joy when the testing of our faith produces in us patience (Cf. Js. 1:2).
Luke 6:24-26 The Woes.
It is missed by many that blessing (vv. 20-23), and woe (vv. 24-26) are covenantal themes that continue into the new covenant era (Cf. Dt. 28). As with the beatitudes, Jesus also draws a parallel with the prophets and the fathers when he here teaches about the woes. Everyone remembers the beatitudes, and whole books have been written on them. However, the woes are equally important to remember. The woes speak to those who have all their confidence in themselves and what they have achieved. These are the rich, which includes materially, who have not been rich in helping others (Js. 5:1-6; Lk. 16:19-23). But it also includes those rich in the blessings of visible membership in the covenant community (v. 24 Cf. Lk. 12:21; 16:24-31). There are those who do not recognize their hunger, their lack of anything worthy of justification in the sight of God. There are those who have never wept or mourned over their sinful condition (v. 25 Cf. Is. 65:13; Js. 4:9). There are those who others speak well of, but God sees their hearts, and they are lost (Cf. Mt. 6:2, 5, 16). They even exist in church leadership, like the false prophets of old, they speak what people want to hear and are therefore highly praised and sought after (Cf. Amos 6:1; I Jn. 4:5). These will experience eternal woe. Eternal election marks the great divide (Cf. Jn. 15:19).