Stories with Luke Week 8:
"Lord of the Sabbath"
Pastor Terry Inman
Last week Luke introduced us to the Pharisees and the Religious lawyers. They were investigating this teacher miracle worker Jesus of Nazareth.
To be kind most of them were just trying to keep their religion pure and true to the law, as they knew it. Some were religious politicians protecting their power and positions. Jesus did not fit their profile for the Messiah.
The fact that his ministry took root with Galilean farmers and fishermen was controversial. They lacked of strict attention to the Mosaic Law. A cornerstone of Judaism is keeping Sabbath or as they call it “Shabbat”.
The word "Shabbat" means to cease, to end, or to rest. The Sabbath is based on God’s seventh day of rest from the work of creation in Genesis. It also is one the Ten Commandments.
Jewish families celebrate it by ceasing from work and enjoying special food and family time together. It begins with candle lighting before sunset on Friday and ends at sunset on Saturday. There are typically readings, prayers, songs and poems along with worship in the synagogue.
Typical of religion, what was a very good practice became quite legalistic. The Talmud an extensive commentary on the Law identifies thirty-nine categories of work that are forbidden on the Sabbath.
Forbidden work included anything to do with bread making from planting growing, harvesting, and baking. Anything to do with making garments from shearing sheep, dying fabrics, or sewing was forbidden. Leatherwork of any kind was forbidden—work including hunting and skinning animals. Anything to do with building or moving even lighting a fire was work.
The Pharisees were the interpreters and enforcers of these Sabbath laws.
When we were in Israel we discovered Sabbath elevators in our hotel. They stop on every floor so the orthodox don’t have to push any buttons.
As I mentioned a day of rest, spiritual reflection and family recreation is good thing. In fact it’s a commandment. We need to revisit this practice.
I was brought up the idea that Sunday was a day of worship and rest. Most stores were closed. There were no organized sports or other school activities to compete with the Lord’s Day. We took afternoon naps.
On our recent tour in Israel, on Friday night, families filled the dinning room in our Hotel overlooking the Sea of Galilee. It is a popular place to come for Shabbat. They dressed up. They sang and children danced. It was festive. It is kind of like thanksgiving every weekend.
Luke begins this week’s story with more controversy involving Jesus and his disciples and their violations of these more stringent Sabbath laws.
One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, 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?” (Luke 6.1-2 NIV)
Gleaning by hand in the field was legal as long as you didn’t use a tool.
“If you enter your neighbor’s grain field, you may pick kernels with your hands, but you must not put a sickle to his standing grain. (Deut. 23.25)
What got the disciples in hot water was rubbing the grain together in their hands. The Pharisees considered this threshing. That was outlawed labor!
Jesus answered their objections with a higher moral law. “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.” (Luke 6.3-5 NIV)
In 1 Samuel 21 David and his men were on the King’s secret mission. They entered the Temple. Dave asked the Priest Ahimelech if he had any bread for his men to eat. He was all out except for the consecrated bread on the altar. Ahimelech said, “eat it as long as you are ceremonially clean”.
It reminds me of when we were kids we used to go up after church and snack on left over communion crackers. I’m sure some people were offended. The crackers weren’t holy just the little consumers.
We get very religious about things, like crosses, icons, traditions, and other religious stuff. Jesus chided the Pharisees for this.“Your teachings are merely human rules. You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions."
(Mark 7.7-8 NIV)
Here Jesus reminds these religious leaders that meeting a human need is more important that observing a ceremonial ritual. He is not saying He is above the law—He is the law! He came as a fulfillment of the law.
He is the co-creator of heaven and earth. He introduced the Sabbath in the first place. He is not subject to the Sabbath the Sabbath is subject to him. “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
Some people think that we have to worship God in certain forms, times and places, but we don’t worship church, we worship Jesus. We do need to come together, but it needs to be for spiritual encouragement and equipping not just for maintaining our religious rituals and traditions.
Speaking of the Lord of the Sabbath. How do you find time for rest relationships and spiritual refreshing? Don’t just relegate it to attending Sunday morning service. Make sure you cease from your labor.
Americans are overworked. 85.8 %of men and 66.5 % of women work more than 40 hours a week. “Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers. We are paying a high price for our standard of living.
Weekend recreation and entertainment can leave you more exhausted than work. Let’s evaluate our lives. Are we keeping the spirit of the Sabbath? Right after telling us not to worship other Gods or idols, and keeping his name holy, God commands us to keep the Sabbath holy!
Keeping It Holy isn’t practicing a bunch of religious rules and regulations, it’s honoring Him and his creation by resting and reflecting just like he did.
God even told them to give the land a rest every seven years!
We can learn something from the practicing Jewish community that takes 24 hours off for worship, family celebration, rest and recreation. Don’t get hung up on what day it is, just make it happen. Paul said, “One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord.” (Rom. 14.5 NIV) Jesus is not just the Lord of one day, He is the Lord of our everyday!
This contention about Sabbath practices gets even hotter with Luke’s next episode. By now the Pharisees and their lawyers were looking for offences that they could charge Jesus with. Many of Jesus healings were done on the Sabbath—they considered it work. It was doing God’s work!
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. (Luke 6.6-7 NIV)
Jesus didn’t disappoint them. He deeply cared about the man and was also willing to take a huge risk to make a very in your face point.
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?” (Luke 6.8-9 NIV)
I was lawful to save a life on the Sabbath. Jesus is saving this man’s spiritual and vocational life. He restored his ability to make a living.
Again Jesus knows what they are thinking. He outwits them at their own game. He internationally stands the man in front of everyone like it’s a trial. Then he asked them for an interpretation of the law. Again this is an issue of human need versus ceremonial law.
Jesus implies in his double question that if any illness is left unattended when healing can be provided, evil is done by default. Jesus is not breaking the Sabbath; he is using it to do good to a human being in need.
Now this wasn’t necessarily and emergency the healing could have waited another day. Jesus is again making a point. The Sabbath is more about honoring God by offering forgiveness, and healing than it is keeping rules.
Luke mentions it was the man’s “right” hand that was shriveled up.
This deformity would cause him great embarrassment. It would also impact his ability to work. This is a mercy healing!
Acts of mercy are a priority over religious performance. “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6.8 NIV)
Mark’s version of this story says Jesus got really mad. “He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." (Mark 3.5 NIV)
Luke focuses on the provoked Pharisees. “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 they were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus. (Luke 6.10 -11NIV)
A disabled man is forgiven and healed. The Pharisees are now the ones bent out of shape. They had atrophied hearts!
People are upset about politics right now and Christians seem to be right in the middle of it all. The best thing we could do is get mad and start showing radical mercy! This is constructive anger! Get mad and heal!
Opposition has now solidified. The religious authorities are now plotting to get rid of this threat to their power. Jesus now takes the time to select twelve followers that He would mold into Apostles.
One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated, apostles: (Luke 6.12-13 NIV)
Jesus had a lot to pray about—His mission and the building storm. Whom would he invest in life in? Who would carry on his mission? We have a hard time praying five minutes let alone all night long. Prayer, dialogue with His Father, was integral to His ministry. It is critical to ours also!
This is the first time the disciples are called Apostles. It’s more than “sent ones”. Apostolos was a maritime term. The Apostolos was the lead ship in an armada.
There is a scene in the movie “Master and Commander” were captain Jack Aubrey says, “England is under threat of invasion, and though we be on the far side of the world, this ship is our home. This ship, is England.”
Apostles are commissioned (ambassadors) of Christ. They have His Kingdom authority. That’s why after a very little time of training they were out healing the sick and casting out demons in the Name of Jesus.
There were many followers but these are the twelve Jesus authorized as his first Apostles. Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. (Luke 6.14-16 NIV)
This was kind of like the dirty dozen. Jesus cleaned them up. They were by no means spiritual heroes. One of them defected and collaborated with the enemy. Peter repudiated any relationship with Jesus to avoid arrest. They were full of questions and arguments about who was greater. But in the end they lived up to their calling. They took the gospel to the world.
Jesus says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit--fruit that will last—
and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.”
(John 15.16 NIV)
When he authorizes us He also us resources us! He gives us what we need to fulfill his purposes. We just think we chose Jesus. The truth us we he picked us before we consented to follow. We may not feel worthy but we are His chosen ones. He has a purpose in his kingdom for each one us!
Paul chosen later as an Apostle says, “Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of “the brightest and the best” among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses—chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”? (1Cor. 1.26-29 MSG)
Pharisees maintain their power and influence with religious rites and rules.
Followers of Jesus are given His power and influence to change the world!