Luke 6:1-16

 A New Vision (2) – Sabbath Restored

Luke 6:1-5  -  Jesus is Questioned about Sabbath

1 One Sabbath he was walking through a crop,
and his disciples were plucking and eating the ears of corn
as they rubbed their in their hands. 
2 Some of the Pharisees said to him,
“Why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
3 In reply to them, Jesus said,
“Are you unaware of what David did
when he and those with him were hungry?
4 how he entered the house of God,
and took and ate and also gave to those with him
the dedicated loaves
which it is lawful for the priests alone to eat?”
5 He then said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath!”

Jesus engaged with the Pharisees on a further matter of great importance to them – the external observance of the Sabbath. Jesus defended the disciples’ thoughtlessness by indicating from the Hebrew Scriptures that there were precedents for not always meticulously observing laws. Greater values overrode them. The disciples were hardly eating because of hunger (as was the case with David and his men); but the point was made.

Jesus’ claim that the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath was not intended to lessen the meaning of the Sabbath but to reclaim its meaning. Originally the Sabbath celebrated God’s providential care for his people and his concern to free them from the slavery of ceaseless labour. Jesus was concerned that over-emphasis on regulations was turning a celebration of freedom into an experience of burden. 


Facilitating Wholeness (4) – Sabbath Exemplified 

Luke 6:6-11  -  Jesus Heals a Man’s Withered Hand

6 On another Sabbath he entered a synagogue
and was teaching.
There was a man there with a withered right hand.
7 The scribes and Pharisees were carefully observing
if he would heal on the Sabbath,
so that they could find something to accuse him of.
8 He knew what they were thinking;
so he said to the man with the withered hand,
“Get up and stand out in the middle.”
He got up and stood there.
9 Jesus then said to them,
“I ask you, Is it lawful to do good to someone on the Sabbath
or to do evil?
to preserve life, or to destroy it?”
10 He looked around at them all,
and then said to the man,
“Stretch out your hand.”
He did so, and his hand was restored. 
11 They were filled with rage
and discussed among themselves what to do with Jesus.

Unlike Mark, Luke did not mention Jesus’ reaction of anger at the closed minds of the scribes present. But his action was just as provocative. Luke was generally concerned to indicate Jesus’ deliberate response to situations, rather than his spontaneous emotional reaction.

The incident served to tease out further Jesus’ concern for life and for freedom, as well as to highlight the inability of the scribes to think creatively.

The mindset of the Pharisees was not of historical interest to Luke. Their attitudes were significant because they reflected the tendency of people generally, including the members of his own community, 

  • to be closed to those they judged inferior, 
  • to prioritise external actions over inner meanings, 
  • to be reluctant to move on from the familiar and the comfortable to follow their conscience. 

The God of Jesus was a liberating, inclusive and merciful God. Disciples had to discover the consequences of believing in such a God.


Shaping the Renewed Community (3) – Cooperation not Domination

Luke 6:12-16  -  Jesus Chooses Twelve Apostles

12 Around that time, he went out to the hills to pray,
and spent the whole night in prayer to God. 
13 When day came, he called his disciples to him,
and from them he chose twelve whom he called apostles,
14 Simon whom he named Peter, Andrew his brother,
James and John and Philip and Bartholomew,
15 and Matthew and Thomas,
and James son of Alphaeus, Simon called the Zealot,
16 and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became his betrayer.

An apostle was one especially commissioned and sent out. Luke retained the special selection of the twelve apostles, even though they were not sent out immediately. It was important, however, that, before he began to teach at greater depth, they be clearly commissioned so that they might better be prepared to take on their later mission. Jesus was reshaping the very basis of the socio-religious world of his time. In order to survive, his disciples needed a strong support network.

Though Mark had not mentioned Jesus’ spending the night in prayer, Luke found it valuable to emphasise once again Jesus’ habit of praying, particularly before significant moments in his ministry.

(Thaddaeus in Mark’s Gospel had become Judas son of James in Luke’s; and Simon, identified by Mark as a Cananean, was more clearly called a Zealot by Luke. Most of the apostles seemed to merge into the background in the early years of the Church’s life.)

Next >> Luke 6:17-26