Confrontation With Tradition

Chapter 6 of Luke contains a couple of the most misapplied and often misunderstood passages in the New Testament. The first comes in verses 1-5, where on a Sabbath, Jesus and his disciples were going through a field, and the disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain. Deuteronomy 23:25 clearly states specifically that this practice is allowed. But the Pharisees had made their own rules up concerning even the smallest of matters; and they had decided that the act of doing this fell into the category of “work,” which was forbidden on the Sabbath.

Jesus' disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain in a grainfield, but were chastized by the Pharisees for doing this on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5)

Jesus’ disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain in a grainfield, but were chastized by the Pharisees for doing this on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5)

When they confront Jesus, asking why his disciples do what is “unlawful” on the Sabbath, Jesus gives an answer, apparently without denying (at least in the Scripture) any wrong-doing. In His answer, He points them to how David and his men ate the “bread of the Presence” which was unlawful for any but the priests to eat (1 Samuel 21:1-6). The argument by critics and skeptics alike, is that here Jesus endorses “situation ethics.” This is the notion that there is no absolute right or wrong where human needs are concerned – that David and his men were guiltless because of David’s supposed authority and/or the situation that they are in.

This idea is just plain wrong. To begin with, Jesus stated plainly in verse 4 that what David did “is not lawful for any but the priests.” What Jesus did by bringing this up was to point out that David, whom they revered (and whom they would not dare to condemn) had indeed broken the law. Jesus’ disciples were guiltless of breaking any Mosaic law – only the man-made regulations that the Pharisees had imposed on top of, and without authority from, God’s law. Yet they were condemning His disciples. The Pharisees had appointed themselves as “rulers” of the Sabbath, but Jesus pointed out that it was He who was “lord of the Sabbath.”  In the Gospel of Luke, this is the beginning of the more disagreeable encounters with the Pharisees that was sure to make them angry with Jesus.

Verse 6 begins another encounter with the Pharisees that would serve to fan those flames. On another Sabbath, Jesus was teaching in the synagogue. A man was there with a withered hand, and the Pharisees and scribes were watching to see if Jesus would heal Him – so that they could “accuse Him” for working on the Sabbath, thereby violating Mosaic law. It is remarkable that these men could know that Jesus had the power to heal something as definitive as a physical deformity, yet not believe in Him as the Messiah. We can only surmise that they had no desire to believe, but instead wanted to make others believe his power was from evil.

Jesus, of course, knew their thoughts, and he invited the confrontation by telling the man to come to Him. Then, he looked at the group of Pharisees and asked “is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?” No answer to this question was recorded, so we can assume they gave none. But when he healed the man’s deformity, their anger was certainly kindled, as verse 11 states that they “discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.”

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Luke here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 1 Chronicles here

/Bob’s boy
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at  

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