Study Notes: Luke 6:1-26
There are times when we find there are too many unneccessary rules. Other times, there aren't enough necessary rules. Case in point: Pelonomi Hospital in South Africa didn't have enough necessary rules. According to a spokeswoman for the hospital in Free State, "For several months, our nurses have been baffled to find a dead patient in the same bed every Friday morning. There was no apparent cause for any of the deaths, and extensive checks on the air conditioning system, and a search for possible bacterial infection, failed to reveal any clues. However, further inquiries have now revealed the cause of these deaths."
It seems that every Friday morning, a maintenance worker would enter the ward, remove the plug that powered the patient's life support system, plug her floor polisher into the vacant socket, then go about her business. When she had finished her chores, she would plug the life support maching back in and leave, unaware that the patient was now dead."
The headline of this newspaper article was, "Cleaner Polishes Off Patients". Okay, they were lacking some necessary rules. Today, we'll see Jesus go head-to-head with some of the "unneccessary" kind.
6:1-5 Questions about the Sabbath
We talked last week about the Pharisee's accusation that the disciples of Jesus didn't fast. In addition to Jesus' explanation, my guess is that they probably didn't need to: they barely had time to eat at all! Mark 6 tells us that:
Mark 6:31 ...There were many people coming and going, and (the disciples) did not even have time to eat.
So they're walking through this grain field, and they're hungry. Why not grab a bite along the way, right? They were certainly well within the Law of God. Deut 23:25 says:
Deut. 23:25 "When you enter your neighbor's standing grain, then you may pluck the heads with your hand, but you shall not wield a sickle in your neighbor's standing grain."
So the law is basically saying, grab a bite to eat, but don't bring a machete and a wheelbarrow! But there is another law at work here - the law of the Sabbath. It was Saturday. And the Lord had commanded:
Exod. 20:10 ...The seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work...
Seems straightforward enough. But the Jews needed to know exactly what the Lord meant by "work". So the teachers of the Law came up with 39 prohibitions - things that constituted work. And around these 39 came even more and more detailed explanations and prohibitions. So, according to the Jews' oral law, picking heads of grain constituted "reaping." And rubbing them in their hands constituted "threshing".
They took this oral law very seriously. In 1492, when the Jews were expelled from Spain, they were forbidden to enter the city of Fez for fear that they would cause a famine. There was no food for them anywhere - they were forced to live on grass. But in fear of violating the Sabbath, instead of plucking the grass with their hands, every Saturday they got down on their hands and knees and cropped it with their teeth. Did God intend this when He gave man the Sabbath?
We need a little history to understand Jesus' response to the Pharisee's accusation. In the temple, there was a table which had 12 loaves of bread on it. This bread was a constant reminder of the provision of God. And every day the priests would replace it with fresh, warm bread. According to Leviticus 24, the day-old bread was only to be eaten by the priests.
But in 1Sam 21, David was on the run from Saul. He and his men were tired, hungry. They went to see Ahimelech the priest. "What do you have to eat around here, Ahimelech? We're hungry!" "Sorry David, all we have is the day-old consecrated bread." David says, "Great! we'll eat that!" And even though it was against the rules, it was okay with God.
Do you think that God cares more about rules and regulations than He does relationship? The Pharisees thought He did. But Jesus is saying that's not right. God made the Sabbath for us to have a day of rest, not as another religious burden to bear, not as a day to starve because we not allowed to pick some granola. Jesus said in Mark 2:
Mark 2:27 ..."The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath."
God is a God not of religion, rules, and regulations, but relationship.
6:6-11 The man with the withered hand
Another Sabbath, another controversy about the Sabbath. Remember the extremes they went to to define "work". In the oral law, it was written that, on the Sabbath, you could spit on a rock, but you were not allowed to spit in the dirt, for in doing so, you were making mud which is mortar, which could be used for construction. You were also not allowed to take a bath on the Sabbath, for while you were in the bathtub, water might spill out. And that would be washing the floor!
They also interpreted healing a sick or wounded person as work. It was prohibited to heal someone unless you were sure they would die before sundown. Again, Jesus makes the point that God cares more about men than rules. Jesus says,
Luke 6:9 "...Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good, or to do harm; to save a life, or to destroy it?"
In other words, "I desire to help this man, you desire to harm me."
6:12-16 Praying and choosing
Jesus spent the whole night in prayer before choosing the guys that would assist Him in His ministry. I like that. Today, many churches choose deacons, elders, and pastors by democratic elections. Democracy works on the concept of "majority rule". A person is chosen whom the majority of the people want. And that's fine for choosing a Senator or a Prom King. But in the church, we shouldn't care who's the most popular. We should want who the Lord wants. The Lord rarely picks the most popular person, the most reasonable choice. That's because He's got better insight than we do.
1Sam. 16:7 ...For God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."
In Calvary Chapels' church government, leadership is not chosen by democratic election, but appointed by the pastor. And the pastor's decision is based on two things: 1) the qualifications listed in Acts, 1Timothy, and Titus. And 2) Much prayer and fasting. In the book of Acts,
Acts 13:2-3 ...The Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them (out)."
They fasted and prayed about the choice of Saul and Barnabas. But they also took along Barnabas' nephew John Mark on this missionary trip. No fasting, no praying. And wouldn't you know it? John Mark freaks out, bails out, and cops out. He goes back home, causing arguments and ultimately, division. A person can look so qualified, but unless the Lord is the one making the decisions, odds are it's going to turn out badly. The Lord spent the whole night in prayer before choosing the guys that would assist Him in His ministry - that's our example.
6:17-19 The gathering and the power
Notice the power was coming from Him and healing them all. We talked in detail when we covered Luke 4:14 that Jesus' power was not as God, but as a man walking in the power of the Spirit. He had laid aside His glory when He came to earth, having been made "for a little while lower than the angels". To walk in the power of the Spirit is to be born of the Spirit, filled with the Spirit, and led by the Spirit. For a more complete examination of that, pick up the tape on Luke 4:14.
Now we come to the most famous Sermon Jesus ever preached. Luke gives us only an abbreviated version of it, while Matthew presents it in its entirety.
6:20-26 The Sermon
Notice that this sermon was directed to his disciples in the hearing of the multitudes. Talk about being accountable! Today, we're in the same boat. The world knows in their hearts what a Christian should be like. Jesus has told us in the hearing of the world what to do, and how to act, that we will be known. John wrote:
1John 2:3 And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.
Jesus is speaking this to us, and the world's watching.
Blessed are you who are poor
While the Bible has much to say about the corruption that riches can bring, we know from the gospel of Matthew that Jesus is not talking about being financially poor, but being poor in spirit. Matthew 5:3 quotes Him as saying:
Matt. 5:3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
What does it mean to be "poor in spirit"? It is to realize "that I have nothing, am nothing, and can do nothing, and have need of all things. Poverty of spirit is a consciousness of my emptiness... It issues from the painful discovery that all my righteousnesses are as filthy rags. It follows the awakening that my best performances are unacceptable." (Pink)
Why is theirs the kingdom of heaven? Because when a man realizes it is impossible to be perfect before God, he will appeal to the mercy and grace of God. And the Lord has said:
Deut. 4:29 "...From there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul."
In Luke 18, Jesus told a parable of two men: one who was rich in spirit, and one who was poor in spirit:
Luke 18:10-14 "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee, and the other a tax-gatherer. The Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself, 'God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer. 'I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.' But the tax-gatherer, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other."
The kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are poor in Spirit.
Blessed are you who hunger
Does this mean to be physically hungry? Although we looked a bit at the blessings of fasting last week, we must again look to Matthew for the complete idea. Matthew 5:6 quotes Jesus as saying:
Matt. 5:6 "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied."
Is your desire to live righteously as intense as hunger? As immediate as thirst? No matter how badly you spoil your appetite, you've always got another one coming up soon. And no matter how much you quench your thirst, you will thirst again. But he who hungers and thirsts for righteousness will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now
Weeping over what? The death of a loved one? Or maybe because my dog ran away? In context, we see that the Lord is speaking to our spiritual lives, not our physical lives. He is speaking of weeping over sin. As Christians, we have a lot to weep over - because our sins are daily and continuous. You know, we are never exhorted in the Bible to have a positive self-image. But we're continuously exhorted to have an accurate self-image. When we're tuned in to how much sin we commit each and every day, it will cause sorrow. But that sorrow causes us to draw near to God for forgiveness, knowing that:
1John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
It is a continual cycle of drawing near to God: The closer we live to God, the more we will weep over all that dishonors Him. And the more we weep over all that dishonors him, the closer we live to God.
Blessed are you when men hate you
I've never heard of any other blessing that we go so far out of our way to avoid! Jesus said in John 15:
John 15:19-20 "...Because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you..."
And Paul repeated the promise to Timothy:
2Tim. 3:12 ...All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
These are promises of God. Does the world hate you? Are you despised because of your faith? If not, then I suggest that we haven't fulfilled our side of the promises. We may want to ask ourselves, "Have I been obedient to come out of the world when Jesus has called me out of the world? Do I desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus?" If we're not hated, we're doing something wrong.
Jesus now lists the antithesis of what we just examined. If a person is rich in spirit and thinking, "I'm living a good life, I have no need of God's mercy", then this is the closest to heaven he's ever going to get. If a person is well-fed, having no hunger and thirst for righteousness, he will spent eternity in want - forever separated from God. And woe to those who the world looks at and says, "You're the coolest Christian I know!"
©2006 Ron Daniel - Any distribution not for profit is permitted
All Scripture (unless otherwise indicated) taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE
©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.