It was the Sabbath, Saturday. Sabbath indicates seventh and this was the seventh day, the day God had designed for rest, for worship. It is the time for mankind to stop from the busyness of all the things that must be done and give our time to God. It is designed to be a time for resting instead of work. Today we celebrate Sundays for this time, because each Sunday is a reminder that Jesus was resurrected, conquering death for us. And that is indeed something to celebrate! The day is supposed to be a wonderful time each week to draw closer and more intimate with our Lord. It is also to be a reminder that there is no work that we can do to get to God. It is by God’s grace that we can come to Him.
And the religious leaders of Jesus’ day had much to say.
“One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields, 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?’ Jesus answered them, ‘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.’ 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. 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?’ 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 the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.” Luke 6:1-11
The Pharisees had added extra rules to what God had ordered, and these rules had nothing to do with the real intent for the day. These were things like how many steps you could take on the Sabbath, using one hand or two to untie something, carrying a mat, and on and on.
So, on this particular Sabbath Jesus and His disciples were going through grain fields and some of them picked a handful of kernels, rubbed off the chaff and ate them.
Why the Pharisees were watching them in the grain fields is a mystery. But there they were and as soon as they saw it, they jumped, “Why are you doing what is unlawful to do on the Sabbath?”
Jesus took them right to His Word, “Have you not read what David did…?” He explained the scenario from 1 Samuel 21, and then told them that He was the Lord of the Sabbath.
When people challenge us, can we take them to the Word of God? Do we know it well enough to stand on it, or are traditions and man-made rules what direct us? God’s Word is our plumb line, our measuring stick, nothing else.
Also, let’s examine this phrase, “Lord of the Sabbath”. Since it was God who declared that the Sabbath was holy, way back in Genesis 2, there can be only One who is Lord over it and that is God. Jesus was telling these Pharisees that He was God.
They didn’t get it.
Then another Sabbath dawned. Jesus went to the synagogue and was teaching. A man with a withered hand was there. In an agrarian society, one-handed people were certainly at a disadvantage. Working fields, planting, and harvesting took both hands. This was challenging and Jesus looked at the man with compassion. But once again the Pharisees and scribes were there to catch Him on the Sabbath.
Was Jesus hindered by them?
Jesus asked the man to come to the front. He didn’t whisper to him privately to see him after the service. He didn’t set up a later meeting time to heal without the peering eyes of the religious leaders. Jesus did it in a very public way.
With the man standing next to Him, Jesus asked the audience if it was lawful to do good on the Sabbath, to save life or to destroy it. The answer was obvious, and Jesus told the man to stretch out his hand. Instantly his hand was healed.
One would think that everyone watching would be thrilled that someone was made better, that this poor man’s life was now enhanced. No, not the religious leaders. They were filled with fury. A man was healed and they were mad, mad enough to discuss what they would do with Jesus. Death was most likely the major part of that conversation.