Summary: The analysis of Jesus healing a man with a withered hand on a Sabbath will show us that works of mercy are appropriate on the Lord's Day.
Jesus was frequently criticized during his ministry.
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day criticized him because he did not conform to their understanding of God’s law. Things got so bad that they eventually looked for ways to catch Jesus doing something contrary to their understanding of how to please God. Little did they know that they were in fact dealing with God in human form!
In today’s text, in Luke 6:6-11, Luke wrote about the incident of Jesus healing a man with a withered hand on a Sabbath.
In the immediately preceding text, in verses 1-5, Luke wrote about another Sabbath day controversy. Jesus’ disciples were accused of breaking the Fourth Commandment by working on the Sabbath when they plucked and ate some heads of grain. The disciples did not in fact violate the Fourth Commandment of God’s Law, although they did violate the manmade regulations of the Pharisees. Jesus explained to the Pharisees that they misinterpreted God’s Law, and then declared that he is lord of the Sabbath (Luke 6:5).
By declaring that he is lord of the Sabbath, Jesus affirmed the abiding continuation of the Fourth Commandment. God said in Exodus 20:8-11:
8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
The Westminster Shorter Catechism states: “The Fourth Commandment requires the keeping holy to God such set times as he hath appointed in his Word; expressly one whole day in seven, to be a holy Sabbath to himself.” The basic requirement for obeying the Fourth Commandment is to keep the day holy. Biblical use of the term “holy” has to do primarily with God’s separating from the world that which he chooses to devote to himself. So, God has set aside one entire day in seven to be devoted to him. That is what it means to keep the day holy.
How exactly is the Sabbath to be sanctified, that is, to be kept holy? The Westminster Shorter Catechism states: “The Sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days; and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’ s worship, except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy.” So, the Sabbath is to be a day of rest from our ordinary work. It is to be a day spent worshipping God. And it is to be a day doing works of necessity and mercy.
Historically, the Sabbath was a day of delight for the people of God. It was the highlight of the week when God’s people could rest from their regular labor and worship their God.