Summary: The analysis of Jesus as lord of the Sabbath as set forth in Luke 6:1-5 shows us Jesus' understanding of his own identity.
One notable feature of Jesus’ ministry was the growing opposition to him. Luke described increasing criticism of Jesus.
In today’s text we learn about yet another incident in which the Pharisees criticized Jesus. This particular incident took place on a Sabbath. In his response to their criticism, we learn more about Jesus’ understanding of his own identity.
Let’s read about Jesus as lord of the Sabbath in Luke 6:1-5:
1 On a Sabbath, while he was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands. 2 But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?” 3 And Jesus answered them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those with him?” 5 And he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” (Luke 6:1-5)
Commentator Tom Wright wrote about a relative of his who likes to tell of an occasion when he flew, with some business friends, to Ireland to watch a rugby match. When they got off the plane, there were no customs officers waiting to receive them. So two or three of them went into the official booths, put on the caps they found there, and inspected the passports of the other people who were arriving. They had no official authority, but it seemed to work.
Tom Wright said that he often wondered, having heard that story, what happened when the real customs officers arrived. But he did not know the end of the story.
Wright suggested that this is how Jesus appeared to many onlookers. He held no public office. He was not ordained as a priest. He was not part of any well-known pressure group, such as the Pharisees, who had their own opinions of how the law should be kept, which they tried to push on the entire society. He had no formal training as a teacher.
And yet there he was, so to speak, in the airport arrivals zone telling people what to do, giving them permission to do things that they had been told were wrong.
Who did he think he was? That is, in fact, the main question Luke wants us to ask. Luke was not so interested in asking, “Do we or do we not keep the Sabbath?” but rather, “Who did Jesus think he was?”
In today’s lesson we learn that Jesus is lord of the Sabbath.
The analysis of Jesus as lord of the Sabbath as set forth in Luke 6:1-5 shows us Jesus’ understanding of his own identity.
Let’s use the following outline:
1. The Setting (6:1)
2. The Question (6:2)
3. The Answer (6:3-4)
4. The Declaration (6:5)
I. The Setting (6:1)
First, let’s begin by looking at the setting.
Luke told us in verse 1 that on a Sabbath, while Jesus was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands.
As we read this account we might think that the disciples were taking that which did not belong to them. However, what the disciples were doing was perfectly legal in their day. It was in fact one of the ways that God provided for his people, as it is written in Deuteronomy 23:25, “If you go into your neighbor’s standing grain, you may pluck the ears with your hand, but you shall not put a sickle to your neighbor’s standing grain.” One could not harvest one’s neighbor’s standing grain, but it was perfectly legal to pluck and eat the ears of grain.
The setting for this account then is that Jesus and his disciples were walking from one place to another. While they were going through the grainfields, his disciples helped themselves to some heads of grain, which was perfectly legal.
So, what was the problem? What caused the conflict?
Suddenly some Pharisees appeared on the scene and they asked Jesus a question.
II. The Question (6:2)
Second, notice the question.
Luke did not tell us where the Pharisees came from. They just appeared. Some commentators suggest that the Pharisees may have been secretly following Jesus in order to catch him breaking the law.
So, some of the Pharisees said to Jesus, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?” (6:2).