THE LORD OF THE SABBATH:
A CASE FOR COMPASSIONATE CONFRONTATION FROM LUKE 6:1-16
By Kevin W. Bounds
- In a world immersed in social media and a twenty-four-hour news cycle, everyone has an opinion. Now people can rant online without the consequence. Now people take to the street with picket signs protesting anything. Don’t believe me? Then you have not had social media, watched television, or read the newspapers lately.
- In this volatile mix of opinions, how are Christians to behave? Many think disciples of Jesus are to remain dormant and docile. We are assumed to follow a plastic Jesus. A false representation of the Founder of Christianity as a pussyfooting politically correct prophet (if there is such a thing). HOWEVER, this is not the Jesus of the Gospels. Yes, He was compassionate, but He was also confrontational.
- Often, the idioms like “judge not” or “cast the first stone” are quoted out of context and passages of making a whip of cords to remove people from the Temple are never mentioned.
- Yes, we are to be non-violent. However, Christians are called to like Christ. Who was compassionately confrontational.
- In Luke 6:1-16, we witness Jesus displaying a compassionate, yet challenging approach in His ministry. This sermon will look at the actions of Jesus and attempt to convey how we should apply the principles drawn from those actions in our daily lives. In the sermon, we will look at three different scenes: 1) the confrontation in the fields (vv. 1-5) 2) the dispute in the synagogue (vv. 6-11) 3) the ordination of the Twelve (vv. 12-16).
- Concerning this passage, Warren Wiersbe writes, “For over a year, Jesus ministered as a popular itinerant Teacher and Healer, and multitudes followed Him. But now the time had come for Him to “organize” His followers and declare just what His kingdom was all about.”
- It is noteworthy at the end of the previous chapter, Jesus gives a parable concerning new wine in new wineskins (Matt 5:36-39).
Confrontation in the Fields (vv. 1-5)
- Jesus was unafraid to share a controversial truth with those whom He disagreed (v. 5). However, it was loving compassion which drove Him to confront the misinformed.
- In these five verses, we witness the disciples of Jesus walking through the “cornfields” – other translations render it grain fields – harvesting by hand and eating the corn/wheat.
- The Pharisees were not accusing of stealing because in the Law there was provision made for people gleaning from others’ fields. Moses writes,
When thou comest into thy neighbour’s vineyard, then thou mayest eat grapes thy fill at thine own pleasure; but thou shalt not put any in thy vessel. When thou comest into the standing corn of thy neighbour, then thou mayest pluck the ears with thine hand; but thou shalt not move a sickle unto thy neighbour’s standing corn (KJV Deut 23:24-25).
- The scribes and Pharisees were disturbed by doing this practice on the Sabbath. The interpretation of the Sabbath was the source of contention here. Jesus is not negating the Sabbath because the Sabbath is good. However, Jesus was confronting the neglect of human need by the scribes and Pharisees.
- For Jesus, the key to the Sabbath was that God made it for man and not the other way around (see Mark 2:27).
- In verses 3-4, Jesus explains interpretation to the Law was to be done with loving compassion, especially when a human need was involved. (See 1 Sam 21:1-6). The scribes and Pharisees had missed it by a mile!
- In verse 5, Jesus makes a remarkable statement about being “Lord of the Sabbath.” Rest assured his audience did not miss the claim to deity. Who can say such a thing but God?
- Jesus moved by loving compassion boldly spoke the truth!
- You will inevitably encounter people who will not accept the truth of Gospel. You should not shy away from conflicting views but lovingly stand for righteousness.
Dispute in the Synagogue (vv. 6-11)
- It is important to notice that Jesus picked this fight in the synagogue. He was moved by loving compassion to help those that could not help themselves.
- The scribes and Pharisees were more concerned with the working hands that were meeting human needs in verses 1-5 than they were of the human need to have working hands! This man was handicapped by his infirmity.
- A “religious spirit” is more concerned about what others are doing wrong instead of helping others.
- Jesus called them out by pointing to the heart of the issue in verse 9.
- Jesus backed up his claim and interpretation with action. He miraculously healed the man’s withered hand.
- Does anyone like being called out? The scribes and Pharisees were not different. However, they were driven to the kind of madness that desires to kill!
- YOU WILL, in a world that is counter-gospel, will experience hatred. However, you must be willing to stand for truth. Jesus did!
Ordination of the Twelve (vv. 12-16)
- It is no coincidence that Jesus ordained the Twelve, after this rejection by the scribes and Pharisees. Yes, I do believe this ordination was symbolic of a “new nation,” since there were Twelve Apostles; one for each tribe.
- However, I believe it was also for practical purposes. Jesus knew that eventually He would lay His life down and His message needed to continue. To perpetuate the message, He made disciples.
- Confrontation can lead to casualties, but we must reproduce through discipleship. Spurgeon/Whitefield comments about John Wesley’s ministry.
- I know it may be a horrible illustration but to control lice, you must stop the reproduction. The same goes for weeds too!
In a world filled with opinions, you will face conflicting views (i.e. Bible, social issues, politics). However, we must not resist violently with rage, but loving confront the falsehoods with truth. Much like the men down through the ages: Martin Luther stood against a corrupt church, William Wilberforce strove to end the English slave trade, and Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his life for the sake of civil rights. But more importantly, Jesus bleed so we could know the truth and be set free. We must be unafraid to share controversial truth because HE is with us (Mt 28:18-20; Heb. 13:5) We speak for the ones without a voice or the ability to rectify the injustice done to them, even if it cost our lives! In case we pay the ultimate price, the message of truth must be passed to the next generation of Jesus followers!
 Warren Wiersbe The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament, 2nd Ed., (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2007), 153.