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Lord of the Sabbath – Luke 6:1-11

February 6, 2011

1. The Pharisees

a. The text of Scripture we read this morning gives us the second of three run-ins up to this point, that Jesus has with the Pharisees, religious leaders whose job is to interpret the Law for the people.

b. We note here that there is a growing animosity to Jesus on the part of the Pharisees. Note that the level of antagonism grows in each confrontation in these three controversies. See 5:33 and then 6:2 and then 6:7.

c. The Pharisees are legalists. There is just no getting around it. They see themselves as the ones who should let the people know about the Law of God and all its implications for living. Their problem is that they neither know the law or real righteousness. They think righteousness is simply a matter of action, regardless of heart. And they think that the more rules they keep the more righteous they are. They do not love God. They love themselves. If asked the famous question “What would you say to God if He asked you why you should be allowed entrance into heaven”, they would have an answer. They would talk about their fasting, their praying, their tithing, the keeping of the Sabbath, the fact that they are not as bad as those they are forced to associate with all the time. We get an idea of what they are like in Luke 18:9-14. Jesus, during Passion Week, gives us the best summary of what the Pharisees are like – Matthew 23:3-8, 13, 15, 16, 23, 25, 26, 27, 29. This is the Pharisees.

d. They certainly do not love their neighbours. They hate people who do not see the law as they see it. They hate people who do not keep the rules that they have invented and developed over the years. But they are glad that they can at least demonstrate that they are better than the rabble they must rub shoulders with day by day.

e. Enter Jesus. He teaches with authority. He is popular. He can perform miracles. He is a threat to the Pharisees hold on people and worse, He does not agree with them regarding the rules and how they are to be kept.

f. Now dear ones, there is no getting around this. We are all Pharisees by nature. We know how things ought to be done. We know that we should live eternally with God in the painless bliss of His glory. And we know that “they”, whoever “they” are, should not. “They” don’t go to church. “They” go to the wrong church. “They” don’t baptize right. “They” are immoral. This is not to say that those people are right in what they do. Jesus never told the woman at the well that she was fine the way she was. He told her of her sin and saved her from it. He did not tell the woman caught in adultery that she could keep committing it. He told her to go and sin no more. But He did receive sinners. He spent time with them. He loved them, even when they did not repent. Jesus never condoned sin. But we do. We love it when people sin – it enables us to look better than they are. That was the problem of the Pharisees. The saw themselves as better. And we can fall into that very easily.

i. That Christian who gossips. Gossip is wrong. She needs to stop. So far so good. But then we get to – “I wouldn’t do that”. “I’m better than that”. “Thank you Lord that I am not like other people”.

2. Verse 2 -The Pharisees Challenge Jesus Regarding the Sabbath

a. Verse 1 – The action of the disciples … .

b. Verse 2 – The question of the Pharisees … .

i. How could what they are doing be a breaking of the Sabbath? Was this forbidden in the Law? Well, there is the Decalogue – Exodus 20:8-11. See also Numbers 15:32-37. The question then comes up: “What constitutes ‘work’?” And to answer that question the Rabbis, throughout the years, had put together a long list of what could and could not be done on the Sabbath. And as time went on the traditions of the rabbis became more important than the Law they were based upon and then people started getting things confused. The traditions and interpretations of the Law were thought to be the Law itself.

ii. The real problem of the Pharisees? The real problem with the Pharisees is that they do not know their Bibles. They do not the difference between the traditions that have risen up and the infallible Word that God has given.

iii. Dear one – My grandmother, who died 23 years before I was born, believed that to throw water out on Good Friday was to throw it in Jesus’ face. Where did she get such a notion? Not from the Bible. Would she have been shocked to see her neighbour heaving out water on Good Friday? Of course. Why? Because she didn’t know her Bible well enough on this issue. She was taught it and never took it to the Scriptures to see if it was so. Thus the Pharisees also. What do you believe that you simply cannot find biblical support for? What do you believe that is a direct contradiction to the Scriptures? Are you willing to find out?

3. Verse 3-4 – Jesus Responds to the Challenge

a. Jesus does not claim that He is not violating the Sabbath. Was Jesus breaking the Sabbath? Of course not! He could have truthfully done pointed out that He was not. Why doesn’t He? Why use the examples He uses to prove that His “violation” of the Law was legitimate. He has a bigger point to make than just whether rubbing grain in your hands is harvesting or not.

b. Jesus appeals to the Scriptures (I Samuel 21). See Jesus with Satan in the wilderness using Scripture to resist temptation. Hear Him in Matthew 19 answering questions about marriage and divorce – He uses Scripture to point out the lifelong commitment that marriage is to be and the illegitimacy of divorce.

c. “Have you not read?” Jesus is challenging their knowledge of the Scriptures. “Don’t you guys read your Bibles?” Ah there are a lot of interpretations of a lot of biblical texts. But this statement of Jesus tells us that the Bible is not open to any private interpretation. It means something, not anything and if we understand it properly we will believe and act righteously. “Guys, if you read your Bibles and knew your Bibles, you wouldn’t be asking such questions.

d. And what Jesus then does is remind them of a story they knew very well about David. I Samuel 21:1-6.

i. Jesus’ point is that David violated the Law and there is not a hint in the OT that God was upset about this. Why? Because the Law was never meant to allow a man to starve to death.

ii. Jesus is saying that in some situations exceptions can be made. This is such a dangerous thing, because we always think we are the exception to God’s rules. “Yes, I know that adultery is wrong, BUT …”; “Yes, I know it’s wrong to lie but my taxes are so high …”. Jesus is not saying that as long as we can find some flimsy excuse that we can forget about righteous living. Remember that David was never given any leeway when it came to his adultery with Bathsheba. Not at all. He is saying that ceratin aspects of the OT Law were never meant to hurt people.

iii. Jesus has the Pharisees over a barrel. They cannot question David`s righteousness in this matter. If they say Jesus is wrong then David must have been wrong too and they know that is not the case.

e. So what is Jesus`point here?

i. His point seems to be that if David can legitimately violate a part of the ceremonial law for the sake of hunger, then He, the Son of God can violate a mere tradition of men.

ii. The Pharisees made obedience to God an onerous, difficult, fearful thing. Both the OT and NT make it plain that serving God and worshipping God and living for God are not chores that we have to do in the fear that God will strike us if we do not (although there are warnings about disobedience that will help us stay faithful when joy does not do it).

iii. He points out that the Law was never meant to be a hammer to club people with. It was meant to be a demonstration of the holiness of God, the demonstration of the need of a Saviour to do what the Law could not do – save people, and a demonstration of man’s inability to keep even the smallest part of God’s righteous requirements, so that He must have someone else keep them for him.

(1) Hear Deut. 28:45-48 – amazing. One of the reasons that God will punish Israel is because they will not serve God with gladness. Dear one, where does that put you?

4. Verse 5 – The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath

a. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath means that He can do with it whatever He pleases. He made it and He knows what it is all about better than we do.

b. Jesus is telling the Pharisees who He is. The Law given to Moses was given by Jehovah. Jesus here says that He is over that Law. There is only One who is over the Law and that is God Himself. Bingo. That is Jesus’ point.

c. Jesus is not changing the Law here. He is saying that the day is coming when it will no longer apply because its purpose will have been fulfilled. The Sabbath was made to direct us to our need for rest. Spiritually we are saved when we come to Jesus Christ and trust Him and all that He has done. He has done the work. We rest. He is our Sabbath rest. Sabbath is no longer a day. It is a Person. Jesus works and we do not. We rest for our soul’s rescue in what He has done. He is Lord over the Sabbath in that He made it, He knows what He made it for and what it is for is to direct people to Him. The Pharisees cannot tell Jesus what is the proper use of the Sabbath – Jesus invented the Sabbath. He is LORD over the Sabbath and the day of Sabbath keeping is just about to end – at the cross.

5. Closing

a. Dear ones – burn this in. We are not saved because we keep the rules. We keep God’s rules because we are saved, because we want to, because we can. Never ever ever think that your obedience earns salvation points with God. It does not. Your obedience is what He has saved you to do. Your obedience is a goal of your salvation. It is never the reason.

b. The Sabbath is gone. This is not said in this text, but it is a NT truth. We have no Sabbath. Colossians 2 and Romans 14 settle the issue for us. Jesus Christ is our Sabbath.

c. Flee from becoming a Pharisee. There is no one you should look down on because they are not as holy as you. If you are holy it is because of free, unmerited, electing love. It is because Jesus did all the work and all you have done is believe it. And even that belief is something that He enabled you to do.

d. Are you trying to win eternal life by keeping a set of rules? Do you think that God will bless you with eternal life because you gave money or went to church or prayed a lot? Stop deceiving yourself. You need to be sinlessly perfect to be allowed into the presence of God – and you know that oyu are not. The Bible says that even your very best is detestable in His sight. Only Jesus lived good enough to earn eternal life. And God will credit His perfect life to you and count things as if you had lived that life – if you will come and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.