Chapter # 6 Paragraph # 2 Study # 1
September 2, 2007
6 And it came to pass also on another sabbath, that he entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man whose right hand was withered.
7 And the scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against him.
8 But he knew their thoughts, and said to the man which had the withered hand, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth.
9 Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it?
10 And looking round about upon them all, he said unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored whole as the other.
11 And they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus.
1901 ASV Translation:
6 And it came to pass on another sabbath, that he entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man there, and his right hand was withered.
7 And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath; that they might find how to accuse him.
8 But he knew their thoughts; and he said to the man that had his hand withered, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth.
9 And Jesus said unto them, I ask you, Is it lawful on the sabbath to do good, or to do harm? to save a life, or to destroy it?
10 And he looked round about on them all, and said unto him, Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored.
11 But they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus.
- I. The Sabbath Clash.
- A. Luke records a second "Sabbath" conflict as his "final" presentation (the text of 5:17-6:11 is a unit that presents the opposition of the Pharisees to Jesus).
- 1. This highlights the significance of Jesus' claim that He is "Lord of the Sabbath", thus raising this issue above all of the others. In the final analysis, the "Lord of the Sabbath" issue may well be the most crucial because it blurs the line between Creator/creation. To be the "Lord of the Sabbath" was either to be "Lord" of the Covenant, or to be the human agent of that covenant (as David was the King of God's Kingdom, but was only the human agent of the King's rule, not the King Himself). The question of which Jesus meant is heavily prejudiced by the opening paragraph of the unit (5:17-26) in which He lays claim to a key divine prerogative: the ability to forgive sins. This introduces a huge issue: can a man give full loyalty to Jesus of Nazareth, Who is obviously human, and not get into the "idolatry" bind of exalting a human being to the position of deity? Eternity hangs in the balance of the answer.
- 2. This also brings the "presentation" to a close. Interestingly, Luke's argument ultimately contrasts the differences between Jesus and the Pharisees at the levels of attitude and impact. The Pharisees are presented as "powerless", "self-exalting", "self-righteous", "ignorant", and "principle-exalting" (in the "It's the principle of the thing" sense). The inverting of values that is involved in making "principles" more important than "persons" is the key issue. For God, "principles" are simply means to Life for "people". For the Pharisees, "people" are expendable for the sake of "principle". For God, "principles" are of value because they guide people into Life, but for the Pharisees, "principles" are of value because they allow those who abide by them to be superior to those who do not. In Titus 1:1, the apostle Paul wrote of a "truth that is according to godliness". By that he addressed the heart of the issue of "truth" claims: do they produce "godliness"? Luke, Paul's companion, seems to have determined that he would set his presentation into that particular form: Jesus is to be trusted because His "truth" produces Life while the "truth" of His opponents only produces raging conflict. This does not, however, make the "principles" unimportant to the point that they can be violated simply because someone thinks "Life" can come from the violation of them. It cannot. Life is the result of immutable principles. Violation of the principles brings Death into the mix. But, that is not the same thing as making the principles the end instead of the means, or, and perhaps worse, forcing the means into a corrupt end (defining "life" in terms of self-exaltation, and then using "performance of the rules" as a way to prove one's superiority).
- B. Jesus' Question: Does the Law permit activity on the Sabbath for the purpose of imparting, enhancing, or even destroying, Life?
- 1. It is a fact that sinful people are masters at manipulating. This means that if one says "the Law permits...on the Sabbath", sinners will figure out a way to make sure what they want to do on the Sabbath fits into the definitions of what the Law "permits".
- 2. But the fact that sinners "sin" is not a legitimate reason for attempting to shut down their sinful twisting of Sabbatical Law by piling on the descriptions of just what is permitted and what is not. When that is attempted, the Law is "twisted" by those who claim to want only to not allow it to be "twisted". At the root of all "legal" questioning is the attempt to gain a freedom that is not given and to restrain freedom seekers from getting their way. The Law of the Sabbath was given to permit men, who were under the demands of "making a living", to rest. Under that thesis, the Law of the Sabbath required those men to "trust" in their God so that their "rest" would be "rest" instead of a day spent worrying about how far behind they were getting by "not working". As a "trust" issue, the bottom line was whether God had any integrity in the minds of those who were to "trust" and all who decided He did not were not going to "rest" in any case, but their lack of "trust" put them at odds with God. It was the lack of "trust" that created the fall in Genesis 3 in the first place and it is impossible to view it as anything but a critical issue.
- 3. Jesus' question side-stepped most of these issues by simply raising a greater one: Does the Sabbatical Law allow activities that are designed by the God of Life to impart, enhance, or protect "Life"?
- a. The answer to this question can die the death of a thousand qualifications (what kinds of "things" are we going to allow???), but the question requires an answer.
- b. If we say, "No, we are commanded to rest and we are supposed to submit to the command", we still have to answer the question of "Why?".
- c. If we say, "Yes, we are not prohibited from 'Life' activities", we have to answer the question of "What does that mean?"
- d. But, in any case, the question has to be answered. And, in the answering we have to understand what the God of the Law is like and why He gave the Law in the first place. God is Life-committed and the biggest barrier to "Life" is man's refusal to deal honestly with his sin; therefore, God gave the Law to press that issue in order to make it a front-burner item.