For the full text of Luke 6, click here.
The first story of chapter six is Jesus and His disciples gathering their own grain on the Sabbath. Even this sounds like more work than the way it’s described in the actual chapter. It sounds like they were just grazing in that same way my son stares into the pantry and has a handful of potato chips. This is the same story as begins Matthew 12 and ends Mark 2. The Pharisees attempt to call Jesus out on this behavior but He uses the example of David eating the bread of the Presence as an example of how sometimes, some things don’t apply.
I feel like a strong part of Jesus’s argument in these stories is that the Law is meant to keep everyone in good standing amongst each other and with God and that it had gotten so out of hand that it kept people apart. What started as a requirement to give yourself rest had become a stick to beat others with and Jesus wasn’t having it. Likewise, the bread of the Presence was something to do for God that kept Him on their minds and kept His Presence evident. When David needed it, it was valid to give it to him, especially since he did ask the priest for it. It’s not like he barged in and took it. That story is in 1 Samuel 21 and the law about the bread of the Presence is in Leviticus 24.
The beginning of the next story is “on another Sabbath” and I’m not sure if the one story just reminded Luke of the other or if there was one actual week of peace in between. I went back to the other two gospels and their wording is a touch different, but enough to imply a different meaning. Matthew 12 says “he went from there and entered their synagogue” which sounds more like the very next thing that Jesus did. Mark 3, as the last story ended Mark 2, says “again he entered the synagogue” which could be that same Sabbath or the next one or some random other Sabbath.
The story itself is about Jesus healing a man’s hand right there in the synagogue on the Sabbath. It could be the very next thing He does that day or on the next Sabbath, either way it further infuriates the Pharisees and now scribes rather than “teachers of the law”. It begins with Jesus teaching in the synagogue which is interesting in itself.
I’ve been to church when we’ve had a guest preacher, or even someone come in to teach, but the writing makes me wonder how all this happened. Today, when there is a renowned preacher, as it sounds like Jesus was regarded by this time, the church would announce for weeks that they were visiting and going to preach. There would be reminders and extra fliers, but only if that person was actually invited by the church. It’s not unreasonable to think that if Jesus were coming to town there wouldn’t be rabbis eager to have Him teach at their synagogue, even if the Pharisees or scribes disagreed.
On the other hand, He could also just be showing up and starting to talk and people just sat down and listened and the Pharisees or scribes or other teachers come out and get irritated too. It could go either way in any given location on any given day, but it’s not until the Pharisees start taking up issue on this day that things get really memorable, or at least worth documenting. Again, Jesus knows what they are thinking. Again, I don’t think this is telepathy so much as body language. I could be wrong but I don’t think it’s necessary to look for divinity in every motion. I think if I can believe that Jesus is God, than it shouldn’t be a stretch to believe that He knows a little something about body language and expressions and maybe doesn’t rely solely on His divinity for every interaction. Also, it seems that the Pharisees were obviously disdainful of Jesus and His opinions.
I feel like there are two real lessons here, especially when paired with the prior story. Doing something that is necessary on the Sabbath is better than starving or letting someone go on in pain. I don’t know about you, but if I’m that hungry or in pain, I’m not resting anyway. Jesus effectively gave those people the ability to even have a Sabbath and I don’t feel like that is obvious to the Pharisees at all. I appreciate the question of saving the sheep in the Matthew account because of this too.
The second point is that if you are doing something that increases the peace of the space, is it really work? In the US, we go round and round in conversations about doing what you love rather than going to work. It’s an interesting sentiment and one that doesn’t seem to make any sense to the Pharisees. It didn’t cost Jesus or His disciples much, if anything, to graze through the grain while they were hungry. It didn’t take any effort for Jesus to heal the man. Is it really work that they did? Or is it something someone called work because it wasn’t sitting on your butt that day? Also, a compelling lesson here is that Jesus does what He wants because He’s the One that knows best. Let’s not forget that one.
Then Jesus picks the apostles. It is in this third reading of a slightly different wording that I finally notice the difference between disciples and apostles. I grew up hearing those words used interchangeably along with the number twelve in front of them. Jesus had lots of disciples though. He had lots of disciples and chose 12 apostles from among them. The 12 are both, everyone else is a disciple only. This gospel is also the first one to have Jesus go up to the mountain to pray before choosing them, which is an interesting inclusion that I didn’t even realize I was missing from the other gospels. Of course He would pray before making such a huge decision.
As with the others, there is a little plug against Judas here too. A few of the apostles have descriptors, and the one for Judas here is “who became a traitor.”
The rest of this chapter gets into some specific teachings of Jesus and this post is already quite long, so I’m dividing it up.