Chapter # 6 Paragraph # 1 Study # 1
August 12, 2007
1 And it came to pass on the second sabbath after the first, that he went through the corn fields; and his disciples plucked the ears of corn, and did eat, rubbing them
2 And certain of the Pharisees said unto them, Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath days?
3 And Jesus answering them said, Have ye not read so much as this, what David did, when himself was an hungred, and they which were with him;
4 How he went into the house of God, and did take and eat the shewbread, and gave also to them that were with him; which it is not lawful to eat but for the priests alone?
5 And he said unto them, That the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.
1901 ASV Translation
1 Now it came to pass on a sabbath, that he was going through the grainfields; and his disciples plucked the ears, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands.
2 But certain of the Pharisees said, Why do ye that which it is not lawful to do on the sabbath day?
3 And Jesus answering them said, Have ye not read even this, what David did, when he was hungry, he, and they that were with him;
4 how he entered into the house of God, and took and ate the showbread, and gave also to them that were with him; which it is not lawful to eat save for the priests alone?
5 And he said unto them, The Son of man is lord of the sabbath.
- I. The Focus: the Sabbath.
- A. Luke's only prior references to "the Sabbath" were 4:16 (which he used to introduce Jesus in terms of His commission from God and the hateful reaction of Nazareth) and 4:31 (which he used to introduce the twin "proofs" of Jesus' identity -- exorcisms and healings).
- B. The deliberate turn, at this point in the record, to the religious leaders' conflict with Jesus over "Sabbath" issues is more likely than not tied into the origin of the Sabbath and the method of the Pharisaical attack.
- 1. There is a textual transmission issue that shows up in the different translations of the AV and the ASV. The AV reading is very difficult and has no apparent reason for being, but it has about as much "support" behind it as the ASV's text. There are two main problems. First, for Luke to refer to a "second Sabbath" without any close reference to a "first" one is exceedingly difficult. Second, Online Bible suggests, without documentation, that the word found in the reading of the AV (the only such use in the text of the New Testament) refers to the second in the series of Sabbaths that followed Passover. If legitimate, this would mean that Luke was attempting to set the record into the post-Passover, pre-Pentecost, season; an attempt that has no obvious rationale. Liddell and Scott Greek-English Lexicon has this word only used once in the entire corpus of Greek texts (the AV's text of Luke) and comments that the Lukan text is "probably a corruption". For these reasons, I am treating the word as a copiest error.
- 2. The "Sabbath" was established by God as the "sign" of Israel's willingness to embrace the covenant of the Law (Exodus 31:13; 31:17). As such, it was a deliberate testimony to the ability of God's Truth to provide "rest" as well as all of the "necessities" that "rest" usually denied to those who "rested" (diligence in labor produces what men require to live; idleness only leads to "want"). As such, it was a deliberate test of the "faith" of those who would "rest" as to whether the "labor of God" -- from which He rested on the seventh day -- would prove to be "sufficient" for the needs of men. It was not so much the weekly Sabbaths that pushed that issue; it was the seventh year Sabbaths and the Jubilee Sabbath that pressed this issue. And, it was a fact that the sixth year's production was already harvested and a known commodity before anyone had to decide whether to sow on the seventh year. Thus, it was never a matter of whether provision would be sufficient. It was, rather, a matter of greed.
- 3. The method of the Pharisaical attack has been revealed by the accusations of 5:17-39: use the behavior of Jesus and His disciples to attempt to establish their lack of "serious" commitment to God and His insistence that men reject self-indulgence.
- a. The principles of "commitment" and "rejection" are legitimate biblical principles and are legitimate "proofs" of character.
- b. The problem is that they are also easily twisted into a "look at me" kind of perverse attempt to shift men's attention from God to men.
- 1) Observers of the Sabbath who seek only to be loyal to God do not boast of their commitment to the Sabbath.
- 2) Those who practice self-restraint as a way to practice true godliness do not boast of their ascetic actions.
- II. The Disciples' Behavior.
- A. Why in the world would the disciples, who knew the Sabbatical traditions, deliberately transgress those traditions?
- 1. There can only be one answer: Jesus' actions and teaching had made such an impact that they began to clearly understand the difference between "being accepted" and "seeking to be accepted".
- a. Being accepted brings an automatic harmony into the heart.
- b. Seeking to be accepted brings an automatic tension and bondage into the heart.
- 2. Given the new understanding, the disciples began to see the Pharisaical focus upon their own rules as an ungodliness of the highest sort and had no compulsion to go by those rules.
- B. Was the disciples' behavior any kind of actual violation of God's Sabbath?
- 1. There was more "work" being done in the walking to, or from, the synagogue than was being done by the "eating" of the standing grain.
- 2. There was no more to reaching out to take some grain from the field than there was to reaching out to food on a table as men reclined to eat.
- 3. The "Sabbath" was designed to provide men with rest; it was not designed to stir men up so that they could not rest. "Fasting" because it was "acceptable" to God makes rest a far greater impossibility than "eating" (everyone knows a nap after lunch is easier than trying to sleep when one feels like he/she is starving). For the "Sabbath" to be used to deny men food is as clear a violation of the divine intent for the Sabbath as there can be.
- a. The legalists would argue that they were not "denying men food"; their claim would be that the hungry had six days to do their preparation so that they would not be hungry on the Sabbath. That they "dropped the ball" so that they were hungry on the Sabbath was only an indictment of the wicked for not "caring enough" about the will of God to make preparations for following it.
- b. Jesus' response (David's emergency appeal for the shewbread) indicated either one of two things: either Jesus was over the top in dramatizing the disciples' state as they walked through the grain field -- a kind of exaggeration of "meaning type" that has no place in Truth --; or the situation for the disciples actually had a real correspondence with David's situation (not a stretch at all in view of Mark's record of the extremely busy ministry life of these men -- Mark 6:31). To give Luke (and the disciples) the benefit of this possibility is not out of line. To summarily dismiss this possibility (as the Pharisees did) was out of line: making a judgment of such severity without all of the facts is no kind of righteousness at all.
- C. Was the disciples' behavior any kind of violation of the Love of God?
- 1. Were they "baiting" their opponents?
- 2. Were they "making a stand"?
- 3. Or were they simply living the life of the "accepted"?