Introduction: What do you think about the Old Testament? Is it filled with
harsh rules? Do you think of the New Testament as being focused on love,
rather than rules? Recently, the controversy over homosexual rights has me
reading and discussing the Bible’s approach to marriage. Have you considered
that the New Testament tightened the rules on marriage compared to the Mosaic
law of the Old Testament? See Matthew 19:3-9. It also appears ( Matthew 5:27-28) to have tightened the rules on adultery. If it is wrong to think that the
New Testament replaced stricter rules with love, what about the Sabbath? Are
the rules about the Sabbath tightened or loosened in the New Testament? Could
it be that the whole question about the enforcement of the rules is missing
the point? Perhaps Jesus is simply restoring the original application of the
rules. Let’s dig into our study of Luke and find out!

  1. Sabbath Harvest

    1. Read Luke 6:1-2. Why would the Pharisees suggest this was unlawful

      1. Read Deuteronomy 23:25. Were they stealing grain? (No. What
        they were doing was perfectly legal on any day other than
        the Sabbath. Robertson’s New Testament Word Pictures tells
        us that “according to Rabbinical notions,” the action of the
        disciples “was reaping, threshing, winnowing, and preparing
        food all at once” – which should not be done on the

      2. Was Jesus also involved in this activity? (No, at least it
        is not recorded that He was involved.)

    2. Read Luke 6:3-4. If Jesus is not involved, why does He answer?
      (Either Jesus thought it an important theological point, or He
      felt responsible for the actions of His disciples.)

      1. What do you think about Jesus’ answer? Would it satisfy you
        if one of your children answered you, “My friends do the
        same thing?”

        1. Or, is Jesus saying something else?

    3. Re-read Luke 6:4. My prior question about “others are doing it
      too,” assumed that David’s actions are illegal. Jesus also seems
      to assume that they are illegal. Were they?

      1. While we are on the topic of illegal behavior, why didn’t
        Jesus just say “My disciples are not working.” Nothing wrong
        is going on here!

    4. Read Luke 6:5. What is Jesus saying here? What, if anything, does
      it have to do with His prior answer “others are doing it too?” (On
      the surface, this seems to be a completely unconnected statement.
      But, think about it. Jesus says that He is in charge (“Lord of the
      Sabbath”). David’s request for the temple bread (1 Samuel 21) is
      completely unprecedented. However, it served to promote God’s
      ultimate purpose in establishing David as King. Is there a
      “King/Lord” exception?)

    5. Read Hosea 6:6. What does this add to our discussion about Jesus
      being Lord of the Sabbath and proper Sabbath observance? (We need
      to be focused on the main thing – which is acknowledging the
      authority of God. Jesus was Lord of the Sabbath and had the right
      to determine what is lawful on the Sabbath.)

    6. We need to look at the additional detail we find in Matthew. Read
      Matthew 12:5-8. Notice that Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6. How do you
      understand what Jesus is teaching? (First, Jesus says that He is
      in the middle of this issue, He is God, and His disciples are
      serving Him. Jesus says that “mercy” is the key concept for the

      1. What does Jesus mean when He rejects “sacrifice” in favor of
        mercy for the Sabbath?

      2. Is much of traditional Sabbath-keeping about sacrifice –
        those things we won’t do, things that we give up?

    7. Let’s go back to the question I asked earlier: why didn’t Jesus
      just say, “this is not work?” (Jesus is pointing our attention to
      the more important question of mercy. Let’s look at the next story
      to better understand this idea.)

  2. Sabbath Healing

    1. Read Luke 6:6-7. Why did the Pharisees think Jesus might heal on
      the Sabbath? (They understood enough to know that this was
      something He might do!)

    2. Read Luke 6:8-9. Why does Jesus ask the shriveled hand guy to
      stand up before He poses His question? (Jesus is signaling that
      this is an important point. Now we are certain about why Jesus
      answered for His disciples in the “harvest” story that we just

      1. Consider Jesus’ question. If you were a smart Pharisee, how
        might you answer it? (Obviously, good and not evil is the
        correct answer. But, who is arguing for evil?)

    3. Read Luke 6:10-11. Is anyone arguing for evil? (This shows that
      the Pharisees were plotting how to harm Jesus on the Sabbath.)

    4. Read John 7:21-24. Baby boys were to be circumcised on the eighth
      day ( Genesis 17:12). Thus, the Jewish theologians had a conflict
      when the eighth day fell on a Sabbath. Did Jesus face a conflict
      when healing on the Sabbath? (He did not have to heal on the
      Sabbath. He could have healed on any other day.)

      1. So, what is Jesus talking about? He does not have the
        conflict defense, does He?( John 7:24 tells us that Jesus
        sees a conflict between the traditional view of the Sabbath
        and His view. His view is that the Sabbath is for doing
        good. It is for showing mercy and not about sacrifice.)

    5. Let’s contemplate these two stories and what they teach us about
      the Sabbath. Read Exodus 20:8-11. What is the core teaching about
      keeping the Sabbath holy? (Don’t work on it. The same rule applies
      to your servants or your animals – don’t make them work.)

      1. Has Jesus expanded the teaching of the Old Testament on the

      2. Has Jesus made it more or less strict? (Like the teaching
        about marriage and adultery, I think He is refocusing it to
        help us understand the original intent. He tells us that
        simple rest is not the main point of the Sabbath. The main
        point of the Sabbath is showing mercy.)

        1. Is the Sabbath rest an act of mercy? (Yes! After the
          six days of creation, God gave the seventh day to
          humans as an act of love and mercy. But, mercy covers
          more than just not working. Some Sabbath work (Matthew
          12:5)is showing mercy.)

  3. Getting It Right

    1. Read Luke 4:16. What is Jesus teaching about the Sabbath here? (It
      was Jesus’ custom. These stories about the Sabbath show that Jesus
      was not in the process of doing away with it. The continuing
      importance of the Sabbath is shown, like with marriage, by Jesus’
      desire that humans correctly understand God’s rule.)

    2. Read Mark 2:27-28. Who is supposed to be the beneficiary of the
      Sabbath? (Humans! God made the Sabbath for our benefit. It is not
      some arbitrary rule to see if humans measure up.)

    3. Read Luke 13:10-13. Who is glorified in this? (She praised God!)

      1. Who is benefitted by this? (This poor woman.)

    4. Read Luke 13:14. To whom is this message directed? (To those in
      the synagogue who were worshiping and wanting to be healed.)

    5. Read Luke 13:15-17. How important is it to be on the correct side
      of the teaching about the Sabbath? (Jesus calls them “hypocrites”
      and he “humiliates” them. Getting the focus on mercy is very
      important. We should not say, “all views are equally valid about
      the Sabbath.” Instead, Jesus says that elevating sacrifice over
      mercy is wrong, and not merely an acceptable variation in

      1. Let’s get back to David and the bread. What do you now think
        is Jesus’ point about “others doing it?” (Mercy is the
        parallel. This was showing mercy to David and his men.)

      2. What do you think is today’s equivalent of ox or donkey
        watering on the Sabbath?

    6. When I consider the Genesis account of creation and the Sabbath,
      my first thought is that the Sabbath celebrates our Creator God.
      How does this fit with the idea of Sabbath mercy toward humans?
      (He created us! The high point of the creation week is the
      creation of humans. Recall that after Jesus’ crucifixion He rested
      on the Sabbath. This is yet another astonishing act of mercy to

    7. Friend, do you have the proper attitude about the Sabbath? Jesus
      thinks that correctly understanding the Sabbath is a very
      important matter. His desire is for a rest that focuses on mercy –
      mercy that benefits humans. Will you determine today to properly
      observe the Sabbath?

  4. Next week: Women in the Ministry of Jesus.