Luke 6:6–19 . . . Bible Study Summary with Questions
“Healing on the Sabbath” and “Preparing a Lofty Sermon”
Verses 1–11 of chapter 6 deal with the subject of "the keeping of the Sabbath, according to the Pharisaical interpretation of the law": Last week's vv. 1–5 gave the account of the Pharisees' protest and the Lord's response, stemming from the "harvesting" of food on the Sabbath by Jesus' disciples; today's vv. 6–11 deal with Jesus' healing on the Sabbath the man with the withered hand. Verses 12-19 begin the introduction of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, with vv 12–16 designating the selection of his twelve apostles after praying on a mountain; vv. 17–19 highlight Jesus' miraculous ministry on his mountainside descent.
Luke's apparent purpose now is to prepare his readers for the rejection, arrest, conviction, and execution of Jesus by his opponents. He already laid the groundwork, clarifying the issues that made enemies of the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders, and the masses (hinted at in the Nazareth incident in 4:16–30), because he'd bring blessings on the Gentiles. The Pharisees rejected Jesus because: (1) he claimed to be God (5:17–26); (2) he associated with sinners (5:27–39); and (3) he didn't keep the Sabbath as they'd interpreted it (6:1–6). These issues will dominate the relationship between the Pharisees and Jesus, culminating in his crucifixion.
Part 1: The Healing of the Man with the Withered Hand (vv. 6–11)
A man with a withered hand was present when Jesus taught in the synagogue on the Sabbath. The scribes and the Pharisees were aware of this man's presence (perhaps he'd been "planted" by them) and were sure that our Lord would heal him. They were waiting for the occasion to accuse Jesus, wanting the man healed for their benefit, not for his. While the Pharisees had no compassion for the man, they knew that Jesus would. So, lacking compassion, they sought to use Christ's compassion to their advantage.
We're told that Jesus was aware of the man, as well as of the scheme to accuse him (vv. 6–8). Jesus wanted to make an issue of the healing of this man on the Sabbath. Here we find the very heart of the conflict between Jesus and the opposing scribes and Pharisees: determining the purpose of the precept, i.e., Why was the Sabbath Law given? The Pharisees concentrated on the negatives of life, while Jesus concentrated on the affirmatives. The Pharisees believed that the more a man suffered (e.g., fasting, studying, tithing), the more spiritual he was. Jesus therefore posed two questions, in essence: Was the Sabbath given to make man miserable or was it to become a source of blessing? Is the Sabbath a time for doing good or for doing evil?
According to the Pharisaical view of the Sabbath, it was reluctantly allowable to work to render aid to "a dying man," one in such dire straits that he wouldn't live till the Sabbath had ended. But the man with the withered hand didn't fit into that category; his malady wasn't life-threatening. As such, the Pharisees felt that Jesus should wait to heal this man. However, Jesus, by his healing action(s), raised the question: Why wait to heal someone in need of healing?
Jesus answered the question by doing only this; verbally instructing the man to stretch out his hand, becoming immediately healed and enraging the Pharisees (v. 11). In a huff, they met to deliberate how to handle Jesus. Such is the first part of today's text, revealing the sinfulness of the Pharisees and their interpretation and application of the Sabbath.
Part 2: The Setting of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (6:12–19)
Luke begins today's second half of the passage by telling us that the day's events were preceded by a night of praying by our Lord. Luke's gospel emphasizes Jesus' prayer life, some of which we've already seen: He was praying while being baptized, seeing the Holy Spirit descend upon him (3:21); our Lord went off to pray after the healing of Peter's mother-in-law and the subsequent mass healing session (4:42); Luke said that Jesus habitually prayed (5:16).
After Jesus' evening prayer vigil, in the morning he called a larger group of "disciples" to him, from whom he chose twelve who'd become his apostles, spend much time with him, and eventually become church leaders. Jesus sent out his apostles on preaching and healing campaigns. Even Judas Iscariot was chosen; Luke very carefully informs us that Judas later became a traitor (v. 16), indicating that Judas wasn't initially a traitor. None of the twelve were true believers at this point; they had many positive qualities and would eventually become faithful spiritual leaders.
Jesus' actions in this part of the passage teach us some important lessons about leadership. Jesus was in no hurry to immediately "lay hands on" the men leaders. Considerable time passed before the twelve were designated as leaders. And Jesus apparently had no qualms about giving some men greater amounts of his time than others; he prioritized those who'd later prove to become trusted ministers and leaders.
In the first part of today's passage, Luke developed the theme of "the Pharisees' opposition to Jesus." To them: Jesus has become a very unpopular person, claiming to have been given the authority to forgive sins (5:21); he later offended them by associating with sinners (5:27-32); next, he upset them when he and his disciples ate and drank while they fasted (5:33–39); finally, the Lord was guilty, in the Pharisees' minds, of breaking the Sabbath while having the audacity (so they thought) to claim the right to do so (6:1–11). We see in v. 11 that the Pharisees had become enemies of Jesus and began looking for a way to get rid of him.
Jesus was the people's favorite, becoming very unpopular with the seemingly jealous Pharisees. The extent of Jesus' popularity with the people is evident from two major facts that Luke mentions. First, a large number of people were there in such a remote place. Second, people had come from great distances, from all over Judea, Jerusalem, and even from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon (v. 17).
Our Lord's popularity is important in the setting of his upcoming Sermon; it furthers the Lord's courage to deliver his message. Jesus' popularity was a rather fragile element, as later events will indicate. He didn't choose to speak on non-controversial matters, keeping the crowd's favor. In effect, it was virtually the opposite of what others taught and believed. Jesus spoke of poverty, hunger, and persecution as blessings, and of having wealth, being well-fed, and having favor as worthy of a curse. He taught people: (1) to love their enemies and keep from retaliating and (2) to give to those in need, knowing that there'd be no repayment. Because these weren't popular teachings, he'd need courage to present them in his powerful Sermon (presented next week). Jesus, in spite of his great popularity, spoke the truth and taught what people needed to hear, rather than what they wanted to hear.
- Q. 1 Why does Jesus provoke the Pharisees' wrath by healing on the Sabbath? Why not wait a day?
- Q. 2 Do you already know some things about each of The Twelve? Which ones and what comes to mind?
6On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. 7The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. 8But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, "Get up and stand in front of everyone." So he got up and stood there.
9Then Jesus said to them, "I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?"
10He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He did so, and his hand was completely restored. 11But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.
The Twelve Apostles
12One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. 13When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: 14Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, 15Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, 16Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
Blessings and Woes
17He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, 18who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, 19and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.