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Lesson 5: Christ as the Lord of the Sabbath *

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 activity?

      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 Sabbath.)

      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 Sabbath.)

      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 discussed.)

      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 Sabbath?

      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 teaching.)

      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 us.)

    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.
* Copr. 2015, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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