Lukeby Mike Raiter
Sabbath observance was one of the most important Jewish practices, and the Pharisees had constructed many laws to ensure that people did nothing that could be construed as work on this holy day. In both episodes here, the Pharisees have been watching Jesus and the disciples closely to see if they can catch them breaking God’s law. First, the disciples are seen plucking grain on the Sabbath; they’re reaping, winnowing, and preparing food, all of which are technically illegal (vv. 1–2). Then, on another Sabbath, Jesus heals a man with a shrivelled hand (vv. 6–8).
Jesus points out from the Old Testament that David permitted his men to eat prohibited food and he was not rebuked (vv. 3–4). Quite simply, the Sabbath was never intended to stop hungry people from eating; it was given for our good. Jesus exposes the spiritual bankruptcy of the Pharisees. These men are meant to be Israel’s teachers, but they are ignorant of the true purpose of God’s laws.
Jesus then provocatively announces that He is Lord of the Sabbath (v. 5). He has the right to determine the content and expression of God’s will. Jesus will reveal what has always been the heart and intent of the law: love for God and love for one’s neighbour (Luke 10:27).
Jesus appoints twelve who will lead His church and spearhead the spread of the gospel to all the world. The number twelve, reminiscent of the tribes of Israel, points to these men as the leaders of God’s new people. They are “apostles”, or “sent ones”, primarily commissioned to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom.
Two things are worth noting about this diverse group of men. First, the name of Peter always heads every list of the apostles; he is both their leader and their representative figure. Second, the apostolic list as recorded in the Gospels always ends with the one called Judas, the traitor (Matthew 10:1–4; Mark 3:16–19; Luke 6:13–16).
The apostles played a unique role in God’s history. Yet, all the leaders of God’s people are to follow their example in teaching and modelling lives of love, and proclaiming the good news of Jesus.
The mistake of the Pharisees was to forget what lies at the heart of the law. How can we fall into the trap of making some of our church traditions more important than love?
The original purpose of the Sabbath day was to rest from work and focus on God and all He has done for us. How do we practise that today?