The Lord of the Sabbath, and His Work
Luke 6:1-19
And it came to pass on the second sabbath after the first, that he went through the corn fields…

We have just seen how Jesus treated with deserved dishonour the tradition of the elders about fasting. He showed his disciples a more excellent way. Fasting is not an end, but only a means to an end, and this is the restoration of the soul to fellowship with its Saviour. In this way should Christians use fasting. And now we pass on to notice how on sabbath-keeping tradition again intruded itself and made cumbrous additions to the Mosaic commandment. Our Lord once more, as we shall see, set at nought the tradition, while he held firmly by the Mosaic Law. The evangelist groups two sabbath-scenes for us in the history here - the first in the corn-fields, the second in the synagogue, but both illustrating our Lord's sabbatic principle and practice. As the most interesting method of considering the subject, let us notice -

I. THE PHARISAIC PRINCIPLE ABOUT SABBATH-KEEPING WAS THAT MAN WAS MADE FOR THE DAY, NOT THE DAY FOR THE MAN. (Vers. 2, 7.) These reputedly religious men had a certain idea about the day. They must have a holy day, and so it must be so sacred that all work shall be deemed unlawful, lest it should be secularized. What they objected to in the first case was not the plucking of the ears of corn, but the rubbing of them in the hands. This was a violation of their tradition. In the second case they objected to work on the sabbath day, even though it took the form of healing. Their ideal was, therefore, a day of such physical inactivity as would refuse to minister to man's hunger or to man's healing. The fallacy underlying this idea was that work is in its essence a secular thing, and that idleness is somehow sacred. To declare this emphatically, they were ready to rebuke hungry men for satisfying themselves in the corn-fields, and to deny healing to the man with the withered arm because he presented himself for it on the sabbath day. The day above the man, then, was the Pharisees' notion. Hunger and helplessness must be endured in order that a day of pretentious idleness may be presented to mankind. Healthy desire must he stifled, longing for power and self-help must be denied, that a sufficiently idle sabbath may be secured. The apotheosis of idleness, the vindication of indifference, man this and more is involved in the Pharisaic criticism of Christ and of his disciples. Now, it is important to bring out clearly how contrary to God's idea all this is. Work is not secularizing in itself. The infinite Father never ceases working, but his work is sacred all through the year. Of course, men may secularize themselves by the selfishness of their work, but they may secularize themselves as really by the selfishness of their idleness. An idle day is not likely to be a holy one; a busy day may be most holy if the glory of God and the good of souls be kept steadily in view.

II. CHRIST'S BETTER PRINCIPLE OF SABBATH-KEEPING IS THAT THE DAY IS MADE FOR MAN. (Vers. 3-5, 9.) Hence necessity must be recognized as a law for the sabbath. Even the ceremonial rite should give way before the needs of human nature, as the case of David's hungry men being saved from famishing by a meal of shewbread indicates. Hence the hungry disciples, in rubbing the corn in their hands, were vindicated by that sublime necessity which recognizes no higher law. Again, in the case of the helpless fellow-man whose right hand was withered, our Lord is clear that the sabbath should be a day for saving life, and not for allowing it to perish. In other words, Christ would devote the day to man's salvation, while the Pharisees were prepared to sacrifice the man to the peculiar sacredness which they thought 'belonged to an idle day. But if the day is thus a means towards man's good, is he to employ it as he pleases? Is every man to be lord of the sabbath by doing as he likes upon it? This would be a dangerous prerogative to give to men. Not every one is fit to exercise it. The Pharisees, in fact, had taken the sabbath under their control and spoiled it altogether. Hence the sovereignty of the sabbath must be left in the hands of him who is called the Son of man. Christ is the Lord who can so order the sabbath that it shall be truly sanctified. It is, consequently, from Christ's sabbath-keeping that we learn what it ought to be. And we see from his life that he made the sabbaths his special opportunities for philanthropic effort. Most of his miracles were sabbath-day performances. He seems to have been busier on the sabbath than on any day of the week. We are safe in following along the lines of his most intelligent philanthropy. The sabbath is made for man. It Christ would have the hungry fed and the helpless healed, he would also have the souls fed with the bread of life and all spiritual helplessness removed. This is the purpose, therefore, of those means of grace which are presented with special earnestness on the Lord's day!

III. CHRIST DEMONSTRATED THE TRUTH OF HIS PRINCIPLE BY THE MIRACLE. (Ver. 10.) Now, this miracle, like the healing of the paralytic, was the test of a principle. In the former case Christ claimed the prerogative of absolution, and he demonstrated that he possessed the prerogative by telling the paralytic to rise and walk, and healing him. In the present case he has taken issue with the Pharisees as to the sabbath being a day for philanthropy. Healing is to be performed on it, if it is required. And now he singles out the patient with the withered hand, and by a word cures him. Thus he put their ideas on sabbath-observance to confusion. Instead, however, of rejoicing in the poor man's cure, they are filled with madness at their own discomfiture. Misanthropy in them is the contrast to the philanthropy of Jesus. But is not the miracle a sign of those miracles which are performed from sabbath to sabbath? Man comes in his weakness, his hand is withered, he can do nothing; but through the power of God he is enabled to stretch forth his hand, and enter into the sphere of spiritual power.

IV. THE SELECTION OF THE TWELVE WAS MADE BY CHRIST A MATTER OF VERY SPECIAL PRAYER. (Ver. 12-16.) We are told that he spent a whole night in prayer to God. This showed how important in his view the selection of the disciples was, and the establishment of his kingdom among men. He chose them in the morning after the prayerful view of the whole case before the Father. If Jesus realized the need of long-continued prayer before selecting them, how prayerfully should we go about our work for him! It is no easy matter to act wisely in our dealings with men and in our use of them. The persons selected were such as only Divine wisdom, as distinguished from worldly prudence, would have chosen. There was not an "influential" person among them; and it was not till after the Pentecost that any of them became what we should now call reliable. Into the analysis of the persons selected we do not enter. They have been divided into three groups: the first, containing the names of Peter and Andrew, James and John, gives us the chiefs of the apostolic band, the men of insight; the second, containing the names of Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, and Matthew, are reflective, and, at first, sceptical, men; and the third and last contains the names of James the son of Alphaeus, Jude, Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, all practical men. Our Lord has thus use in his Church for all grades of men, and can even make use of traitors to serve his purpose.

V. THE HEALER IN THE MIDST OF THE MULTITUDE. (Vers. 17-19.) From the mountain-top of prayer he descends to the valley of opportunity, and there finds a vast multitude from the heathen parts of Tyre and Sidon, as well as from the Jewish districts of Judaea and Jerusalem, who have come to hear and to be healed of their diseases. Here were the two spheres - the sphere of mind, to which the ear is the great entrance; and the sphere of body, where disease may be checked and healing given. The mission of Jesus was to save men. Miracles were part of his message to mankind. The healing of the diseases of men was to tell how he can heal their souls and save them everlastingly. Moreover, they connected the cure with his Person. From him virtue or healing power radiated. His Person is the centre of healing influence. And for salvation this also holds good. It is to the Person of the Saviour we must come if we are to get really healed, It is surely well to have the source of all healing defined - it is the Person of our Saviour. To him, therefore, let us all come! - R.M.E.

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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 in their hands.

WEB: Now it happened on the second Sabbath after the first, that he was going through the grain fields. His disciples plucked the heads of grain, and ate, rubbing them in their hands.

The Corn-Field
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