July 21, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 6:1-5 (NRSV)
One sabbath while Jesus was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked some heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands, and ate them. But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” Jesus answered, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and gave some to his companions?” Then he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.”
From the earliest days of Christianity, followers of Jesus have claimed that he is Lord. This claim not only recognizes the deity of Jesus, but also acknowledges his rightful authority over our lives. We live under the gracious, merciful, wise, and just lordship of Jesus Christ. In all we do and all we say, in every time and place, we proclaim the Jesus is Lord.
This devotion is part of the series: Following Jesus Today.
Luke 6 begins with two stories about Jesus and the Sabbath. If we’re going to get the full impact of these stories, we need to remember just how important the Sabbath was to the Jewish people. Established by God in creation (Genesis 2:1-3) and affirmed in the Ten Commandments as something essential for right living (Exodus 20:8-11), the Sabbath was central to Jewish life and faith. Setting aside a day of week for rest, not work, also set the Jews apart from all others in the ancient world. Sabbath keeping, therefore, became a fundamental marker of Jewish identity.
The basic rule of Sabbath keeping was that all ordinary work, except work required to sustain or defend life, was to cease on the Sabbath day. Jewish teachers and scholars, not satisfied with basic guidance, worked hard to define with precision exactly what honoring the Sabbath required, what one could do and what one could not do. In their view, any faithful Jew must follow the specific rules they developed.
These rules stipulated that it was wrong to harvest grain or prepare food on the Sabbath. But the disciples of Jesus “plucked some heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands, and ate them” (Luke 6:1). According to the legal interpretations developed by the Pharisees, the disciples had done “what is not lawful on the Sabbath” (Luke 6:2). They asked Jesus to account for the Sabbath-breaking behavior of his followers.
Jesus responded by pointing to a story in 1 Samuel 21:3-6 in which David and his companions ate special bread that was reserved for the priests according to Leviticus 24:5-9. So, on the surface, David and his entourage broke the law. But, in Jesus’s view, their behavior was acceptable because, in this particular case, human need took precedence over strict application of the law. By implication, the hunger of Jesus’s disciples made their act of plucking and eating a few grains okay, even though it violated the Pharisees’ interpretation of the Sabbath law.
At this point, the Pharisees might well have thought to themselves, “Who is this man to school us about the meaning of God’s law? We are the experts. This is an unlearned commoner.” But Jesus explained his authority in a way that was even more shocking than his view of the Sabbath. He said, “The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath” (Luke 6:5). “Son of Man” was a Jewish title Jesus used frequently in relationship to himself. We’ll examine the meaning of this title later in this series. In the present context, we need to understand that Jesus was saying, in effect: “I am the lord of the Sabbath. I am the one who has the authority to interpret the Sabbath law. I am the one who gets to determine the rightful purpose and practice of the Sabbath.”
Once again we are confronted with the unexpected authority of Jesus, now in relationship both to biblical interpretation and to the Sabbath. Later, I’ll have more to say about the Sabbath. Today, I want to end with some simple questions having to do with the authority of Jesus in your life.
Does Jesus function as Lord over your life? If so, in what ways is this true?
Do you ever think of Jesus as the one with authority to interpret the Bible today?
How might Jesus help you to as you seek to understand and live in obedience to Scripture?
If there is a passage of Scripture that you find difficult to understand or to put into practice, ask Jesus to help you with this. His Spirit is present with you to guide your thinking and behavior. Seek his guidance.
Jesus, you are indeed the Lord. You are Lord over the Sabbath. You are Lord over the interpretation of Scripture. You are Lord over heaven and earth. And you are Lord over my life. Today, I offer myself to you: my commitment, my obedience. Teach me your ways. Lead me into your truth. Help me to know how to follow you faithfully each day in all that I do. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Sabbath and Work (Luke 6:1-11; 13:10-17)