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Luke Study #54 – The Point of Sabbath

The Gospel Of Luke

Luke 6:6-11 (CEV)

On another Sabbath Jesus was teaching in a Jewish meeting place, and a man with a crippled right hand was there.Some Pharisees and teachers of the Law of Moses kept watching Jesus to see if he would heal the man. They did this because they wanted to accuse Jesus of doing something wrong.

Jesus knew what they were thinking. So he told the man to stand up where everyone could see him. And the man stood up. Then Jesus asked, “On the Sabbath should we do good deeds or evil deeds? Should we save someone’s life or destroy it?”

10 After he had looked around at everyone, he told the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did, and his bad hand became completely well.

11 The teachers and the Pharisees were furious and started saying to each other, “What can we do about Jesus?”

The Point of Sabbath

Yesterday we talked about some of the reasons that might be there for people to take part in the Sabbath: honesty and trust; rest and joyfulness; a levelling of the playing field. Today Jesus points out another reason – to participate in doing good things.

But like everything, it’s easy to lose these big concepts in the detailed rules.

Some people like to be able to pin down precise definitions about things. My husband writes software. He can’t stand ambiguity when it comes to instructions. In the software world, using a ‘,’ when you meant to use an ‘&’ might completely break your program. But he tells me it’s important that he not get too lost in all of these tiny details. For his code to run – for it to do the job that the sales team promised it would do – he also has to keep in mind the big picture requirements. And sometimes that even means sacrificing the ‘elegance’ of his code to just make it do the job it was made to do.

Unfortunately, the Jewish leaders have kind of gotten sucked into the details at the expense of the big picture. Their arguments are beautifully constructed with lots of good references, but they’ve missed the point of it all. They want to know exactly how far they can walk on the Sabbath, and then make sure they don’t take one step more, but they’ve totally lost sight of doing good, trusting God, having a humble attitude about themselves and God or levelling the playing field.

They want to know, “if you can’t work on the Sabbath, can you light a lamp?” Later Jews, following in the same path will ask when electricity arrives, “does it count as work to turn on the light switch?” Later still, they’ll ask, “if you can’t turn on the light switch, can you use an automatic timer on the lights, or would that still count as ‘work’?”

Like we’ve talked about before, these guys want to know what things they have to do, what things they have to say, what things they have to avoid, what hoops they have to jump through to make sure that God won’t be mad at them, or the people they are responsible for leading. And specifically they want to know how this works around this 6th Commandment.

But Jesus doesn’t seem one bit surprised or even bothered by all of this. I wonder whether he noticed the Pharisees talking to the guy earlier on? Wonder whether he could see what they were trying to do even before they opened their mouths to goad him into ‘noticing’ the guy?

Jesus makes it clear that it’s not about the nit-picky rules – about whether healing is or is not ‘work’. What he’s interested in is far bigger than that. He has a vision of the Sabbath being used for good, not for evil; for this man to start living life to it’s fullest today; for the Kingdom of God to break in and break in and break in to our world, regardless of the time or the day or the location or the religious rules surrounding what can or cannot be allowed.

So Jesus tells the man to stick out his hand … and to the amazement of the man, and the amazement of everyone else in the crowd except Jesus, he finds that his hand is completely healed.Journal Questions:

  1. Do you like little tiny details? Do you find comfort in simplifying the world down into easy-to-understand component parts that are organisable, file-able, and categorizable?
  2. Do you ever find yourself wanting to do this with God-stuff? Wanting to nail everything down so that it can’t be confusing or difficult or uncertain? (I actually think most (if not all) of us do this to one degree or another.)
  3. So what can we do about it?
  4. How can we keep our eyes on the big concepts and not get lost in the details?
  5. How can we keep our eyes on the Kingdom-breaking-in work and not get lost in trying to decide what we can and can’t do?
  6. How do we make sure we’re ready to see God show up, not just waiting for an opportunity to shut God down?

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