Daily Family Worship

Luke 6: The Sabbath and the Mountaintop-Sermon

by | Feb 20, 2024

luke 6

In the last chapter, Jesus had aroused the anger of the Pharisees by His claim to forgive sins. He had further enraged them by His love and kindness toward sinners. But He brought their hatred to a climax of fury by His attitude toward the observance of the Sabbath (verses 1-11). From this point onward, they actively endeavored to find a way to destroy Him. But the question of the observance of a weekly day of rest has never lost its interest. The followers of Christ need to stand firmly by the principles set forth by their Lord. These principles are few, but they are very fundamental; and they may be chiefly summed up in these words: the Sabbath is a day designed for worship and for rest, although it is perfectly allowable to perform works of necessity and of mercy on that Day.

The first of these exceptions to the required rest of the weekly Sabbath was illustrated by the case of Jesus’ disciples. They were accused by the Pharisees of breaking the Sabbath because they picked the ripened ears of corn and ate them as they walked through the fields. And thus, according to the interpretation of their enemies, they were guilty of working on the Sabbath Day. Our Lord merely referred His enemies to the case of David and his followers, and argued that when it was necessary to relieve their hunger, His followers were also justified in disregarding the law of rest.

An illustration of the second exception to the law of absolute cessation from labor was given on another Sabbath Day, when Jesus healed a man in the synagogue whose right hand was withered. The Pharisees regarded this action as yet another breach of the law of rest. But Jesus defended His action on the grounds that it was dictated by mercy, and that work which secures relief from suffering is perfectly allowable on the Sabbath. He replied to His enemies with a heart-searching question – assuming the principle that refraining from help is the same as actually inflicting harm. He asked them whether they regarded the Sabbath as a day of such a character that it was right to hurt and kill on that Day, when it was wrong to do so on other days. “I ask you,” He said, “is it lawful on the sabbath to do good, or to do harm? to save a life, or to destroy it?”

While Jesus did teach that the law of rest might thus be set aside to meet the necessities of man and to show mercy to those who are in need or distress, He by no means abrogated the observance of the weekly day of rest and worship. He declared, however, that “the Son of man is lord of the sabbath.” This means that, as the Divine Representative of mankind, He had the right to interpret the Divine Law of the Sabbath for the highest good of humanity. He was totally justified in relieving the Sabbath from the narrow and burdensome encumbrances which had been bound upon it by the Pharisees of His times, and in restoring it to mankind as a glad day of rest and refreshment and fellowship with the Lord.

Jesus’ choosing of the twelve Apostles marks a new and important period in His public ministry (verses 12-19). The deep significance of the act is indicated by Luke, in his statement that Jesus passed the entire preceding night in prayer to His Father. He had been surrounded by a multitude of disciples, some of whom were His constant companions; but now He determined to appoint a small group who would be His official messengers, accredited by miraculous powers. These twelve men were persons of modest means and ordinary stations in life, yet they were the first leaders of the most important organization that the world has ever known – namely, the Church of Jesus Christ!

After Jesus had chosen the twelve Apostles on the summit of the mountain where He had spent the night, He descended to a level place on the mountainside; and there He met the multitude and de-livered the Sermon which holds the first place among all the discourses in the world! (verses 20-49) At first, it might seem difficult to under-stand that this address recorded here by Luke is the same as the sermon which Matthew record-ed in chapters 5-7 of his Gospel; for indeed, they are not identical word-for-word. However, it is to be noted that each account begins with Beatitudes and closes with a warning, while the main body of the discourse differs only in the aspect of truth that is emphasized by the two different writers. In Matthew, the essence of the Chris-tian life is described as true righteousness, in distinction from the formalism of the Pharisees. But in Luke, the essence of righteousness is found in love. The one word which would describe the general theme of the sermon as recorded by Matthew is spirituality; but the substance of the Christian life, as here emphasized in Luke’s account of the same sermon, is love.

The sermon begins by pronouncing blessings upon the followers of Christ, and also by declaring contrasted woes upon those who reject Him. The main theme of His discourse sets forth the Christian life as being, in essence, a life of love. Just as good fruit is produced only by good trees, it is only out of hearts full of love that real helpfulness toward our fellow human beings can come. To warn people against calling themselves Christians while they do not observe the law of love, and to encourage His disciples in faithfully keeping His commandments, Jesus concluded His sermon with the familiar parable of the two houses built upon the sand and upon the rock. Amidst the storms and tempests of this life, only those who are rooted firmly upon the Rock of Ages will stand secure.

Thank You, Lord, for the assurance that all who stand firm upon the Rock Christ Jesus shall ride out every storm, for He is a sure refuge and hiding-place! Amen.

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