HUMAN NEED OVER THE LAW
Lord, we appreciate that human need can eclipse the letter of the law.
Read LUKE 6:1–11
Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath
6 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. 2 Some of the Pharisees asked, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
3 Jesus answered them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” 5 Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
6 On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. 7 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. 8 But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Get up and stand in front of everyone.” So he got up and stood there.
9 Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?”
10 He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was completely restored. 11 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Where there is no love, pour love in, and you will draw out love” (John of the Cross, 1542–1591).
Whatever Jesus of Nazareth was doing in the years before turning up again in Galilee, one thing is certain: he was reading the Scriptures. Jesus’ tart question to the Pharisees, the champions of obedience to Scripture, has a sting: “Have you never read…?” (3). This is a blanket warning to all against the selective use of Scripture to prop up our own views rather than taking the whole view of Scripture. The Pharisees are correct in their assertion that the Mosaic Law forbids harvesting grain on the Sabbath (Exod. 34:21). Plucking a few ears of grain in another’s ﬁeld is allowable (Deut. 23:25), but in the narrow Pharisaic deﬁnition of work, Jesus’ disciples are “harvesting.” Typically, Jesus ignores the trivial outlook of what constitutes harvesting and cuts straight to the deeper point: which higher law can overrule the Mosaic Law? Answer: human need. David’s hunger overrode the strict sanctions of the Law (1 Sam. 21:1–6).
Archaeology may never ﬁnd a veriﬁable trace of Jesus, but recent archaeology affirms the context of Jesus’ Galilean ministry, including the pervasive synagogue culture. Here, the tension between the Law and human need plays out. To the Pharisees, healing is work and therefore forbidden on the Sabbath. Luke later records them telling a deformed woman she should have come for healing on another day (Luke 13:14)! In this synagogue, the confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees is unspoken but no less real. Jesus encounters a man with a shriveled hand. Before he heals this man’s hand, he asks whether or not it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath. Once more, human need outweighs the letter of the Law.
The church has a tendency to deﬁne holiness from a negative position—what we should not do or what we must oppose. By contrast, Jesus challenges us to show our faith to the world by the care we give to people in need.
“Religion that God our Father accepts… is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (Jas. 1:27).
Lord, help me to pour out love and meet others’ needs.
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