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Jesus Upsets Religious Leaders!

Posted on September 13, 2017

God Saves Gentiles! Luke Has Good News!

A study of the NT book of Luke

by Pastor Frank Rice

Luke 6:1-16

People tend to get upset, exasperated, and aggravated by an assortment of things! Some of this is understandable and even justifiable. Most folks don’t think of Jesus as one who creates this kind of inner turmoil. He’s not usually portrayed as a trouble-maker! Maybe we need a more accurate representation! In the gospels, He is often depicted as upsetting people, particularly religious people, and especially religious leaders! What is it about Him that creates this disturbance?! It’s His claim to authority!


         I. Jesus Asserts His Authority as Lord of the Covenant (Vv. 1-5)!

  • Jesus sets Himself up for a religious showdown (vv. 1-2).

  1. The showdown occurs on a Sabbath day. Jesus is walking with some “learners” on a path between grainfields.

  2. Some of His followers were casually picking heads of grain, cleaning off the chaff, and having a “snack.” (That’s it!?)

  3. The law permitted one to pass through a neighbor’s field and pluck grain as long as he did not attempt to harvest it (put a sickle to it, Deut 23:25).” (Garland)

  4. Some of the religious leaders just happened to be watching and were shocked that they’d do such a thing!

  5. In their thinking, the Sabbath law forbad such work on a Sabbath. [Their concern is not as bizarre as we may think.]

  6. Be gracious! “The Pharisees’ objections to the disciples’ apparent violation of the Sabbath should not be dismissed as an obsession with trifles. The Sabbath was a sign of Israel’s sanctification among all the nations and made them distinct. Careful observation was regarded as a bulwark against assimilation to pagan culture as well as a way to honor the holiness of Yahweh.” (Garland)

  7. That being said; it’s the grain-pickers vs. the nitpickers! According to their “detailed and specific list, the disciples were reaping, threshing, winnowing, and preparing food – a quadruple violation!” and “The basic issue of the passage is not really the disciples’ practice, but Jesus’ authority.” (Bock)

  8. When Jesus claims authority men either bow to it or set up their own system!


  • Jesus responds to the accusations of impropriety by alluding to an OT instance that applied directly to this situation (vv. 3-5).

  1. He, in a sense, rebukes them for being ignorant of their own scriptures and their relevancy to this situation!

  2. He points to an egregious act of David when he “violated” the law and led his men to do so! “How do you explain how he did this and went unpunished?” (No response!)

  3. In effect the argument becomes, ‘If you condemn my disciples on this one, you also condemn David and his men!’” (Bock)

  4. He then claims He’s master of the Sabbath; He has authority over a sign (Sabbath-keeping) that set Jews apart as the people of God (v. 5).

  5. Jesus has the authority to interpret the divine intention behind the Sabbath law; He makes the Sabbath subordinate to Him and as something given for the benefit of humans.” (Garland)


         II. Jesus Validates His Authority as Lord of the Covenant (Vv. 6-11)!

  • Jesus sets Himself up for another religious showdown (vv. 6-7)!

  1. This is not the first time they’d watched Him “at work,” but now there is the clear intent to catch Him and harm Him.

  2. The setting is familiar; He is teaching, a man with a work-disqualifying disability is also present. (Is this a set-up?)


  • Jesus sets up His antagonists to expose their callousness and hypocrisy (vv. 8-9)! And He’s the one who takes the initiative!

  1. Jesus knows why they’re there, what they’re doing, and why they are doing it! But He proceeds undeterred.

  2. The man responds positively to His request to stand and make himself visible to the whole Sabbath day crowd.

  3. Jesus then asks His detractors a question that is impossible to answer without public humiliation! Either way, they’re exposed as hypocritical and callous! (Serves them right!)


  • Jesus sets Himself up for His final showdown (vv. 10-11)! (This wave of rage will build and carry Him all the way to the cross!)

  1. There is “a moment of silence” as He allows the crowd to process the significance of His question and the possible responses!

  2. The man responds in faith to Jesus’ request, and his hand and his life are restored. And the Sabbath day crowd got to witness it! (Did they share the story with others? Duh!)

  3. Only the Lord could do such a thing! But He broke the law! How can this be?! He doesn’t fit into their theological box!

  4. Jesus not only asserts His authority as Lord of the covenant, He demonstrates it! And His detractors hate it and Him!


         III. Jesus Exercises His Authority in Replacing Leadership (Vv. 12-16)!

    • Jesus prepares for His major decision by an extended time of prayer (v. 12)! In these men, the future of God’s plan will rest! [“An objective genitive implies that Jesus ‘speaks to God not for the sake of talking but to listen.’” (Garland)]


    • Jesus’ choice of the Twelve is conscious and calculated; there are no slip-ups. Each will play a major role in His future (v. 13). [“With scribes and Pharisees responding to Jesus with misapprehension and anger, the choosing of the twelve signals a judgment of Israel’s leadership for their lack of insight into God’s redemptive plan and compassionate care for those in need.” (Green)]


    • Jesus lists the men whom He selected (vv. 14-16). Noteworthy…

  1. Peter is always listed first; Judas is always last. (No surprise!)

  2. The first four are always Peter, Andrew, James, and John.

  3. There are three teams of four, always led by Peter, Phillip, and James, son of Alphaeus respectively. That’s the plan!

For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” (2 Cor 5:14-15)

The issue throughout the gospels seems to center on authority!

Who has the right to tell me how to live my life? (Hmmm.)