Key Truth: Luke wrote Luke 6:1-16 to teach believers that belief is not about following a list of rules but about a relationship with God that affects your relationships with others.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about a relationship with God.
Pray and Read: Luke 6:1-16
1. Believing is not about following a list of rules (Luke 6:1-11)
Exposition: Note well,
By comparing belief and unbelief, Luke’s Gospel calls us to believe that Jesus is the Messiah who fulfills the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants (Luke 1-2). The first step in belief is to repent of our sin (Luke 3:1-20) to God’s suffering Servant, who, through his sacrificial death (Luke 3:21-23a), is the truly obedient Son of God, unlike sinful Adam (Luke 3:23b-38), defeating Satan in every area of human life: body, mind, and spirit (Luke 4:1-13).
In the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus begins his ministry around the Sea of Galilee (Luke 4:14-9:50). Luke powerfully contrasts belief and unbelief in a series of events in Galilee. First, Luke compares the response of unbelief and rejection of Jesus at the Nazareth synagogue (Luke 4:14-30) with the response of belief and unleashed power at the one in Capernaum (Luke 4:31-44). After calling his first disciples in belief to follow him (Luke 5:1-11), his ministry arouses the unbelieving hostility of the religious leaders when he forgives sins (Luke 5:12-26). When Levi the tax collector responds in belief and follows Him (Luke 5:27-32), the Pharisees respond in unbelief and anger to Jesus’ dining with sinners (Luke 5:33-39).
The fourth and fifth incidents of opposition center around the unbelief of the Pharisees around their rigid ideas of keeping Sabbath (Luke 6:1-11) contrasted with Jesus’ calling of twelve believing disciples as apostles (Luke 6:12-16).
Exposition: Note well,
1. BELIEVING IS NOT ABOUT FOLLOWING A LIST OF RULES (Luke 6:1-11)
a. The conflict which began with healing the paralytic (Luke 5:1-11) and the call of Levi (Luke 5:12-26) continues. Immediately prior to this passage, Jesus gives three parables pointing to the inevitable clash between old Jewish expectations and the new thing God is doing in Jesus. Jesus is not reforming Judaism. He is bringing the dawn of God’s final salvation, and this new wineskin will expand to include all the nations with Israel in celebration of the King of Kings.
b. Here as in the other Gospels (|| Mark 2:23-28), Luke emphasizes the conflict over Sabbath-keeping. The dispute is over what is permitted on that holy day. Walking through a field on the Sabbath, the disciples pluck and eat ears of corn (Lev 19:9-10; Deut 23:25), and the Pharisees, watching them, object (Exod 20:8-11; Deut 5:14). They don’t accuse the disciples of stealing, but rather of working by harvesting grain (Exod. 34:21).
c. Luke 6:3-4 – What David did: Jesus replies by defining the true meaning of God’s Law, quoting an OT case where the letter of the law yielded place to the spirit of the law as an urgent necessity (1 Sam 21:1-6). David had come to the sanctuary at Nob, northeast of Jerusalem (1 Sam 4:2-4; Jer. 7:12). David asked and received from Ahimelech the priest the “bread of the Presence,” set out each week as a sacrifice to the Lord and eaten only by the priests (Lev 24:8-9). David was not really supposed to do that, but he was in need, and the priest helped him. More than that, Jesus draws a connection with David, a connection Luke has already made for us (Luke 1:32-33, 68-79; 2:11; 3:22, 31). David had authority to eat as he did, and Jesus has the same right to a higher degree as the Lord. Further, the bread was changed out and consumed on the Sabbath, and the connection drawn here is important to show that the Provision of God in Jesus is present, fulfilling the covenant of David in the role of the priest.
d. Luke 6:5 - Jesus then claims divine authority as Lord of the Sabbath, and He, not tradition, determines what is “lawful” to do on that day. Since He instituted it, he has authority to redefine its significance or correct its purpose for the Pharisees, focusing it on relationships with God and others.
e. Jesus makes clear that human need has precedence over the burden of ceremonial observance (Mark 2:27). The rabbis have distorted the God’s intent for the Sabbath in giving a day of rest. The writer of Hebrews made it clear that one can only enter into His Sabbath rest in belief, not unbelief, what the Pharisees could not figure out and fought furiously against.
f. APPLICATION: Their differences boil down to one thing. Jesus approaches the Sabbath as a time for relationship with God. The Pharisees approach it with religious observance without relationship. Jesus’ overriding principle is that the Sabbath is for doing good, for responding to human need, focusing on relationships with God and with each other graces, rather than violates, the principle of the Sabbath rest. Being a believer is not about meticulously keeping a set of rules and regulations. It is rather a life oriented towards loving others and pleasing God.
g. But what about observing Sabbath? What guidelines should we follow about what is right or wrong to do on Sunday? Like Jesus, we best honor God when we affirm relationships with God and each other rather than imposing restrictions.
h. (|| Mark 3:1-6): Jesus shows again how the law of love must override ritual observances like the Sabbath in regard to a man with a withered (dried) hand, perhaps paralyzed or atrophied.
i. Luke 6:7 – A reason to accuse Jesus: They spied on him, watched maliciously, lay in wait for him, the text says. Their secretive and malicious motives are contrasted with Jesus’ sincere pubic act, bringing the man forward for all to see. Could one save life on the Sabbath? Since life was not in immediate danger, this healing would have been considered a violation of Sabbath by the Pharisees.
j. Luke 6:9 – To destroy life? The question seems puzzling in two ways. The man is not in danger of dying, and failing to heal does not seem the same as destroying life. Jesus is making that point that the OT is radically pro-life. Anything that impairs the quality of human life as God intended does destroy life. And failure to set right what is destructive to life is like killing. But there is more here. The heavy irony is that they are seeking to destroy Jesus’ life.
k. Luke 6:11 – They were furious: “They were filled with madness, mindless fury” (anoia). This verse summarizes the five conflicts with the religious leaders and their walking in unbelief. The real Sabbath violation was not healing a man but the uncaring and hypocritical attitude of the Pharisees.
l. APPLICATION: Rebellion breeds mindless fury and madness. It comes from an uncaring and hypocritical attitude designed to control others. It’s bad enough in a teenager, but horrible when added to religion. It refuses submission to the Lord yet demands everyone follow its legalistic, life-choking regulations. It is in homes, churches, board rooms, work crews, sales meetings, governments. It is not Christ’s way of doing things. His way brings abundant life (John 10:10).
2. BELIEVING IS ABOUT A RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD (Luke 6:12-16)
a. Events are now definitely leading to the Pharisees and scribes taking action against Jesus, so he must prepare his followers to continue His work when he is no longer with them. So from among his many disciples He selects and commissions twelve for the responsibility of apostleship, of being sent out (as missionaries). Luke, in his interest in prayer (Luke 3:21; 9:18, 28; 11:1-13; 18:1-8; 22:31-32, 40, 46), mentions that Jesus spent all night praying before selecting them. (Lists of Apostles found also at ||Mark 3:16-19; Matt 10:2-4; Act 1:13).
b. APPLICATION: If Jesus spent all night in prayer before making the big decision to choose Twelve, how much more do we need to spend time in prayer before big decisions? We don’t need to spend less time in prayer but actually more.
|Click for a full-size image of Jesus' family tree.|
d. First we have two Galilean brothers SIMON PETER and ANDREW (Luke 6:14)
e. Then two more brothers, PHILIP and BARTHOLOMEW (Bar-Telamyon, Temalyon) generally supposed the same as NATHANAEL.
f. Just as John the Baptizer was Jesus’ 2nd cousin on his mother Mary’s side, Jesus had other cousins. Mary had a sister named Salome (Matt. 27:56; Mark 16:1) married to Zebedee from Bethsaida, with sons JAMES and JOHN. Therefore, James and John were Jesus’ first cousins. James would be martyred (Acts 12:1-2) and John would write a Gospel, three letters, the Revelation, and eventually pastor the church at Ephesus.
g. Then on the side of Jesus’ step-father, Joseph the Carpenter, the Lord had step-cousins, legally cousins, but not biologically because Jesus was Virgin born. According to the early church historian Eusebius, a man named Clopas (same name as Alphaeus) was the brother of Joseph the Carpenter. This Clopas is probably the man Cleopas mentioned in Luke 24:18 to whom Jesus revealed himself on the Road to Emmaus. His wife, Mary of Clopas (John 19:25), was sister to Salome and Mary. She was present at the Crucifixion (Matt. 27:56; Mark 15:40) and accompanied Mary the mother of Jesus to Jesus’ tomb on Resurrection Sunday. It appears that Clopas (Alphaeus) and Mary had five sons: Matthew-Levi, Thomas Didymus (the twin), James son of Alphaeus, Judas Lebbaeus Thaddeus, and Simon the Zealot, except for the Virgin Birth, all Jesus’ double first cousins.
i. MATTHEW & THOMAS (also called Didymus which means Athe twin@) Possibly fraternal or identical twins. Thomas is closely connected with Matthew in Luke=s and Matthew=s gospels.
ii. JAMES SON OF ALPHAEUS (OR CLOPAS) or James the Less (John 14:22; 19:25)
iii. JUDAS THADDEUS (called Lebbaeus by Matthew from Hebrew lebh Aa heart@) also called by him and Mark, Thaddeus, derived from Hebrew thodah from Apraise.@ Points to the heartiness and praiseworthiness or great personality of Thaddeus/Judas. Luke calls him Judas of James (the brother, not likely the son (NIV) of James) Luke 6:15, cf. John 14:22. Thus his name was Judas Lebbaeus and his surname Thaddeus.
iv. SIMON ZELOTES OR THE ZEALOT, originally connected with a terrorist group called the Galilean Zealots, or Zealots for the Law. When James the half-brother of Jesus died in A.D. 62, Simon would succeed him as leader of the Jerusalem Church and be martyred by the Emperor Trajan in A.D. 106.
h. So among the Apostles we notice 7 cousins of the Lord: James and John, sons of Salome and Zebedee, and the three or five sons of Alphaeus/Clopas and Mary: James, Judas Lebbaeus Thaddaeus, Simon Zelotes, and possibly Matthew-Levi and Thomas the twin. The rest were Galileans who grew up with these other men, two brothers Philip and Bartholomew and two brothers Simon Peter and Andrew.
i. JUDAS ISCARIOT (Ish Kerioth) B literally “a man of town.” There was also an ancient town in Judah by that name (Joshua 15:25). Thus all the disciples were Galilean except this one Judean. This may throw some light on his later history and why he might have been pushed out to be a traitor.
j. APPLICATION: So what does this information tell us about Jesus and his Apostles? It tells us that most of these men knew Jesus from the time He was a child. They had watched Him. They had seen his character, his way of doing, his sinless behavior. They had played around Him, eaten around Him, and worked Him. They had a relationship with Him. Think about your cousins. How many of your cousins would you follow if he said he was the Messiah? Yeah, that’s what I thought. These men knew him and followed him. Their following him was based not on their ability to keep the rules, mind the do’s and don’ts but based solely on His character and his person. For them, believing was about a relationship with the Lord and played out in their relationships with each other. “Love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself.”
k. That hasn’t changed. Following Jesus is not about how well you can uphold the legalistic demands of religious people. Following Jesus is about having a relationship with Him. Knowing Him, enjoying Him, working and playing with Him. When you follow Jesus, when you have a relationship with Jesus, He sends you out to do his will. This explains why every area of your life is submitted to Him, and you live to serve Him and enjoy Him and bring praise to Him in all that you are and do.
Did you know that you, (Yes! You!) can have a relationship with this same Jesus? He is still alive and He is still sitting in a resurrected body at the right hand of His Father’s Throne, and He still wants to give you the gift of eternal life if you will but ask him to forgive you of your sins and submit your life to Jesus. Won’t you do that right now?
 Culminating at Luke 9:20 with Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Anointed of God.
 The incident parallels the beginning of the birth narrative, in which the priest Zechariah responds in unbelief to the announcement of the angel Gabriel. The Capernaum synagogue’s faith parallels the believing faith of the Virgin Mary.
 Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Book 3, Chap. 17, 360-361; Bible History (http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/biblehistorydaily/), John J Rousseau and Rami Arav, Jesus and His World, (Augsburg Fortress, 1995); http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/jesus/tree.html. Also see William Barclay, The Master’s Men (1959).
 Alphaeus and Clopas are the same name in Hebrew. Alphaeus in the Babylonian Talmud as Ilphai or Ilpha (R. hash. 17b) and the other often found in the Jerusalem Talmud as Chilphai (Jer. B. Kama 7a). Wetzel, Theol. Stud. u. Krit. 1883, Heft 3.
 Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3:11, quoting Hegesippus.
 Edersheim says that Matthew-Levi’s father was named Clopas, but he does not draw a connection because he says it does not seem likely that with three other sons that Matthew-Levi and Thomas would be considered sons as well and that Clopas was a common name. Others say it was a rare name, and why would one with three sons not just as likely have five?
 Josephus, War, 4.3.9. The Simon of Clopas/Alphaeus Hegissipus in Eusebius is Simon Zelotes according to Edersheim (Life & Times, 5.15.889) because first his position in Apostles list along with other sons of Alphaeus, second, because only two Simons were prominent in the NT (brother of the Lord and Zelotes); third, Hegesippus calls him son of Clopas. Edersheim says that Levi-Matthew’s father was an Alphaeus but does not connect him with them. I see no reason to separate them since they are listed together with the other sons of Alphaeus/Clopas in the Biblical text.
 Josephus, Antiquities, 20.9.1/200-3.
 Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3.11; 4.22, quoting Hegesippus.
 Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3.32, quoting Hegesippus.
 Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Book 5, chap. 15, 888-9.