We have had a lot to say about the Sabbath here in Lewis – so much so that Luke 6 actually makes uncomfortable reading.
Jesus is rebuked for permitting his disciples to pluck grain to assuage their hunger. Later in the passage he offends the Pharisees again by healing a man with a withered hand who is in the synagogue on the Sabbath.
Many thought the Sabbath twice broken by Jesus because he permitted the hungry to be fed and caused a disabled man to be healed. Jesus himself, of course, saw things differently. As a man in this world, he didn’t concern himself with outward conformity; and as our intercessor in heaven, he is just the same.
The Lord sees us in ways we cannot see each other. He knows our hearts and our needs – and he knows our motives.
Was it love for Jesus that moved the Pharisees to keep the Sabbath? Perhaps. But ask another question: was it love for Jesus that made them enforce it so rigidly on behalf of others?
We have our answer at verse 11, ‘But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus’.
Nothing that fills us with fury is good. It edges out the love that ought to dwell in the hearts of all Christians. Sabbath-keeping, to my mind, is one outward sign of love for the Lord: we keep it because we are glad to do so. But it is not, in itself, loving him. In fact, this chapter shows us that it is possible to adhere to the outward so rigidly that we can remove Jesus from the throne of our hearts.
Spoiler alert: at no point in the following 18 chapters will Jesus demonstrate his care of the people through Sabbath-keeping. That is a desire that comes from a changed heart: it comes from within; it is not imposed from without.
We have to be so careful as Christians because we cannot see others as our Lord does, from the inside out. It is a challenge, then, not to punish the unchanged hearts for lack of conformity and lose the privilege of truly witnessing in the process.
Let us find where Jesus harangues the lost for breaking the Sabbath, and then we can emulate his example.