Acceptable Sabbath Worship

01 Nov
from Google Images

from Google Images

Luke begins the next portion of his record (Luke 6) with an unusual phrase: “And it came to pass on the second Sabbath after the first… (Luke 6:1a – KJV). Some manuscripts have an easier reading: “And it came to pass on the Sabbath…[1] However, other manuscripts[2] have a more difficult reading: as in the KJV above or as some translations have it: “And it came to pass on the second first Sabbath…” Scholars prefer the second and more difficult reading, but the reader must decide for himself. It is important to the context, but, if it should be the more difficult reading, what does it mean?

In my studies I have concluded that the Sabbaths mentioned in Luke 5 and 6 line up with the seventh month of the Jewish calendar. This is supported by the fact that the disciples were walking through the grain fields, showing it was a time of harvest, and it was undoubtedly the fall harvest season. However, if it could be shown to point to the barley harvest in the spring, it would then be more difficult to harmonize Luke with John. Where would we place these events (Luke 4 to 6), which occurred in Galilee, because Jesus spent the first Passover of his public ministry in Judea (John 2) and his first Pentecost (John 5). Therefore, it seems more likely that Luke 4 to 6 occur in the previous autumn and during the 7th month in the Jewish calendar, prior to first Passover of Jesus’ public ministry.

I believe the phrase: “the second Sabbath after the first…” (Luke 6:1) should be translated as the KJV. Luke seems to point to two Sabbaths running together. That is, one of the annual holy days of the seventh month occurred on Friday, and there immediately followed the weekly Sabbath. The fact that the disciples were hungry points to the idea that the first Sabbath (on Friday) was the Day of Atonement or the annual fast day.

The disciples were ‘hungry’ and walked through a grain field, picked the heads of grain, rubbed them together and blew the chaff away and ate the raw grain that was left in their hands. They were questioned by the Pharisees, concerning why they were breaking the Sabbath by working (Luke 6:2). The Pharisees saw the picking the heads of grain as ‘harvesting’, rubbing the heads together as ‘winnowing’, and blowing the chaff away in their hands as ‘preparing’ a meal. All, of which (if correctly interpreted), would be wrong to do on the Sabbath day.

Jesus, who always comes to the defense of the believer, replied in place of his disciples (Luke 6:3). Whenever we are challenged, the Spirit of Christ within us will speak for us. All we need to do is repeat what we hear Christ say.

Jesus didn’t argue with the accusers (Luke 6:3-4). That is, he didn’t reply according to their folly by saying they were wrong and misinterpreted the Law (cf. Proverbs 26:4). Rather, he answered them according to their folly (Proverbs 26:5), meaning Jesus interpreted the Law by using additional Scripture. Jesus pointed to what David did concerning the Temple provisions, when his own men were hungry. In doing so, Jesus forced the Pharisees, who hearts were hard or fixed on their understanding of the Law, to interpret the matter in a different way. But, what is the logic behind Jesus’ argument?

Luke shows us that David made himself ‘lord’ over the provisions in the Temple (Luke 6:3-4). Matthew includes Jesus’ argument about David, but he also points to the fact that the priests kill and cut up the animal sacrifices in the Temple on the Sabbath day (Matthew 12:3-5). Yet, they are blameless in doing so, even though what they do amounts to earning their own living. In other words, the priests technically ‘break the Sabbath law’ by serving at the altar in the Temple, but they haven’t sinned in doing so. Therefore, if the priests are permitted by the Law to provide for their families by breaking the Sabbath, and David was made lord over the things of the Temple, then it is logically sound that the Messiah (David’s greater Son) is also Lord over the Temple, and, because the Temple takes precedence over the Sabbath, i.e. the Lord over the Temple must also be Lord over the Sabbath (Luke 6:5).

So, did Jesus do this simply to make an, otherwise, minor point in a debate with the Pharisees? No, not at all! The annual fast day, the Day of Atonement, was a national day of mourning over the sins the people of God had committed against him and against one another. On the other hand, the Sabbath was created for man (Mark 2:27), so that he could rest from his ordinary labor and contemplate and rejoice in the creation of God (Genesis 2:1-3). To mourn before the Lord, on the very day God created so man could celebrate God’s goodness, would be inconsistent with what should be done. So, the traditions of the Pharisees were clearly wrong. Following such traditions would be like mourning at a wedding. In order to rejoice in the Sabbath day, men needed rest from or stop mourning (fasting). Not to do so would be a contradiction.


[1] The ancient manuscripts: P4, א, B, L, W and UBS4

[2] The ancient manuscripts: A, C, D, K, X, Delta.

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Posted by on November 1, 2016 in Gospel of Luke


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