For an introduction to this series, click here.
Feb. 22, 2007
The chapter opens with the disciples picking wheat and eating it on Saturday. The Pharisees - either some of them were following Jesus all the time or they really had a lot of time on their hands - criticized Jesus for allowing the disciples to work on the Sabbath. Jesus responds with a question He often asked the Pharisees: "Have you not read...?" He then explains how David ate the shewbread in the Tabernacle, even though no one was supposed to eat it except the priests. Of course the Pharisees were familiar with the story, but they were so concerned with finding the rules in the Bible that they overlooked examples of compassion and common sense exceptions to the rules.
Luke jumps ahead to "another Sabbath" when Jesus was teaching in the synagogue. In comes a man with a withered hand. The Pharisees and scribes in the audience were sitting there daring Jesus to heal the man so they could accuse Him of working on the Sabbath. Jesus simply tells him to "Stretch out your hand," and he is healed. So Jesus did nothing and at the same time did everything.
The last section of the chapter is very similar to Matthew's Sermon on the Mount. While there are some who teach that this is a different view of the same sermon, I think the differences are more striking than the similarities, especially in the Beatitudes. You will find pieces of the Sermon on the Mount scattered throughout Luke's Gospel in all sorts of different contexts and circumstances. I think it is more likely that Jesus often repeated important teachings He wanted his disciples to follow, and that He would often vary the way He taught them a little to drive home important points.
Luke's and Matthew's Beatitudes are vastly different. A beatitude is just a statement of blessing upon someone or something. Matthew speaks of those poor in spirit and hungering for righteousness. Luke is very different: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied." (6:20-21) Matthew focuses on the heart attitude of the person who will receive spiritual blessings, and Luke focuses on the material things a person who seeks spiritual blessings will give up to obtain them.
Luke follows up his Beatitudes with condemnations: "But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets." (6:24-26, ESV)