12 June 2020

Luke 6:1-11 Jesus Breaks the Law

Luke 6:1-11

Early on a Saturday, Jesus and his disciples were hungry. So they did what any reasonable person would do: they got food. They were confronted by a group of Pharisees who asked them to justify their breaking the commandment, "remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy" (Exodus 20:8-11). He responds that David had done even worse. At least Jesus and his companions are taking from a portion of a field which was set aside for those who are hungry (Leviticus 19:9). Even so, they are doing what is unlawful.

This does not line up even with Paul's teaching in his letter to the Romans, where he tells believers to obey the laws of their government because there government is appointed by God (Romans 13:1-7). Many who take a legalistic or authoritarian approach to scripture quote this passage as if it is the highest of all commandments. Except that isn't exactly what Paul says. He qualifies that "there is no authority except by God’s appointment." Which is to say that God's authority is above and beyond the authority of human law.

When Jesus breaks the letter of the Law, God's Law, is he in fact keeping the spirit of the law? After performing a miracle of healing, he poses this very question to the Pharisees, "[which is] lawful on the Sabbath, to do good, or to do harm" (6:9)? He reminds them that the Sabbath was established as a day of rest as an act of compassion, that all may have time to rest from their work.

Compassion exists above all laws, whether they are written by man or by God. If we know what is right and do what is right, we have exceeded the requirements of law. When we stand up against authoritarian power, unjust laws, and protest systemic evil, we do the work of God and the Holy Spirit is with us. When we are punished for doing what is right, it is unjust, and God is on our side.

When Jesus did this, the powers of the world "were filled with rage, and talked with one another about what they might do to Jesus" (6:11). When we stand up against evil, we should expect no different. The powers of the world killed Jesus and all of his early followers. They protested and they died, but because they stood up, God transformed the world. The Roman Empire fell, replaced by the very church of the God it sought to destroy.

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