IF JESUS ASKED YOU… Questions Jesus asked from the Book of Luke

Is it Lawful on the Sabbath to do Good or to do Harm?

Luke 6:6-11 SCC 10/9/11



It is a possible to use the Word of God to gain power over people. This often happens by turning God’s Word into rule keeping. Rule keeping is a way of overemphasizing the letter of God’s word and ignore the spirit of it’s meaning. It bypasses the meaning of a passage in its context and adds man made formulas as necessary for obedience. Jesus teaches us to focus on the spirit as well as the letter.




Here we have the setting for this Sabbath incident. The introduction to the story is intended to separate this event from the previous controversy of 6:1.


1. Jesus finds Himself teaching in the synagogue again (4:16, 31, 44). There is a man with a withered right hand in attendance. Again we see the detail that Luke uses as he writes.


2. The highlighted issue here is the Sabbath! Generally, any kind of work and even that, which qualifies as medical work could wait until the Sabbath, was over. This opinion is expressed in Luke 13:14, And the synagogue official indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, was saying to the multitude in response, ‘There are six days in which work should be done; therefore come during them and get healed and not on the Sabbath day.’


3. The Scribes and Pharisees were watching Jesus very closely almost as if they were viewing him out of the corner of their eye. We are to note that there is a sinister element at work here. Their eye is on what Jesus will do at this moment knowing it is the Sabbath.


4. The reason for the ‘eye’ reveals their readiness to point the accusing finger at Christ should he go through with this healing. Actually, that is the entire purpose of their ‘evil eye’. They want him to heal this man on the Sabbath so that they can level a charge against him as a rule-breaker!


Lesson: This is how people operate who get a hold of God’s commands and twists them into a rigid rule-keeping scenario. This allows them to go around and condemn people who do not comply. There is an over application of the letter of the law along with a rigid application. The intention of the Law as God meant it to be understood an applied is supplemented with man-made rules. These then become binding and a standard of condemnation or acceptance.




1. The entire incident turns on Jesus knowledge of the Pharisees and Scribes intention. In other words, Jesus knows that they want to find a way to accuse him and he does not back away from this. With this information, Luke advances us to the encounter. Jesus deliberately asks the man with the withered hand to get up and come forward. This is a deliberate challenge to the religious elite. This man does exactly as instructed.


PT: Jesus did not hide his intentions s the religious establishment was. And what he did he did front and center so that the masses would be exposed to the truth and have to decide for themselves without any interference from the religious establishment. Often we read that the multitude believed after having seen firsthand what Jesus did or heard what he taught. The point of Jesus ministry is to force people to have to decide about him.


2. Jesus then takes up the challenge by asking a question v 9. The pivot point of the question is whether one thing or another is ‘lawful’! The distinction is something lawful to do on the Sabbath that is either good or harmful. The good is to ‘save a life’ and the harm is ‘to destroy it’. Saving a life in the context is to restore and heal the man’s withered hand so he is in full possession of its physical use. Is this good, this saving life, permissible on the Sabbath? Here Jesus equates the restoration of this mans hand as moral with ‘doing good’. So it is a morally good thing to do so.


3. In contrast to this evaluation are the Pharisees condemning attitude in addition to their ‘evil spying eye’. Their excessive letter rule keeping over the Sabbath is the reason they condemn this restoring work. It is their condemning attitude and determination to accuse Christ by catching him is some law breaking activity that is morally equated with ‘doing harm’! It is like their refusal to do good is itself evil. The ‘destruction of life’ indicates where all of this is headed if they have it their way. Their rule keeping will end up being destructive of life itself—Jesus death is foreshadowed here as well as the death of others who suffer the consequences of this condemning rule-keeping attitude.


LESSON: Rule keeping attitudes not only bring condemnation to violators, but death dealing and destructive consequences. Rule keepers, indignant toward rule violators, will act to destroy others. Sabbath was to prevent people from working several consecutive days without rest, to provide time for rejuvenation, and to give time to contemplate God. It was never intended for sure to prevent one from doing good.




1. Now that the groundwork has been laid for justification of the healing, Jesus will demonstrate God’s own endorsement for doing good on the Sabbath. If Jesus is right God will heal this man right now. V 10 tells us the healing was successful. Jesus merely speaks and the man is healed. There was really no work Jesus did at all. Before doing so, Jesus gazes at everyone present and the healing indicates that it is the right thing to do good on the Sabbath in spite of the rule keepers perspective. God endorses what Jesus has done.


2. The religious officials response was swift and strong. They were ‘filled with rage’ referring to their mindless rage and irrational anger. The source and cause of this extremely frustrating response is that God cannot hear sinners like this Jesus who violates the Sabbath! Yet right in front of them was this Sabbath healing. Luke concludes the incident understating the outcome of their indignation—and they discussed together what they might do to Jesus. At their wits end and not exactly sure what they should do, they believe something must be done! Matthew 12:14 and Mark 3:6 mention they begin to plot how they might destroy Jesus.


3. By choosing rejection they had missed the point of what had taken place and this response begins to solidify a unified consensus. Jesus ministry will continue but it will do so with a gathering antagonism to it. In the meantime, Jesus ministry clearly does not rest upon the authority of religious officials who believe they speak for God.


LESSON: What is important is that we understand God’s intention for His commands not man’s interpretations of them. You do this by observing, interpreting, and applying God’s Word.