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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
Luke 6

 

 

Verses 1-49

LORD OF THE SABBATH

(vs.1-11)

"The second Sabbath after the first" is literally translated the "second-first Sabbath" (JND trans.), an unusual expression. The first Sabbath was that following the Passover, and the firstfruits of the produce of the field were offered the next day, the first day of the week, typical of the resurrection of Christ. Therefore the following Sabbath was called "the second-first." Before the firstfruits were offered to God it was not permitted for anyone to eat, though the grain was ripe, but afterwards they were free to eat. There was therefore no reason why the disciples could not eat of the new grain at this time, and they picked the heads of grain and ate them as they walked through the grain fields (v.1). Deuteronomy 23:25 gave permission for them to do this in another man's field, so long as they did not take the grain away in a vessel.

But the Pharisees had formulated their own new laws, and objected that picking and eating grain on the Sabbath was contrary to the law (v.2), and they dared to reproach "the Lord of the Sabbath" because He had not kept His disciples from working on the Sabbath. But He did not denounce their adding human tradition to God's law (as He did in Matthew 15:3). Rather He referred to what David did (vs.3-4) when he and his men were hungry and even God's ceremonial law was allowed to be broken to alleviate their hunger. The showbread was for the priests only, but David and his men ate of it (1 Samuel 21:2-6).

Why was this allowed? The moral circumstances must be considered: the priesthood had sadly failed, the true king was in exile and hungry because of persecution. Could the Pharisees not see a clear resemblance as to the Lord and His disciples? The priesthood then was in a state of corruption: the true King of Israel was despised and His disciples hungry. This should have struck the consciences of the Pharisees, for they and their nation were to blame for the hunger of these disciples of the true King because they had refused to recognize them. Then the Lord adds a telling positive word, "the Son of Man is Lord also of the Sabbath" (v.5). Notice that the word "also" implies a great deal, for He is Lord of all, including the Pharisees!

On another Sabbath, when He was teaching in the synagogue, a man was present who had a withered hand. This case and the one previous are found in the same sequence in both Matthew and Mark. The scribes and Pharisees, zealous for their own laws, watched for an occasion to accuse the Lord, specially since the man was there with a withered hand. Knowing their thoughts, He made an issue of this serious matter. He could have avoided a confrontation by having the man meet him privately to heal him, but the callous religious prejudice of the Pharisees must be faced publicly.

The Lord had the man stand forth in the midst. He then asked the penetrating question as to what is lawful on the Sabbath days, to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it (v.9). How perfectly He brings things into their proper perspective by His simple words! The Pharisees could make no reply, for there was no way out for them except to acknowledge His perfect right to heal on the Sabbath day. He looked at all of them in turn, certainly inviting an honest response. How could any of the objectors meet that gentle, steady gaze? He told the man to stretch forth his hand, which he did, and the hand was immediately restored In the case of the paralyzed man of Chapter 5:18, he was totally helpless, a picture of one lost and in his sins. The man with the withered hand is typical rather of a believer who needs restoration from a state in which he has lost ability for positive works of good. The left hand speaks of works from a negative viewpoint, that is, a believer might desist from evil works and yet be badly impaired as to positive good works (of which the right hand speaks). He needs the grace of the Lord Jesus for restoration.

How cruel and unreasonable is the religious prejudice of the Pharisees! When grace is shown to a man in such need, they were filled with madness because it was done on their holy day (v.11). They would deny the right of God to show compassion on a day when, of all days, it was certainly most becoming. They plotted together as to how to deal with the Lord Jesus, with the intent of killing Him (Mark 3:6). They viciously deny Him the right of saving life on the Sabbath, while they on the same day formulate their evil plans to murder Him!

PRAYER AND THE APPOINTMENT OF HIS APOSTLES

(vs.12-16)

Blessed is the contrast of verse 13! If enemies will take wicked counsel together, the Lord will seek the quiet solitude of the presence of God in a mountain above the common level, and continue all night in prayer to God. Enemies were planning to destroy the work of God. Can this turn Him from it? In no way! His lowly dependence on God for the steadfast continuance of His work is beautifully evident here. There is no proud defiance of man with Him, but the calm confidence of dependence on God's power to continue His work. Such is the beauty of His perfect Manhood.

Rather than the work being deterred, it increased. In the morning, calling together His disciples, He chose twelve to be called apostles. These had the honor of being His special witnesses and representatives in the work of His grace, for they were to be with Him, thereby having the invaluable experience of learning His character and ways so that later they might be fitted for use in establishing Christianity in the world.

In each case where we find the apostles listed, there is a different order, though in Matthew and Luke they are linked in twos, which implies a witness, though we may be sure there is more than this involved, such as the Word of God committed to them having the authority of God in it. Judas is mentioned at the end as the traitor. Of course the Lord knew him fully when He chose him, but this is designedly a solemn warning to anyone who would dare to nurture a wicked, deceitful heart in dealing with the things of God. Bartholomew is evidently Nathaniel of John 1:45.

GREAT CROWDS HEALED

(vs.17-19)

In the Lord coming down to the plain in verse 17 is a picture of His coming to bless the earth at the introduction of the Millennium, but only a glimpse. His apostles, the company of disciples and a great crowd of people from Judea, Jerusalem and Tyre and Sidon, coming to be healed of diseases and demon possession, all indicate this great Millennial gathering (v.17). The blessing was on a large scale, and all sought only to touch Him, for this alone secured healing because of virtue proceeding from Him. None were denied: all were healed. What a contrast to the vaunted healing campaigns that proffessedly-Christian men (and women) conduct today! If two or three are apparently healed, there is loud advertising, but what of the many left unblessed?

PRESENT BLESSING OF DISCIPLES

(vs.20-23)

There is a striking contrast between "the whole multitude" of verses 17-19 and "His disciples" in verse 20. The great blessing of verse 19 might tend to excite the disciples at the prospect of the glory of the kingdom being ushered in. The Lord quiets this with words that indicate they should be prepared for poverty, hunger, weeping and persecution. This is manifestly spoken at a different time that "the sermon on the mount" (Matthew 5:6-7), though it includes similar things, but in condensed form. Also the crowd was addressed in Matthew, but in Luke His disciples are addressed. In Luke there is no indication of His speaking from a mountain, as in Matthew 5:1.

The Lord had chosen the poor, but He did not bless them with earthly riches, as will be the case in the coming kingdom; yet they were blessed, "for," as He says, "yours is the kingdom of God." The inner reality of the kingdom belonged to them then, for they had received the King. Today too the kingdom belongs to those who wait in patience for the return of Him who is King. So, Revelation 1:9 shows the apostle John and the Church today to be "in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ." This is true blessing, true happiness in the face of all that today is contrary to the future glory of the kingdom.

In the Millennium there will be no hunger or thirst: all will be prosperity. Meanwhile to hunger and thirst is a blessing, for it is with the prospect of being filled. In fact, though there may be trying deprivation, yet the soul may even now be filled with spiritual good. If there is weeping now, our Lord being at present rejected and absent, yet weeping will eventually be turned to laughter when we are with the Lord, so even now, in possessing this certainty of future hope, we are more blessed than we realize.

More than this, in persecution the believer is blessed, even when hated and ostracized, his very name held in contempt as though evil (v.22). Yet there is a condition here noted, "for the Son of Man's sake." Only if the persecution is for His sake can we claim the blessing, but if so, it is vitally real and valuable. We are exhorted not to be discouraged by persecution, but to rejoice and leap for joy, for such identification with Him is worth infinitely more than a popular life on earth. The Jewish fathers had been guilty of inflicting such persecution on the prophets, and to be identified with the prophets in such suffering is true honor. Moreover, there is great reward, not in the earthly kingdom, but as He says, in heaven (v.23).

WARNINGS TO THE SELF-COMPLACENT

(vs.24-26)

Verse 24 is directly addressed to the rich, not for blessing, but with warning of woe. If before the coming kingdom men seek riches, this is all they have: they ignore the future to receive their consolation now. Those who are full now, satiated with things of this present life, will find themselves hungering. Those who laugh now will yet mourn and weep. Things will be fully reversed from what people naturally think today. If all speak well of us (v.26), it is no sign of God's approval, but of solemn humiliation to come. Ungodly people spoke well of false prophets and still do so today. Men's approval is empty, and worse, when one does not have God's approval.

LOVE TOWARD ENEMIES

(vs.27-36)

Many are spiritually deaf and do not hear such things. They have intentionally closed their ears to the things of Christ. But the Lord then spoke to those who would hear. He told them, "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you." Love is not merely having a kind feeling, but being genuinely concerned for the true, proper welfare of another If that person returns hatred, it is all the more reason to be concerned for him, for he needs special help. Doing good in return for evil is both rightly representing God and providing an example that should touch the hearts and consciences of others. This, and returning blessing for cursing, requires the lowly dignity of true faith, as do those things that follow, such as praying for one who acts despitefully (v.28). Our natural resentment is greatly modified by the power of the Holy Spirit when we allow Him to work in us ungrieved and unquenched (Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19).

There may be even physical violence, and not only is this to find us unresisting, but willing to bear further injustice, turning the other cheek. If a school bully were to beat up my child, this is not a question of my own rights merely. Rather, I am responsible for the child, and this should be reported to the school principal or to the parents of the bully. If one steals even our necessary garment (our cloak), we are not to strive to hold on to a garment more necessary still (our tunic) (v.29). Generally one would not steal another's garment unless he needed it, and we are to consider this. If it were a matter of a person stealing to increase his wealth, or, for instance one stealing a car for the fun of it, the police would actually require us to make a report, for the robber would be a threat to others besides ourselves.

As to giving to everyone who asks from us, this must be subject to sober wisdom; for someone may ask for a large amount to be spent on a project that is questionable, and concern for his own good might be reason to refuse this. We must also draw a firm line when people claiming to be the Lord's servants, urge us to give to their particular work. There are too many who take advantage of Christianity to make money. But if one is in need and asks for something to relieve that need, we ought to be fully prepared to give to him what is necessary. This attitude will result, by God's intervention, in receiving back in the same measure that we willingly give (v.38). The Lord is seeking in all of this to draw out the genuine faith of His people. He is certainly not "browbeating" His own! Also, if one has taken away what belongs to us, faith will make no demands for its return (v.30). However, if one borrows from another and forgets to repay him, it would be only right to remind the person of this, not because we want our rights, but to encourage the other person's reliability.

If we desire to be treated in a certain way, let us be sure to treat others in this way (v.31). If we do not practice this, why do we expect it of others? Also, if we only love those who show love to us, this is nothing to our credit: such a thing is common among sinful people of the world, as is doing good to those who do good to us (vs.32-33). Or if we lend, expecting to receive as much again, this is the same selfish principle that animates the ungodly (v.34).

Genuine love is much more than this, for it has honest care even for enemies, doing good and lending without expectation of receiving anything back (v.35). There are people who would not ask for a gift, but would not hesitate to ask for a loan, though they have little intention of paying it back. It would be wrong for us to encourage dishonesty in anyone, but so far as we ourselves are concerned, it is better for us to suffer wrong than to demand our rights. Faith on our part can leave my such things in the hand of God. If so, our reward will be great, and also in practical life we shall be children of the Highest, rightly representing His character of kindness to all, whether they are thankful or not. The reason for our being merciful is simply that our Father is merciful (v.36).

JUDGING CRITICALLY FORBIDDEN

(vs.37-42)

If we are to be merciful, then it follows that we must avoid a judging, critical attitude, even though others are wrong (v.37). We are not their masters. If we do speak of their wrongs, let it be with a genuine desire to see them restored and blessed, not to put them down. Generally speaking, if we refrain from harsh criticisms we will find that others are not so likely to criticize us. If we readily forgive others, then others are more likely to forgive us, for we must remember there are cases where we also need forgiveness. This does not contradict the judgment of actions that is required in cases where serious evil has come into the assembly, as in 1 Corinthians 5:3-5. Even there, harsh criticism would be out of place, but solemn, sober discipline carried out in a spirit of true self-judgment, yet firm scriptural decision by the local assembly.

In contrast to personal judging, a character of liberality (v.38) will encourage the same character in others. The symbol used of the measurement of certain dry foods, the seller doing everything to give full weight and measure, and even more. Such unselfishness will awaken unselfishness in others too. How refreshing a contrast Is this to the grasping deceit of people of the world!

The Lord's parable of verse 39 is connected with verses 37 and 38. If one is blind to what the Lord has been teaching, he needs another with open eyes to lead him. If both are blind, neither has a proper example to follow: they both fall into the ditch. The believer is not blind, but let him keep his eyes open! Also, if one has a proper teacher, he should not remain blind, spiritually speaking. Certainly the disciple is not superior to his teacher: if so, he would not require his teaching, but if the teacher has taught him well, so he becomes mature, he shall be "as his teacher," that is, there will be a similarity (v.40). Let us therefore learn well from the Lord Himself and we shall become more like Him.

Verses 41 and 42 show that our sight may be very discerning as to the fault of another and fail to discern a greater fault in ourselves. Rather than giving helpful teaching, we may sharply criticize a trifling matter, but ignore more serious evil in ourselves. Unless we use honest self-judgment as to our own actions, we shall not see clearly to be of help to others in overcoming whatever impediments they may have.

This goes deeper than things seen on the surface. It is the heart that must be reached, for only if the heart has been purified by faith, will good fruit proceed from the person (vs.43-45). If the tree is corrupt, whatever fruit it may bear will be corrupt. An unbeliever may attempt to pass as a believer, but the results will eventually manifest him as a corrupt tree. He will be known by his fruit. It is useless to think of finding figs on a thorn-bush or grapes on a bramble.

The Lord in these verses is striking at people's pretense of goodness, while their hearts are untouched by His grace, unregenerate, and therefore still under sin. A good person is one whose heart is purified by faith in the Son of God, for by nature "there is none good, no not one" (Romans 3:12). Only the grace of God can make a difference in the person. In this case a "good treasure" is implanted in his heart, the treasure of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, communicated to "earthen vessels" (2 Corinthians 4:6-7). Only good can come from this, however weak the vessel may be. Without this good treasure a person has only "an evil treasure" in his heart and his mouth soon expresses this, for what is predominant in the heart, his mouth will speak.

REAL OR PRETENDED DISCIPLESHIP?

(vs.46-49)

Deceit in one's heart will often result in good-sounding words. One of the worst forms of hypocrisy is to call Jesus "Lord" when one has no intention of obeying Him (v.46), but this is as common an evil today as it was when He was here. This does not at all contradict 1.Corinthians 12:3, which says, "no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit". In 1.Corinthians 12 Paul is speaking of ministry being given in the assembly, where the Lordship of Christ was paramount. If one's ministry fully acknowledged Jesus as Lord, then that ministry was by the power of the Holy Spirit. But here in Luke the Lord does not have the Assembly in mind at all, but people who would glibly use the Lord's name without any thought of subjection to Him. In contrast to this, the Lord expresses His approval and encouragement of the reality of faith that takes His Word to heart, hearing with a faith that responds in obedient action. The person of the Lord Jesus means everything to such an one. He digs deep, through all the mere accumulation of earthly-mindedness, and reaches the bedrock, typical of Christ as the Son of God (Matthew 16:1-18). He wants reality and is satisfied with nothing less than the eternal Son of God on whom to build his entire life. Whatever floods or storms arise, he is not moved, for it is the foundation Rock that secures him (v.48).

On the other hand, if one "hears" with no resulting obedience, he is building without a foundation. To him the words of the Lord Jesus are merely optional principles of a good man, not having great importance. To such a person the Lord's words do not indicate the truth of who the Lord Jesus is. But to separate His words from the solid, eternal truth of His person as the living Son of God is to leave the hearer so exposed to the storms of circumstances as to have no place of standing at all. He has no foundation and comes to ruin (v.49).

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Luke 6:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/luke-6.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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