1. Now it happened on the second Sabbath after the first that He went through the grainfields. And His disciples plucked the heads of grain and ate them, rubbing them in their hands.
This reference to a “second after the first” Sabbath is only one word in Greek. This probably indicates a weekly Sabbath following one of the special, feast-day Sabbaths. The lexicons seem to think it is the second Sabbath following the first after Passover, and this could be. This Sabbath would actually take place in the middle of the feast of unleavened bread, for the first Sabbath after Passover takes place on the day after Passover, since the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread was always a Sabbath, no matter what day of the week it might fall on.
Now the Lord was walking through the grainfields with His disciples, yet it appears that there was a crowd following Him, as there often was, and that in this crowd were some Pharisees, who were observing what He and the disciples were doing. Now there is no indication that the Lord Himself did this, yet we read that His disciples were plucking heads of grain and eating them after rubbing them in their hands. This might seem strange to us, for they were picking this grain out of fields that were not theirs. Yet this was in total harmony with the law, for Deuteronomy 23:25 gave them permission to do this when it said, “When you come into your neighbor’s standing grain, you may pluck the heads with your hand, but you shall not use a sickle on your neighbor’s standing grain.” God wanted His people to be gracious to each other, and so He allowed anyone who was hungry and was walking through a field to eat of the grain of that field. He was not allowed to use an actual harvesting instrument, or to carry any grain with him out of the field, yet he could use his hands to pick the grain and eat it. This was part of God’s provision for the poor.
Now, though the Lord’s disciples were following the law in this regard, the Pharisees believed that they were breaking it in another matter. In order to remove the edible grain from the outer shell it was in, the disciples were rubbing the grain in their hands. According to the traditions of the religious leaders, this was a method of threshing the grain, and thus was unlawful to do upon the Sabbath day.
2. And some of the Pharisees said to them, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?”
We need to remember that the Pharisees’ complaint was not based upon what the Lord had written in the Scriptures about the Sabbath, but rather upon their own interpretations of the Sabbath. It was never stated in the Scripture concerning the Sabbath that men couldn’t pick food to eat on that day, only that no harvesting could be done. By their rules, they sought to negate the gracious provision of God.
3. But Jesus answering them said, “Have you not even read this, what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him:
The Lord’s answer to the Pharisees is strong. He is in no way apologetic. Rather, He chides them, and asks if they have never even read the story of what David did when he was hungry. These Pharisees did assiduously study the Scriptures, though they perhaps more assiduously studied the writings and traditions of those who were Pharisees before them. Yet we can be fairly certain they had read it, though it is clear that they had not absorbed the message of it. We cannot help in this context but think for a moment of all those in our time who claim to be God’s people and yet who have never even read this story of David, or many other things that are contained in the Bible. How can they ever imagine they could know what God would have them do, when they have never even read the words of God as they are contained in Scripture? Those who act like this do deserve a strong rebuke from the Lord. Why have they not even read God’s Word?
4. “How he went into the house of God, took and ate the showbread, and also gave some to those with him, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat?”
The Lord finishes His appeal to the case of David by pointing out how he had eaten the sacred food which only the priests were allowed to eat when he was in need. This story appears in I Samuel 21:6. The rabbis did not condemn David for doing this, but rather argued for the correctness of this. The lesson here is that commandments of God were never meant to make people hungry, but to remind them of God and to teach them about Him. When His people were desperate and in need, He was willing to make provision for them out of His Own stores. His laws were not meant as the terrible burden the Pharisees were making them out to be.
5. And He said to them, “The Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”
The Lord completes His argument by pointing out that, since the Sabbath belongs to Him and He was the One Who established it, He can do with it as He wants. The Sabbath was His originally, and He had given it to Israel as a gift (Exodus 16:29.) Yet since it was His to begin with, it was impossible for Him to violate it. Not that He did violate it, as we have already said. What His disciples did was in harmony with the spirit of the law, though it was forbidden by the Pharisees’ traditions. Yet if the Lord had wanted to, He could have changed the Sabbath laws as He saw fit. He was the Lord of the Sabbath.
We have no record of what the Pharisees thought of the Lord Jesus’ reply, but we can guess that His disciples continued to pick grain.
6. Now it happened on another Sabbath, also, that He entered the synagogue and taught. And a man was there whose right hand was withered.
Though this was not the same Sabbath day, the Spirit now turns our attention to another incident which involved the Lord and His teaching regarding the Sabbath day. We now are to consider a case involving a man with a crippled right hand in this synagogue.
7. So the scribes and Pharisees watched Him closely, whether He would heal on the Sabbath, that they might find an accusation against Him.
The Pharisees already had begun to hate the Lord Jesus because of His refusal to do things their way, and because He had a power that they did not. Thus, it seems those who belong to this powerful party, and to the scribes, in this town were looking for an accusation they could bring against Him to alienate Him from the people. Knowing His compassion, they were hoping to see Him heal on the Sabbath. This was not because they had any compassion on the crippled man, or hoped to see him healed as well. They little cared what happened to this poor man. All they wanted was some means whereby they could accuse Jesus Christ. The Lord was not going to avoid their trap, however.
8. But He knew their thoughts, and said to the man who had the withered hand, “Arise and stand here.” And he arose and stood.
The Lord does not avoid the issue. He does not ignore the crippled man, nor does He try to heal him quietly or surreptitiously. Rather, He confronts the situation head-on. He calls out this crippled man and causes him to stand before them. Men usually sat in a circle in the synagogue, so this man would now be in the middle in front of them all. Christ is going to make this a public matter for all to consider.
9. Then Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one thing: Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy?”
The Lord puts the question to these men in a way that was meant to stir their consciences before God. These men would have thought nothing of taking a man and stoning him to death on the Sabbath day for breaking their Sabbath law. They had no trouble with destroying a man’s life on this day. So what then of saving a man’s life? Could not that be done on this day? If they could do destructive things on that day, could not God do good and healing things on that day? This was an excellent point, and should have stirred the sympathy and assent of these men, if they were men of faith.
The word translated “life” here is actually the Greek word psuchen, which means “soul.” This verse actually speaks of saving a soul. There is much talk in religious circles of saving a man’s soul, but few it seems have actually studied the Bible out to see what it has to say regarding such a thing. How is it that a man’s soul is saved? What exactly is saved when a soul is saved? These are questions that many never bother to ask, yet what is truly needed is those who will search out these things from God’s Word.
10. And when He had looked around at them all, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.
The Lord’s question was meant to convict the Pharisees, but it appears that they resisted conviction. They were utterly unwilling to admit that doing good might be right on the Sabbath day, though they were more than capable of doing evil on that day. The Lord looks around at them to see if any will respond with conscience and faith, and yet none do. Their eyes were so blinded by their traditions and their hearts were so hardened by their petty jealousy that they were beyond caring about this crippled man. The Lord cared, however, and so He healed him.
11. But they were filled with rage, and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.
The Lord had made a firm stand here. Whether or not they would agree to it, He was going to do good on the Sabbath day. This seems like a difficult position to oppose, and yet the fact that the Lord did not defer to their authority in this matter infuriated the Pharisees. They thought not at all about the crippled man, but only about themselves and their own power. Many are those in power in our day who have likewise left compassion behind.
The word for “rage” here is actually anoias, from noia, which means “mind,” and with a– in front of it, which makes it mean the opposite, as our word “atheist” means one who has no God, and “agnostic” means one who has no knowledge. These men were filled with mindlessness, in other words. Their thoughts were without thought. They were foolish and mad in their thinking because of what the Lord had done. Yet they knew that He was a popular teacher, and that the sentiment of the people was behind Him. So they discussed with one another what they might do to Him. There can be little doubt that imprisonment was discussed, and likewise murder. They wanted the Lord out of the way any way they could accomplish it.
12. Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.
The time had come for the Lord to make a very important decision, and to choose those who would be His special twelve disciples. The Lord Jesus preceded this important decision by a night filled with prayer to God, His Father. It would be well for us if we would precede our times of major decision by prayer as well. This way we seek the mind of the Lord and His guidance in making our decisions. The Lord, of course, had all the guidance He needed, being equal with God Himself.
13. And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles:
When day came, the Lord called His disciples to Himself. Then, from among their number He chose twelve out of the rest. We need to remember this, as many get the wrong idea that the Lord only had twelve disciples. This verse shows us that this most certainly is not true. The Lord had many disciples, but these twelve in particular were chosen for a special position.
The word for “chose” here is the same word that is translated sometimes as “elect.” There are those who have their doctrines of election who try to make out that this word means to choose someone to be saved, or to come to God in the first place. Yet here we see that this was not the case. These men whom He chose were already His disciples. He was not choosing them to be disciples in the first place. Instead, He was choosing men who were already His disciples for a special place of service. This is what it means when the Lord elects someone in the Bible. It has nothing to do with salvation, but rather has to do with service.
What the Lord chose these men for here was to be named apostles. Apostles are those who are commissioned with authority. These twelve men were given a task and authority from God that His other disciples simply did not have. These men will receive several commissions throughout their ministries. They would use that power in miraculous ways, as we will see particularly in the book of Acts.
14. Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; James and John; Philip and Bartholomew;
Here we have a list of the twelve. There are actually four lists of the twelve apostles. The first is in Matthew 10:2-4. The second is in Mark 3:16-19. The third is here in Luke 6:14-16. The final list is in Acts 1:13, 26. These lists all correspond in several ways. First of all, they are all constructed in groups of four. The first four listed here are Peter, his brother Andrew, James, and John. These four are always first in all the lists. Peter is always listed first, though the other three are not always in the same order. The second group of four is Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, and Thomas. In this second four, Philip is always listed first, though the others are not always in the same order. Then, the last four consists of James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Canaanite or Zealot, Judas the son of James, also known as Lebbaeus in Matthew and Thaddaeus in Mark, and Judas Iscariot. Of these, James son of Alphaeus is always first, and Judas Iscariot is always last (though in Acts he is replaced by Matthias.) The middle two are not always in the same order. So we have these three groups of four corresponding in all the lists.
Here among these first six names, we notice first of all Simon whom the Lord named Peter. Peter means “Stone,” and is a name that the Lord gave him, for Simon was his given name. Andrew was his brother, as we read here, though Peter often was more closely associated with the brothers James and John, with whom he shared the greatest privileges the Lord gave to His disciples, for these formed the “inner three,” we might call them, of the disciples. Philip is associated with Bartholomew here, which makes many people believe that Bartholomew is the same as “Nathaniel” in John 1.
15. Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called the Zealot;
These four continue the list of the disciples. The only interesting point of note here is the name “the Zealot” attached to Simon. If this indeed means that he was part of that group in Israel that were called the Zealots, it is particularly amazing that he would be associated with a group wherein a former tax collector like Matthew was also given a position. The Zealots were a group that dedicated themselves to freeing Israel from Roman rule, and they would have viciously hated any who were working on behalf of Rome. Yet the Lord took no sides in many of these political debates of the day. In spite of the fact that we can sympathize with the Israelites’ desire to be free from the authority of the polytheistic Romans, the Lord never made His movement about such political concerns. He reached out to members of both these parties, and showed God’s love to all.
However, some have argued that the group called the “Zealots” had not yet arisen in the first century when Christ had His ministry. If so, this designation may refer to something other than the extreme patriot group that later took this name. Perhaps, it just meant he was extremely zealous for the law. Still, he would have been on an opposite extreme from a tax collector.
16. Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot who also became a traitor.
There were two disciples named Judas. Judas was a good name, just being the Greek form of the name “Judah,” which was the name of the royal tribe in Israel, and the tribe from which Christ came. The man Judas Iscariot may have given this name a bad reputation, but the name was actually a very good one.
The first Judas here, the son of James, was also called Lebbaeus and Thaddaeus, as we discussed above. The second Judas was Judas Iscariot, the traitor. The fact that Christ chose a traitor proves that this choice, this “election,” had nothing to do with salvation. Judas was not saved by the choice of Christ. Instead, he was chosen as a disciple. His own lack of faith and betrayal of the Lord determined his status as far as being a man of faith. As Christ said, it would have been better for Judas if he had never been born. He was not, therefore, a “saved” man.
Many wonder why Christ would choose a disciple who was going to betray Him. Otis Sellers in speaking of this passage points out the significance of the fact that the Lord had a betrayer with Him day and night for the three years of His ministry. If there had been anything He had done that was worthy of condemnation or a scandal, Judas would have reported it to the religious leaders when he turned the Lord in. Instead, they had to buy false witnesses, since their traitor could provide them with nothing they could use against Him. The fact that Judas was there was actually a very good way of demonstrating that there was nothing in all the Lord did to be worthy of censure. He was a righteous Messiah indeed!
17. And He came down with them and stood on a level place with a crowd of His disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem, and from the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear Him and be healed of their diseases,
Having now chosen these men, He came down with them and stood with a crowd of His disciples and a multitude of the people. These people were flocking to Him for healing from all Judea and its capital Jerusalem. There were also those from Tyre and Sidon, the region west of Galilee and far from Judea, who were coming to Him. In other words, He was getting great crowds from both the south and the northwest. So we see that the common people were flocking to Him. They were not rejecting Him, as many try to make out. These crowds were so great that by the time His ministry was over, there must scarcely have been a sick person left in Israel who could be brought to the Lord Jesus who had not already received healing.
18. As well as those who were tormented with unclean spirits. And they were healed.
This healing included not only diseases, but also possession by unclean spirits. It is clear that this was a common ailment at the time. The devil was attacking Israel, and trying to get a foothold to block all the Lord was doing. The Lord was well able to handle this, however, and He defeated these unclean spirits wherever He came upon them.
19. And the whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out from Him and healed them all.
They were all just seeking to touch Him, for the power was going out from Him to heal them all. No great ceremony or service was necessary to produce this healing. All it took was to touch the Lord Jesus, and all their ailments would be cured. What a picture this is for us today! For we see here that the Lord Jesus is indeed the answer for all the problems of this life. How much greater is this than what those who style themselves to be healers claim to do today!