It’s Day 6! We are one fourth of the way through Luke. 24 chapters in 24 days! I am praying for you as you are with Jesus today.
He never fails to captivate, challenge and convict! Today we see Jesus with his disciples, heal a guy’s hand and teach the most compelling messages ever (Beatitudes, Golden Rule, etc).
Included below are further explanation and commentary for each verse. There are Life Application sections and each blue number can be clicked on to take you to that scripture. Let me know if you have any questions and feel free to comment at the end. Enjoy the day with Jesus.
A Discussion about the Sabbath / 6:1-5
6:1-2 As these leaders continued to follow Jesus, they observed him one Sabbath day as he was walking through some grainfields. Roads often went right through fields. The disciples broke off heads of wheat, rubbed off the husks in their hands, and ate the grains. On any other day but the Sabbath, this would have been acceptable. God’s law said that farmers were to leave the edges of their fields unplowed so travelers and the poor could eat (Deuteronomy 23:25). This day was a problem, however, because the religious leadership had set up strict laws regarding how to observe the Sabbath. They had set up thirty-nine categories of forbidden activities—and harvesting was one of them. According to the religious leaders, however, the disciples were technically “harvesting” because they were picking wheat and rubbing it in their hands. The disciples were not breaking God’s law as recorded by Moses. Instead, they were only violating one of the Pharisees’ many rules.
- LIFE APPLICATION-ALL THE ANSWERS
- The Pharisees thought their religious system had all the answers. They could not accept Jesus because he did not fit into their system. Religious people today could miss Christ for the same reason. Beware of thinking that you or your church has all the answers. No religious system is big enough to contain Christ completely or to fulfill perfectly all his desires for the world.
6:3-4 The Pharisees would have been taken aback by Jesus’ question, “Haven’t you ever read in the Scriptures . . .?” Of course they had read this story about what King David did when he and his companions were hungry. Jesus explained his disciples’ action on the grounds that they were hungry and that their need superseded the technicalities of ceremonial law.
The story is recorded in 1 Samuel 21:1-6. Each week twelve consecrated loaves of special bread, representing the twelve tribes of Israel, would be placed on a table in the house of God, the Tabernacle. At the end of the week, the bread would be replaced with fresh loaves, and the old loaves were reserved for the priests to eat (Leviticus 24:9). On one occasion, the high priest gave this special bread to David and his men to eat as they were fleeing from Saul. The priest understood that their need was more important than ceremonial regulations. The loaves given to David were the old loaves that had just been replaced with fresh ones.
By comparing himself and his disciples to David and his men, Jesus was saying, in effect, “If you condemn me, you must also condemn David.” Jesus was not condoning disobedience to God’s laws. Instead, he was emphasizing discernment and compassion in enforcing the ceremonial laws, something the self-righteous Pharisees did not comprehend.
6:5 When Jesus said that he, calling himself Son of Man, was master even of the Sabbath, he was claiming to be greater than the law and above the law. Jesus meant that he had the authority to overrule the Pharisees’ traditions and regulations because he had created the Sabbath—and the Creator is always greater than the creation. Jesus claimed the authority to correctly interpret the meaning of the Sabbath and all the laws pertaining to it. Who created the Sabbath? God did. Therefore, because Jesus, the Son of Man, is God’s Son, given authority and power by God himself, he is also master of the Sabbath.
- LIFE APPLICATION-TRADITIONALISM
- History says that John Calvin wore a hat when he preached. He did so because his health was frail, and church buildings were drafty and full of pigeons. Long after Calvin, preachers who admired the great reformer also wore hats when they preached, even though his reasons for wearing one no longer applied. Someone has defined tradition as “the living faith of those now dead,” whereas traditionalism is “the dead faith of those now living.” Jesus’ critics in Luke 6:5 were locked into traditionalism. They had long since forgotten the reason behind the Sabbath observance: honoring the Lord. Instead, they focused solely on the mindless rule keeping that is the empty soul of legalism. Do you observe the Sabbath? Why—or why not? If someone were to ask you to explain what you do or don’t do on Sunday, could you? Beware of falling into legalism: simplistic, unthinking obedience to rules and regulations. Christianity is based not on rules but on love—love for people and love for God.
Jesus Heals a Man’s Hand on the Sabbath / 6:6-11
The ongoing debate about the Sabbath would continue to escalate as Jesus continued with his mission, regardless of the day of the week. Obviously Jesus taught and healed throughout the week, but the Gospel writers present several incidents that occurred on the Sabbath in order to highlight the animosity of the religious leaders. This healing is the last in a series of five confrontations with the Pharisees in this section. The Pharisees had already objected to Jesus forgiving sins (5:17-26), associating with “sinners” (5:29-32), and challenging their traditions involving fasting (5:33-39) and the Sabbath (6:1-5).
6:6-7 On another Sabbath day, Jesus was in the synagogue . . . teaching. At this particular time, a man with a deformed right hand came into the synagogue. There seems to be no question that Jesus could heal the man. The Pharisees were concerned only to see whether Jesus would heal the man on the Sabbath. What difference should that make? Luke explains that they were eager to find some legal charge to bring against him. How unfortunate that they could not rejoice in a healing; instead, they hoped to use the healing to bring a charge against Jesus. It was more important for them to protect their laws than to free a person from suffering. It’s interesting too that Jesus performed no “work” on the Sabbath—He simply spoke a few words and a hand was completely restored. God’s law prohibited work on the seventh day of the week (Exodus 31:14-17) The man’s condition was not life threatening. Jesus could have avoided conflict by waiting until the next day to heal the man. But Jesus, as Lord of the Sabbath, had the authority to overrule the Pharisees’ traditions and regulations. If he had waited another day, he would have been submitting to the Pharisees and showing that their made-up rules were indeed equal to God’s law. But God’s law for the Sabbath was never meant to keep people in bondage. When Jesus saw a need, he filled it, regardless of the day or time.
- LIFE APPLICATION-LEGALISM
- The religious leaders were more concerned with negatives; that is, what rules should not be broken, what activities should not be done on the Sabbath. Jesus was proactive, positive, concerned with doing good and helping others.
Which would an objective observer say is more characteristic of your faith in Christ—the positives or the negatives? Are you more concerned with opposing certain sins and cultural movements or in advancing the kingdom of God and proclaiming his love for men and women? Faith in Christ is the most positive force to ever hit planet earth. Make sure you don’t let it degenerate into a negative religion.
6:8 Again the text reveals the divine perception that Jesus retained while on earth: he knew their thoughts (see also 5:22). Jesus would make a public display of this healing, so he said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand here where everyone can see.” Jesus would make the important point that he could not and would not be bound by the Pharisees’ burdensome laws.
6:9 Jesus’ question should have been obvious—even to these religious leaders, “Is it legal to do good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing harm?” The Pharisees’ own laws allowed people to do good and to save life on the Sabbath—a farmer could rescue a sheep from a pit on that day, even though such an act would clearly be considered “work” (Matthew 12:11-12). How absurd, then, to refuse to allow a person to do good to another person on the Sabbath.
6:10 Jesus did not receive an answer to his question, so he turned his attention back to the man, telling him to reach out his hand. When the man did so, his hand became normal again. As with the leper (5:12-13) and the paralyzed man (5:24-25), Jesus gave this man new life.
- LIFE APPLICATION – RESTORATION
- If you have ever lost something valuable, thinking it was gone forever, and then gotten it back, you know how much you appreciate the recovered object. In some ways it means even more to you than it did before. Luke didn’t record what caused this man to lose the use of his hand, but he did write that Jesus restored it and made it useful again. Certainly the man appreciated having two good hands again. Take a moment to think of the good things God has given you: health, a loving family, a job, a home, a church, freedom, the ability to read these words. Now think what life would be like if you lost any of them . . . and then thank God for his goodness to you, and resolve to use those gifts for his glory and the benefit of others.
6:11 No particular action of Jesus is recorded; he told the man to move, and with that movement, healing arrived. Jesus did nothing that could be called “work,” but the Pharisees would not be swayed from their purpose. They became wild with rage. Jesus had looked them in the eyes and then had flouted their laws, overruled their authority, and exposed the hatred in their hearts to the entire crowd in the synagogue. When Jesus exposed their attitudes, he became their enemy, and they began to discuss what to do with him. Matthew and Mark state that their discussion focused on how they might kill Jesus (Matthew 12:14; Mark 3:6). Ironically, their hatred, combined with their zeal for the law, was driving them to plot murder—an act that was clearly against the law.
Jesus Chooses the Twelve Disciples / 6:12-16
After a night dedicated to prayer, Jesus chose twelve men to be his apostles—his representatives. Whatever Jesus’ specific reasons for choosing each disciple, as a group they were often hot-tempered, unbelieving, and “clueless” about the spiritual realities behind Jesus’ ministry. These men had few qualifications. They had little education. No important family connections. Some had dark pasts. The better that we come to know the weaknesses of the disciples, the more we can see that God has freely chosen us, also!
6:12 Jesus’ enemies had revealed their stubborn hearts and refusal to see him for who he was; his ministry was increasing as people crowded in to hear him. Jesus knew that he would not be long on the earth, so the continuing task of spreading the Good News of the Kingdom would be entrusted to a group of human beings whom he must choose. This was a daunting task and Jesus needed the Father’s help. So Jesus went to a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night. This was not a quick call for help while Jesus followed his instincts; this was an intense conversation as Jesus sought his Father’s guidance in this supremely important task.
- LIFE APPLICATION – PRAY FIRST
- Jesus never wrote any books. He never led any church-growth conferences. He left no organizational charts for us to follow. His one and only method for founding and building up his church was the men whom he called to follow him. These men were his legacy, his “organization.” There was no plan B. No wonder he spent an extended period of time in prayer before choosing them. What a contrast to the way that Christians operate so much of the time, making decisions and then asking God to bless them. How much better the decisions would be, how much more effective the work and healthy the churches, if believers would follow Jesus’ model: pray first—really pray—and then act. Do you have a major decision (or several) on the horizon? Commit your decisions to the Lord in prayer.
6:13-14 At daybreak, after his night in prayer, Jesus called together all of his disciples. Of the many who were following him at this time, he chose twelve of them to be apostles. Jesus did not take volunteers; he chose those whom God had directed him to choose.
The choice of twelve men is highly symbolic. The number twelve corresponds to the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28), showing the continuity between the old religious system and the new one based on Jesus’ message. Jesus looked upon this as the gathering of the true people of God. These men were the righteous remnant who would carry on the work the twelve tribes were chosen to do—to build the community of God (see 22:28-30). The Gospels and Epistles stressed the ministry of the twelve men together and its significance. The number was so important that when Judas Iscariot killed himself, another man was chosen to replace him (see Acts 1:15-26). The apostles formed Jesus’ inner circle. He gave them intense training and sent them out with his own authority. These were the men who started the Christian church. In the Gospels, these twelve men are usually called the disciples, but in the book of Acts they are called apostles. This is a rare instance of the term “apostles” in the Gospels.
The first name recorded was Simon, whom Jesus also called Peter (see John 1:42). He became one of three in Jesus’ core group among the disciples, and he recognized that Jesus was the Messiah (9:18-20). Although Peter would deny ever knowing Jesus, this Gospel alone has Jesus’ prayer on behalf of Peter that his faith would not fail (22:31-32). The risen Christ made a special appearance to Peter (24:34). He would become a leader in the Jerusalem church, write two letters that appear in the Bible (1 and 2 Peter), and be crucified for his faith.
Andrew was Peter’s brother and also a fisherman (Matthew 4:18). Andrew had been a disciple of John the Baptist, and had accepted John the Baptist’s testimony. He had left John to follow Jesus, and then had brought his brother Simon to Jesus (John 1:35-42).
James and John had also been fishermen and, incidentally, Peter and Andrew’s partners (5:10). Along with Peter, the three of them became Jesus’ inner circle. James would become the first martyr for the Christian faith (Acts 12:2). John would write the Gospel of John, the letters of 1, 2, and 3 John, and the book of Revelation.
John wrote about Philip (John 1:43). Philip probably knew Andrew and Peter because they were from the same town, Bethsaida (John 1:44). This is not the same Philip mentioned in Acts 7. Philip then brought Bartholomew (also called Nathanael) as recorded in John 1:45. Bartholomew was an honest man (John 1:47). Bartholomew at first rejected Jesus because Jesus was from Nazareth. But upon meeting Jesus, his attitude changed (John 1:49).
- LIFE APPLICATION – ONENESS IN JESUS
- Jesus selected ordinary men with a mixture of backgrounds and personalities to be his disciples. Jesus did not choose these twelve to be his disciples because of their faith—it often faltered. He didn’t choose them because of their talent and ability—no one stood out with unusual ability. The disciples represented a wide range of backgrounds and life experiences, and apparently they may have had no more leadership potential than those who were not chosen. The one characteristic they all shared was their willingness to obey Jesus.
Today, God calls ordinary people together to build his church, teach salvation’s message, and serve others out of love. Individual Believers may feel unqualified to serve Christ effectively, but with other believers, they make up a group strong enough to serve God in any way. Remember that it is the oneness that believers have in Jesus that holds them together. Without that, all the congregations would break apart. Ask for patience to accept the diversity of people in your church, and for wisdom to see their gifts and abilities. Build on the variety of strengths represented in your group.
This James was called son of Alphaeus to differentiate him from James the son of Zebedee (and brother of John) in 6:14.
Simon (the Zealot) was probably not a member of the party of Zealots, for that political party was not identified as such until a.d. 68. Most likely the word “Zealot” used here indicates zeal for God’s honor and fervent nationalism that characterized Simon before he followed Jesus. Most likely, it was an affectionate nickname.
6:16 Judas (son of James) is also called Thaddaeus (Mark 3:18). He is also mentioned in Acts 1:13. Rounding out the list is Judas Iscariot, with the footnote that he is the one who later betrayed Jesus. The name “Iscariot” is probably a compound word meaning “the man from Kerioth.” Thus, Judas’ hometown was Kerioth in southern Judea (see Joshua 15:25), making him the only one of the Twelve who was not from Galilee. It might seem strange that Jesus would spend an entire night in prayer to pick this group, and then end up choosing Judas. Did Jesus make a mistake? No. The plan had been set in motion from the beginning of time, and this was part of the plan that would eventually come to its final conclusion in Judas’ betrayal of Jesus and suicide. The betrayal fulfilled prophecy and helped to bring Jesus to the cross. There was no mistake. That was the way of salvation.
Jesus Gives the Beatitudes / 6:17-26
This section is similar to the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7). It has been widely debated whether the two are the same sermon or different ones. It is very likely that Jesus taught the same truths twice, if not more.
6:17-19 Jesus’ popularity had continued to grow, for there is not only many of his followers, but also crowds. People had come from Judea (the southernmost region of Israel), Jerusalem (the key city of Israel, in Judea), and the seacoasts of Tyre and Sidon (Gentile cities to the far north on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea). Word of Jesus’ authoritative teaching and healing power had spread, so many had come long distances to hear him, to be healed, and to have Jesus cast out evil spirits. No one went away disappointed; they were all cured.
6:20 Most likely, Jesus gave these teachings primarily to the disciples with the crowds listening in. Jesus’ newly chosen disciples, the twelve men who would be his closest associates, might have become tempted to feel proud and important. After all, Jesus’ popularity continued to grow, as seen in the multitude with them at that moment. The disciples, riding on the wave of Jesus’ popularity, needed to first understand the priorities of God’s Kingdom. In addition, many of these disciples were confused about what exactly Jesus was going to do. The Gospels present a group of men who, while believing, never quite understood Jesus’ coming death and resurrection until they witnessed it for themselves. So Jesus told them here, in no uncertain terms, that they should not expect fame and fortune in this world, for that is not what Jesus came to bring. They would indeed be “blessed,” but by a different Kingdom’s standards.
These verses are called the Beatitudes, from the Latin word meaning “blessing.” They describe what it means to be Christ’s follower. They are standards of conduct; they contrast Kingdom values with worldly values, showing what Christ’s followers can expect from the world and what God will give them. They contrast fake piety with true humility; they show how Old Testament expectations are fulfilled in God’s Kingdom. The word “blessed” means more than happiness; it means favored and approved by God.
The first “blessing” is reserved for you who are poor. These are the people who have nothing but God on whom to depend. They realize that they have nothing of their own to give to God and therefore must depend on his mercy. Jesus says, “The Kingdom of God is given to you.” Notice that he does not say, “will be given,” but “is given.” Accepting Jesus into one’s heart brings that person into the Kingdom, even as he or she lives on earth.
Jesus was not exalting poverty; instead, he was clarifying that these are the results of discipleship and that the disciples would ultimately be blessed because they could count on Jesus, the Son of Man. In these Beatitudes, Jesus was not cursing all that is part of life—such as laughter, fun, happiness, money, food—but if these become the focus of life without regard to God, then a person cannot be “blessed” by God.
6:21 The hunger about which Jesus spoke is a hunger based on poverty because of one’s lot in life or for taking a stand with Christ. The word hungry pictures an intense longing that needs to be satisfied; people who do not get food will eventually die of hunger. Jesus’ promise to those with this kind of hunger is “you will be satisfied.” Jesus will completely satisfy those with spiritual hunger.
Jesus promises that those who weep now . . . will laugh with joy. Scholars differ on the exact nature of this “weeping.” Jesus may have been referring to the nation of Israel weeping for its sins; others interpret this more personally, explaining that it refers to those who weep for their own sins or even for personal grief or oppression. Still other scholars see in the word “weeping” a picture of God’s people who suffer because of their faith in him. Most likely it refers to people who are sensitive to the world’s sin and resultant suffering. While their pain is real, they can know the end of the story and laugh.
6:22-23 To be surrounded by hateful people would hardly make a person feel like the object of blessing. But Kingdom values are the opposite of this world’s values. Jesus explained to his disciples that not only would they, like anyone else, experience poverty and sorrow in this life, but they also would be actively persecuted. They would be hated, excluded, mocked, and cursed—the one common factor would be that this would occur because they believed in Jesus. Surely this must have sounded strange to the disciples on the mountainside, surrounded by literally a multitude of people desiring to get close to Jesus. Yet Jesus saw what the future held, and he warned them accordingly.
Jesus also comforted them by saying that when they faced persecution, they were to rejoice. No matter what those who hate Jesus attempt to do to his followers on earth, a great reward awaits them in heaven. Jesus placed his disciples in a long line of God’s followers who lived righteously and spoke truthfully—only to suffer for it. The Jews held the ancient prophets of God in high esteem; to be placed among them was a great honor. Jesus explained that to live and speak for God in the face of unjust persecution, as did the ancient prophets, would bring great reward in heaven.
- LIFE APPLICATION – GOD’S FAMILY VALUES
- Being a Christ follower may bring you into conflict with others, simply because your values and theirs are radically different. Someone has described this world, and especially contemporary culture, as being like a display window in a department store, full of various objects of all shapes, sizes, and prices. During the night, a mischievous little boy breaks in and switches all the price tags. The next day, people pass by and look in the window, never realizing that all the values have been rearranged. The believer knows that the world’s values are grossly distorted and out of touch with reality—but try telling the world! When believers do, Jesus says, the world will not thank them for their trouble. In fact, it will hate them. But they can persevere and even smile, because they know the truth. Don’t compromise your beliefs or your values just because the world can’t handle them.
6:24 The next three verses contain sorrows that give the flip side of the “blessings” in the previous verses. While most in the world see riches as desirable and as a sign of God’s blessing, Jesus says the opposite. He pronounces sorrows on those who are rich. Jesus probably addressed these comments to his audience at large. Jesus does not decry riches themselves but their effect on people. Riches cause people to feel self-sufficient and to feel that they have found the happiness for which they were seeking. Those who choose present comfort over God’s way have their only happiness now. Those who try to find fulfillment through wealth will find that wealth is the only reward they will ever get and that it does not last.
- LIFE APPLICATION – TRUE RICHES
- Jesus’ message of “woe” on the rich doesn’t mean that everyone should be poor, hungry, and miserable. Instead, it means that those who make happiness in this life their goal may very well get it . . . but that is all they will get. There is a higher law, a higher ethic, a higher reality. Pursue it, and God may be kind enough to grant you some of the world’s riches also. Maybe not. But if you pursue only the world’s riches, the world’s happiness, you are guaranteed to miss the higher ones. Jim Elliot, martyred missionary to the Auca tribe in Ecuador, wrote shortly before his death: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” In the tug-of-war between the world’s riches and God’s, which side has the stronger grip on your heart?
6:25 The words satisfied and prosperous refer to those who have everything that this world offers. They lack nothing. Their material possessions and financial “security” cause them to think that they have no need for God. One day, however, they will face a time of awful hunger. This may not occur in this life, but they will find that for eternity, when it really matters, they will be the ones who suffer. The Gospel later records a parable of a rich man and a poor man that illustrates this point (see 16:19-31).
In much the same way, those who laugh carelessly will one day face mourning and sorrow that will last for eternity. Jesus was not against laughter—indeed, laughter is one of the greatest gifts God has given to his people. Jesus was pointing at the same attitude carried by those who are rich and self-satisfied in this life and give superficial laughter at any mention of God or of eternity. They will find that they were wrong, and they will mourn and weep forever.
6:26 Jesus points out a serious problem facing those who are praised by the crowds. While being spoken well of is certainly a worthy goal, rarely can a person be spoken well of by everyone and have everyone completely agree with him or her on every topic. One cannot be pleasing to everyone in that way without sacrificing some principle here or another there. Such a person must waffle in all areas of life so everyone will like him or her.
One group in the Old Testament was praised by everyone, from the king to the common people—they were the false prophets. The ancestors of these Israelites listening to Jesus had spoken well of the false prophets. They were praised by kings and crowds because their predictions—personal prosperity and victory in war—were exactly what the people wanted to hear. Unfortunately, their words were shown to be lies as the nations of Israel and later Judah lost their freedom and their homeland when they were taken into captivity. Popularity is no guarantee of a person’s truthfulness; human flattery does not bring God’s approval. Sadness lies ahead for those who chase after the crowd’s praise rather than God’s truth.
Jesus Teaches about Loving Enemies / 6:27-36
While the Pharisees sought Jesus’ death because he refused to keep their regulations regarding cleanliness and the Sabbath observance, Jesus was teaching standards of living that were far higher than anything the Pharisees could imagine. The difference was that the Pharisees were performing their acts in order to be good enough for God; Jesus knew the standards were impossible to reach on human strength alone. Jesus did not ask people to act this way in order to be good enough for God. But people who have accepted Christ as Savior have the Holy Spirit’s help to accomplish what would otherwise be impossible.
6:27-28 Jesus taught that love must not be selective. His followers are to love all people, regardless of how unlovely or even hostile they may be. They also must act on that love by being willing to do good when it is in their power to do it. There are several words for love in Greek. The word used here is agape, meaning the kind of love shown even when the one loved has no merit for that love. It is love that must be chosen and willed.
All people have experienced agape from God. God loved the world even while people were sinful and rebellious. God willed to love his people and sent his Son to die for them, not because they deserved it or had any merit, but only because of God’s love. Those who have experienced God’s love understand what it means to be loved undeservedly. People who were once enemies of God and have joined his family can understand what it means to love your enemies. Only with the help of God’s Spirit can his people do good to those who hate them, pray for the happiness of those who curse them, and pray for those who hurt them (see Romans 12:14-21). When believers are hated, cursed, and hurt, they are to respond with love.
- LIFE APPLICATION – LOVE YOUR ENEMIES
- The Jews despised the Romans because they oppressed God’s people, but Jesus told the people to love these enemies who provoked and angered them. Such words turned many away from Christ. But Jesus wasn’t talking about having affection for enemies; he was talking about an act of the will. You can’t “fall into” this kind of love—it takes conscious effort. Loving your enemies means acting in their best interests. You can pray for them and think of ways to help them. Jesus loved the whole world, even though the world was in rebellion against God. Jesus asks believers to follow his example by loving their enemies (see also 6:35). Grant your enemies the same respect and rights you desire for yourself.
6:29-30 How can anyone respond to persecution in love? Jesus offered a couple of examples. If you get slapped, turn the other cheek. The normal response would be to slap back, but Jesus offers another option—the attitude that says, “I will not seek revenge. In fact, if need be, I am ready to take another blow.” The attitude is not so much to offer to be hit again as it is to offer forgiveness.
The same attitude is illustrated regarding the coat and the shirt, referring to the outer garment and the undergarment. If someone demanded the one, offer the other as well. The point is not so much being passive when being robbed as it is being compassionate for another’s need. If someone needs to steal a coat, then perhaps that person also needs your shirt.
In fact, the more general principle could be stated: Give what you have to anyone who asks you for it; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. Such an attitude completely confounds the world. It doesn’t understand non-retaliation, forgiveness, and a loose hold on possessions. But believers, citizens of a future heavenly Kingdom, are freed to forgive and to give. The point is not that giving is always the correct answer, but that believers’ actions are rooted first in love, not in regard for honor or possessions.
6:31 This is commonly known as the Golden Rule. Many religions teach a negative version of this statement. Confucius said, “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.” But Jesus stated this in a positive manner, making it even more powerful. While it may be possible to not do evil to others, it is much more difficult to take the initiative to actually do for others as you would like them to do for you. A person may be able to keep the negative form of the law by avoiding sin, but to keep the positive form requires action. This is the key to the radical discipleship that Jesus wants.
6:32-34 In these short statements, Jesus explained his commands that he had just given by showing how his followers must be different from sinners, that is, those who do not believe in him. How would God’s people be any different from the world if they only loved people who love them? How would they be any different from the world if they only did good to people who could do good to them in return? Sinners love, sinners do good, sinners lend money—the difference is that God’s people are willing to love, do good, and lend even when there is no promise of return. Such actions will mark Jesus’ followers as different.
- LIFE APPLICATION – GOD’S WAY
- Jesus said that love means action. One way to put love to work is to take the initiative in meeting specific needs. This is easy to do with people who love you, people whom you trust. But love means doing this even to those who dislike you or plan to hurt you. The money you give others should be considered a gift, not a high-interest loan that will help you more than them. Give as though you are giving to God.
6:35-36 Because his followers are to be different, Jesus sums up their actions as love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them. To make them different from the world, God’s people will do those actions without expecting to get anything back. Their lives reflect the attitude of God himself; thus their reward will be great, and they will be acting as children of the Most High. God’s people do these actions not so that they can be God’s people, but because they are God’s people. Their attitudes and values reflect God’s attitudes and values. To be compassionate means to refuse to inflict just vengeance, as well as to show kindness.
- LIFE APPLICATION – GOD’S LOVE
- Probably no single teaching of Jesus’ is more challenging than that Believers should love their enemies (6:32-35). How can they do that? It not only seems impossible, it is. But God specializes in doing what seems impossible. He can give believers the power to love their enemies because he himself loves his enemies. Outside of Christ, all are rebels, enemies of God, yet he “demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners [enemies of God], Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 niv). If God loves you that way, can you do any less than ask him to give you that kind of love for your enemies?
- LIFE APPLICATION – MERCY
- Has there ever been a time in your life when you really blew it? Most people would admit that they have been through a time (or times) like that. If you have, think back and ask yourself: Who was the person who helped you most as you got up off the spiritual floor? Was that person characterized by a judgmental and critical spirit, a severe and self-righteous manner . . . or was he or she a person of mercy? The answer is obvious. In times of crisis and outright failure, a person doesn’t need someone else to act as judge or critic. Instead, the person needs someone who can remind him or her of the mercy of God. Jesus says that his followers are to be merciful, just as the Father is. And when they fail—which they will, repeatedly—they can thank God that he deals with them mercifully too.
Jesus Teaches about Judging Others / 6:37-42
Jesus not only commanded his disciples to be loving and compassionate, he also went on to explain to them what true love entails. First he emphasized that true love does not judge others or withhold forgiveness.
6:37 While the word “judge” can mean to evaluate or analyze, Jesus did not mean his people should refuse to think critically or make decisions, nor was he attempting to abolish the legal system or disciplinary measures. Believers must be discerning and make certain judgments. Jesus was referring to the judgmental attitude that focuses on others’ faults, criticizing and tearing them down.
The believers’ special position with Christ does not give them license to take God’s place as judge. Those who judge in that manner will find themselves judged by God. Neither should they criticize or they will face criticism. The practice of forgiveness leads also to forgiveness by God. Those who refuse to forgive show that they do not understand what God has done for them. God’s children must be ready and willing to forgive, just as God has forgiven them.
- LIFE APPLICATION- JUDGING OTHERS
- If you were caught in some notorious sin—unquestionably, publicly, humiliatingly—would you run to the church, or away? Unfortunately, many, if not most, people probably would run away. How ironic, how tragic! The church exists to proclaim the mercies of God. The church exists to let people know that God is indeed the righteous judge, that he does not laugh at sin or treat it lightly . . . but also that he has made a way of atonement and redemption for those who deserve his wrath. Yet the church is often thought of as the first place a person would go to be judged for his or her sins.
You may not be able to change your whole church, but you can take a bold, unblinking look at your own attitudes. When you hear of another Christian being involved in some scandalous behavior, how do you react? With smugness, superiority, self-righteousness? Or is your heart grieved for that person, knowing that you are capable of committing the same sins, or worse? When you are tempted to act as someone else’s judge, remember what God has done so that you can be pardoned before him. Then extend that same grace to your fallen brother or sister.
6:38 Generosity in giving will result in returned generosity. The picture is of blessings being returned in a bushel basket, filled to the brim, pressed down and shaken together to make room for more, then running over. The image here is of a measuring container into which as much grain as possible is packed; it is then shaken to allow the grain to settle, and more is poured in till the container overflows. Pouring it “into the lap” refers to the fold in the garment used as a pocket or pouch. Those who are stingy and reluctant givers will receive in the same way.
- God will be no man’s debtor — no matter how much we give him, he gives us more! Jesus’ illustration of this is spectacular. The grain is pressed down into the measure so that it will hold as much as possible. Next it is shaken together to make it fill every possible space. And then, not content with this full measure, the grain is piled above the rim so that it cannot be contained by the measure and spills over into the robes of one’s lap. This is universally true, whether it be the Christian businessman H. P. Crowell, founder of Quaker Oats, who said, “For over forty years I have given sixty to seventy percent of my income to God. But I have never gotten ahead of Him! He has always been ahead of me!” Jesus said, “No one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields . . .)” (Mark 10:29, 30; cf. Luke 18:29, 30). The principle of the overflowing measure applies to all givers great and small.
The point is, while some Christians may give and some may not, true disciples give. They give and give and give.
6:39-40 In this parable, Jesus explained that, while his followers were to give, love, and refuse to be judgmental, they must also be discerning and careful whom they follow. Obviously, a blind person cannot lead a blind person because both of them will end up in a ditch. Then Jesus explained what he meant: a student is not greater than the teacher. Those who lead others must have clear vision, willingness to learn and understand, and no arrogance or self-righteousness. Such a standard would disqualify the Pharisees who, in this instance, were the blind guides leading people into disaster. Jesus explained that his disciples should not go beyond what they learned from him; instead, they should aim to be like him. Watch out whom you follow. No matter how many human teachers you may have, your ultimate authority must be Christ and his word.
- LIFE APPLICATION – BLINDNESS
- Be careful whom you follow. Some people, because of their age, experience, and track record, are wonderful guides and mentors. They can lead the way because they have been there themselves, and they know the right paths to take. They have learned from both their successes and their failures. Other people merely repeat their mistakes over and over. These people are “blind,” as Jesus said (6:39), and they lead others down the wrong road with them. Do you have a mentor, someone who willingly shares his or her insights and experience with you? The right role model or mentor can bring tremendous benefits to your life. The wrong one can bring grief and sorrow. Be careful whom you follow.
6:41-42 How well Jesus understood human nature. He knew that human beings find it easy to worry about a speck in someone else’s eye, but not be able to see a log in their own eye. It is easy for people to overlook their own sins yet easily spot sin in others. It’s true that the sin that people most clearly see in others is also present in them. Sometimes they may offer help, but there is a crucial flaw, for they will do great damage when they can’t see past the log still lodged in their eye. Jesus used hyperbole to show that someone attempting to help a brother or sister with a “speck” when that person is carrying around a “log” makes him or her a hypocrite. The person has criticized and found fault in another without applying the same standards to himself. Before that person can be of any assistance, he must first get rid of the log that is in his own eye, and then maybe he can see well enough to deal with the speck in the other person’s eye.
- LIFE APPLICATION – MOVE THE LOGS
- In these words about the speck or log in one’s eye—Jesus did not mean that Believers should ignore wrongdoing but that they should not be so worried about others’ sins that they overlook their own. People often rationalize their sins by pointing out the same mistakes in others. What kinds of specks in others’ eyes are the easiest for you to criticize? Remember your own “logs” when you feel like criticizing, and you may find that you have less to say.
Jesus Teaches about Fruit in People’s Lives / 6:43-45
With a couple of proverbs derived from the agricultural setting of ancient Israel, Jesus showed his audience why hypocritically judging others (6:41-42) is foolish. Just as a good tree will eventually bear good fruit, so a person’s heart will eventually bear fruit—a good heart producing good works and an evil heart bringing forth evil. Everyone’s heart will eventually be exposed for what it is; and a strong indicator of the character of a person’s heart is what one says.
6:43-45 Figs and grapes were two of the main agricultural products of Israel. A person knows a tree by its fruit. A good (or healthy) tree can’t produce bad fruit, and likewise, a bad (or unhealthy) tree can’t produce good fruit.
Claims are easier to make or fake than results. Even Jesus’ claims would have been ludicrous if he hadn’t backed them up with results. He pointed out that the principle applies universally: You can tell a lot about a tree from its fruit! Jesus warned that people are like trees: Examine their “fruit” closely. Jesus reminded his listeners that their deeds and speech (what they say) would reveal their true underlying beliefs, attitudes, and motivations. The good impressions people try to make cannot last if their hearts are deceptive. What is in the heart will come out in a person’s speech and behavior.
- LIFE APPLICATION- HEART, SOUL, AND MOUTH
- “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” Everyone who has seen The Wizard of Oz remembers that scene from near the end of the movie. The great, fire-breathing “wizard” was nothing more than a normal man, standing behind a curtain, working a machine. In spite of all his attempts to fool people, the truth came out. It’s the same with people’s words and actions. They can put up a good show for a while, but sooner or later, the real “person behind the curtain” shows through. What does your language and your behavior reveal about the real you? If you find that your words and actions are disproportionately angry, depressed, and hopeless, then take them to the Lord and ask him to transform them—from the inside out
Jesus Teaches about Building on a Solid Foundation / 6:46-49
Jesus was not content with letting his audience ponder his profound thoughts. His teaching is not meant for academic discussion and debate. Instead, Believers should build their entire lives around his teachings, applying them to every facet of life. If they don’t, they will not be able to withstand the pressures and temptations of this world and will be swept away to their destruction. Jesus calls believers to take the time they have now—before the floodwaters come—to reevaluate the way they live in light of his teachings.
6:46-47 To call Jesus Lord means to have committed oneself to following him and his teaching. Why would someone call Jesus “Lord” and then refuse to obey his teachings? Jesus’ true followers not only hear his words, but they act on his words, allowing his message to make a difference in their lives. The following parable will show Jesus’ listeners what it’s like when a person comes, listens, and then obeys.
- LIFE APPLICATION – COME, LISTEN, OBEY
- You go to the doctor. She diagnoses your problem and gives you a prescription, telling you to take the medication daily and check in with her in a week. The week passes; you go in for the follow-up appointment. “Have you been taking the medication?” she asks.”No,” you say, “I decided I didn’t really need to.” “Then why are you coming to me for treatment?” she asks, reasonably enough. “Why ask my advice? Why bother having a doctor at all?” It’s doubtful that anyone would do that. And yet how often do we Christians profess Jesus as our Lord, then ignore his clear commands? We call him Lord, yet do not do what he tells us to do. It’s as foolish as seeing a doctor and then disregarding her instructions. The Lord’s commands are clear and relatively few: Love God. Love one another. Treat others as you want to be treated. Be forgiving with the offender and compassionate with the weak and oppressed. Are there areas of your life that need to be brought under his lordship? Ask him to enable you to do so by his grace today.
6:48 Jesus explained that his true followers were like a person who builds a house on a strong foundation laid upon the underlying rock. Jesus pictured Palestine’s climate in these words. There were few rainfalls all year, but during the rainy season, heavy rains with excessive flooding could wash away poorly grounded homes. But those houses with their foundations on solid rock would be unaffected by the rising waters and beating winds. When the “storms of life” come (perhaps the hatred and persecution Jesus warned his followers to expect) only the person who builds his or her life on the “strong foundation” of Jesus Christ will be able to “stand firm.” When life is calm, the foundation doesn’t seem to matter. But when crises come, the foundation is tested. Be sure your life is built on the solid foundation of knowing and trusting Jesus Christ.
6:49 In contrast is the person who listens and doesn’t obey. While both of these people may have built houses that looked identical, the crucial difference was in the foundation. The person who won’t listen to Jesus will be like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house it cannot stand firm. The sand beneath the house will be driven away and the house will crumble into a heap of ruins. As character is revealed by fruit (6:43-45), so faith is revealed by storms. The wise person, seeking to act upon God’s word, builds to withstand anything.
Until tomorrow, Darrell
Sources: Bible Background Commentary, Bible Knowledge Commentary, Holy Bible Slimline Reference Edition, Life Application Bible Commentary, Life Application Concise New Testament Commentary, Preaching the Word, Teacher’s Commentary
For more about The Ridge Fellowship or Darrell Koop, go to www.ridgefellowship.com