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   Chapter 6 The Ministry in Galilee. Chs. 4 14 to 9 50

The Decoration of Houses By Ogden Codman Characters: 34042

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

A. The First Period. Ch. 4:14-44

1. Jesus Preaching at Nazareth. Ch. 4:14-30

14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and a fame went out concerning him through all the region round about. 15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all.

16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and he entered, as his custom was, into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up to read. 17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Isaiah. And he opened the book, and found the place where it was written, 18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

Because he anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor:

He hath sent me to proclaim release to the captives,

And recovering of sight to the blind,

To set at liberty them that are bruised,

19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.

20 And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down: and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 And he began to say unto them, To-day hath this scripture been fulfilled in your ears. 22 And all bare him witness, and wondered at the words of grace which proceeded out of his mouth: and they said, Is not this Joseph's son? 23 And he said unto them, Doubtless ye will say unto me this parable, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done at Capernaum, do also here in thine own country. 24 And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is acceptable in his own country. 25 But of a truth I say unto you, There were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land; 26 and unto none of them was Elijah sent, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian. 28 And they were all filled with wrath in the synagogue, as they heard these things; 29 and they rose up, and cast him forth out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill [pg 052] whereon their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong. 30 But he passing through the midst of them went his way.

After his baptism and temptation Jesus remained for a time in Jerusalem and in Judea and then returned to Galilee where he began that ministry to which Luke devotes the next six chapters of his Gospel. Of this ministry he mentions three features: First, it was wrought in the power of the Holy Spirit; secondly, its fame extended through the entire country; and thirdly, its essence consisted in the most arresting and impressive public teaching.

The first recorded sermon of Jesus was preached in the synagogue at Nazareth, the town in which he had spent his youth and early manhood. Luke places this sermon at the very opening of his record of the public ministry of Jesus, probably because he regarded it as containing the program of that ministry, or as forming the proclamation of the saving work of our Lord.

It was a Sabbath Day. The place of worship was crowded with the relatives and friends and townsmen of Jesus. All were eager to hear one whom they knew so well, and who had attained so sudden a renown. Either at his request, or providentially, Jesus was handed the book of Isaiah to lead in the reading of the Scripture. He found the place in the prophecy where, in terms of the joy of Jubilee, the writer is describing the gladness of those who are to return from their long captivity in Babylon. When Jesus had finished the lesson he sat down, thereby taking the attitude of a public teacher. As all gazed upon him intently, he undertook to show that the prophecy was to be fulfilled by himself, claiming thereby to be the promised Messiah. The very phrase with which the prophecy begins, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me," indicates, when applied to himself, that he had been anointed, not with oil as a prophet or a priest or a king, but with the Holy Spirit as the Anointed One, or the Christ of God. As such he was "to preach good tidings to the poor," that is, to those in spiritual as well as in physical poverty. He was to proclaim deliverance for those enslaved by sin and to establish those [pg 053] principles which will result in political freedom for mankind. He was "to set at liberty them that are bruised," that is, to remove the consequences and the cruelties of selfishness and of crime. He was to proclaim the era of universal blessedness which will result from his perfected reign. Thus in these words, which combine the figures of deliverance from captivity with those of the joy of jubilee, Jesus expressed the gracious and beneficent character of his ministry.

His auditors listened in amazement, unable to resist the charm of his address or to deny the fascinating beauty of his words, but unable also to admit his claim; they received his predictions with stubborn unbelief. They expressed their incredulity and at the same time explained it by their question, "Is not this Joseph's son?" They were saying in effect: "Is not this man our neighbor, the carpenter, with whom we have all been acquainted; do we not know him and his family? Surely he cannot be the Messiah."

The reply of Jesus was to the effect that their unwillingness to accept him was due in part to the fact that he had not wrought in their presence the miracles which marked his ministry in other places. This is what he meant by quoting the proverb, "Physician, heal thyself," that is, "Establish your claim here as you have done elsewhere, if you expect to be received as the Christ." Jesus also quoted another proverb to explain more fully their jealous doubts: "No prophet is acceptable in his own country." Those most familiar with great men usually are least able to appreciate their greatness; "Familiarity breeds contempt," because men are so apt to judge one another by false standards and by that which is accidental and external and because so frequently men do not know those whom they think they know the best. This same stupid lack of appreciation shadows human lives to-day, and makes us fail to realize the worth of our friends and the value of our opportunities, until it is too late. It even has its tragic bearing upon the present ministry of Christ; some reject him for reasons altogether superficial and foolish, thinking that they know him perfectly because they long have been familiar with his name, while in reality they fail to understand [pg 054] the real beauty of his person and the transforming power of his grace.

The unbelief of his auditors was turned to mad hatred as Jesus gave two examples from Old Testament history, both of which indicated that his townsmen, who knew him best, were less worthy of his saving ministry than even men of heathen nations. He even compared himself with Elijah and Elisha and indicated that as the former brought a great blessing to one who lived in Sidon and the latter to a prince in Syria, while the people in Israel were suffering for their unbelief, so the nations of the world would accept the blessed salvation of Christ while those who knew him best would suffer for their unbelief. So maddened were his hearers by this severe rebuke that they drove him from the city and tried to take his life, but he, with majestic calm and divine strength, "passing through the midst of them went his way."

It is still true that those who have enjoyed the best opportunities for knowing Christ often reject him; but, where faith is present, broken hearts are healed as by Elijah of old and lepers are cleansed as was Naaman by the word of Elisha. Thus in this scene in the synagogue of Nazareth, Jesus indicated not only the grace of his ministry but its universal power. He came to relieve all the needs of mankind and in all the world.

2. Jesus Performing Miracles at Capernaum. Ch. 4:31-44

31 And he came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the sabbath day: 32 and they were astonished at his teaching; for his word was with authority. 33 And in the synagogue there was a man, that had a spirit of an unclean demon; and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 Ah! what have we to do with thee, Jesus thou Nazarene? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. 35 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the demon had thrown him down in the midst, he came out of him, having done him no hurt. 36 And amazement came upon all, and they spake together, one with another, saying, What is this word? for with authority and power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out. 37 And [pg 055] there went forth a rumor concerning him into every place of the region round about.

38 And he rose up from the synagogue, and entered into the house of Simon. And Simon's wife's mother was holden with a great fever; and they besought him for her. 39 And he stood over her, and rebuked the fever; and it left her: and immediately she rose up and ministered unto them.

40 And when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto him; and he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them. 41 And demons also came out from many, crying out, and saying, Thou art the Son of God. And rebuking them, he suffered them not to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ.

42 And when it was day, he came out and went into a desert place: and the multitudes sought after him, and came unto him, and would have stayed him, that he should not go from them. 43 But he said unto them, I must preach the good tidings of the kingdom of God to the other cities also: for therefore was I sent.

44 And he was preaching in the synagogues of Galilee.

The Sabbath at Nazareth is placed by Luke in sudden contrast with a Sabbath passed at Capernaum. On the former, as the story opens, Jesus was surrounded by his friends and townsmen; as it closes, they had turned into a fierce mob which was seeking his death. In the latter, as the scene opens, Jesus was faced by a demon; but as it closes, he was surrounded by an admiring throng who were eager to have him remain in their midst.

Jesus was again in a synagogue, and was awakening surprise by the character of his message. Unlike the teachers of his day, he spoke with authority instead of quoting reputed "authorities" as he unfolded the Scriptures. Suddenly the service was interrupted by the cries of a man who was possessed by an unclean spirit. Jesus rebuked the demon and compelled him to come out of the man. There can be little doubt that the evil spirit which Jesus thus controlled was an actual malign being who controlled the poor sufferer whom Jesus graciously relieved; yet such an "unclean spirit" is a type of the demoniac power of envy and of lust and of anger, and of the whole host of debasing passions from which Christ alone can give relief.

The second scene of this memorable Sabbath is in the [pg 056] home of Simon Peter; here by a single word Jesus relieved a poor sufferer from a severe fever. The cure was so instantaneous that the woman who had been sick immediately "rose up and ministered unto them." It is probably true that in many homes there are those, not afflicted by the power of evil passions, who nevertheless are suffering from worry and anxiety and fretfulness and unrest and so are unable to render to others the gracious service which they might perform if they could but hear the quieting word of Christ and feel the soothing power of his touch.

The third scene is of peculiar beauty. When the sun had set a great multitude gathered around the home of Peter, attracted by the report of the miracle wrought in the synagogue. They brought with them great numbers of those who were sick or possessed by demons and Jesus healed them all. This is a picture which in reality is being reproduced to-day. Amid the shadows and mysteries of suffering and pain the Saviour is standing; about him are gathered those whom sin has stricken with its disease, the sad, the loveless, the lonely, the tempted, the hopeless, the lost. His touch "has still its ancient power." In his mercy he is healing them all, and in joy they are going away.

The last scene of this group is at dawn the next morning. Jesus had withdrawn to "a desert place," but the eager multitudes had found him and were beseeching him not to go from them. He reminded them, however, of the other cities which needed to hear "the good tidings of the kingdom of God." Have all of us who have felt the healing touch of Christ something of his sympathy for those who have not yet heard the good news of his grace?

B. The Second Period. Chs. 5:1 to 6:11

1. The Call of the First Disciples. Ch. 5:1-11

1 Now it came to pass, while the multitude pressed upon him and heard the word of God, that he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; 2 and he saw two boats standing by the lake: but the fishermen had gone out of them, and were washing their nets. 3 And he entered into one of the boats, which was Simon's, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the multitudes out of [pg 057] the boat. 4 And when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Put out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. 5 And Simon answered and said, Master, we toiled all night, and took nothing: but at thy word I will let down the nets. 6 And when they had done this, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes; and their nets were breaking; 7 and they beckoned unto their partners in the other boat, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But Simon Peter, when he saw it, fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. 9 For he was amazed, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken; 10 and so were also James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left all, and followed him.

The call of his first disciples is regarded by many as opening a new period in the public ministry of Jesus. His work was now to assume a more permanent form. The growing popularity of his preaching indicated that the gospel was designed for the whole world. For such a proclamation a definite group of workers must be prepared. The growth of Christianity ever depends upon securing men who will publicly confess and follow Christ.

The scene of this call is described as being "by the lake of Gennesaret." This charming sheet of water brings to mind so many scenes in the life of our Lord that it has been termed a "Fifth Gospel." On its western and northern side were the cities in which most of his work was done; the eastern shores were not inhabited and thither Jesus would resort for rest.

Those whom Jesus called were fishermen, sturdy, independent, fearless. They were not strangers to Jesus nor had they been indifferent to spiritual truths. They had attended the preaching of the Baptist and had come to regard Jesus as the Messiah, but they were now called to leave their homes and their tasks and to become his constant companions and disciples.

On this occasion Jesus had borrowed the boat belonging to one of his friends to use as a pulpit and from this he had [pg 058] addressed the crowds. When he had finished his discourse, he gave to the four men he was about to call an impressive object lesson of the character of the work and of the great success which would attend their ministry if they would forsake all and follow him. He wrought a miracle especially impressive because it was in the sphere of their daily calling at a time and place where they were sure it was useless to fish. They were enabled by the guidance of Jesus to take such a draft of fishes that their nets were strained and their boats so loaded as nearly to sink. It was so plainly a manifestation of supernatural power that Peter felt himself to be in the presence of a divine Being and expressed the fear which all have felt when face to face with God. Jesus spoke the word which not only removed the terror of Peter but gave to him and his companions courage for all the coming years, "Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men."

So to-day Jesus is calling men to become his disciples. Obedience may involve sacrifice, but it is certain to result in the saving of human souls.

2. Jesus Cleansing a Leper. Ch. 5:12-16

12 And it came to pass, while he was in one of the cities, behold, a man full of leprosy: and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. 13 And he stretched forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou made clean. And straightway the leprosy departed from him. 14 And he c

harged him to tell no man: but go thy way, and show thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing, according as Moses commanded, for testimony unto them. 15 But so much the more went abroad the report concerning him: and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed of their infirmities. 16 But he withdrew himself in the deserts, and prayed.

Leprosy was regarded as the most loathsome and terrible of diseases. It existed in various forms but its invariable feature was its foul uncleanness. The leper was an outcast; he was compelled to live apart from the dwellings of men. He was required to wear a covering over his mouth and to give warning of his approach by crying, "Unclean! [pg 059] Unclean!" His case was regarded as hopeless; he was reckoned as dead. Loathsome, insidious, corrupting, pervasive, isolating, ceremonially and physically defiling, surely leprosy is a fitting emblem of sin; and this graphic narrative presents a parable of the power of Christ to cleanse and to heal and to restore. It is a vivid picture which Luke draws; the humble trust of the poor sufferer, his pitiful cry, the sympathetic touch of Jesus, the word of command and the instant cure. While Jesus forbade the man to arouse excitement by telling of his healing, he commanded him to report his case to the priest, that the highest religious authorities might have unanswerable testimony to the divine power of Christ, and also that the man might bring the offerings required by the Law and thus express his gratitude to God. Our Master does expect all who have felt his healing touch to testify of his grace and to show their gratitude by offering to him the service of their lives.

Such miracles could not be hid. The crowds so pressed upon Jesus that he was forced to withdraw to the desert for rest; and as the scene closed he who had startled the multitude by the manifestation of his divine power was left alone seeking help from God in prayer.

3. Jesus Forgiving Sins. Ch. 5:17-26

17 And it came to pass on one of those days, that he was teaching; and there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, who were come out of every village of Galilee and Jud?a and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was with him to heal. 18 And behold, men bring on a bed a man that was palsied: and they sought to bring him in, and to lay him before him. 19 And not finding by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went up to the housetop, and let him down through the tiles with his couch into the midst before Jesus. 20 And seeing their faith, he said, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee. 21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this that speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone? 22 But Jesus perceiving their reasonings, answered and said unto them, Why reason ye in your hearts? 23 Which is easier, to say, Thy sins are forgiven thee; or to say, Arise and walk? 24 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath authority on earth to forgive sins (he said unto him that was palsied), [pg 060] I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go unto thy house. 25 And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his house, glorifying God. 26 And amazement took hold on all, and they glorified God; and they were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to-day.

Leprosy was the symbol of the uncleanness of sin; paralysis of its impotence and pain. On the occasion of healing a paralytic, Jesus, however, did something more startling: he forgave sin. The poor sufferer had been borne by his four friends who were discouraged by no obstacles. When they were unable to enter the house where Jesus was, because of the multitudes which surrounded it, they went to the roof and let the sick man down through the tiles into the very presence of Christ. Their earnestness is a rebuke to us who make so little effort to bring our comrades within the healing influence of our Lord.

Jesus recognized the faith both of the man and of his friends and responded with an utterance which occasioned his hearers more surprise than had the opening of the roof, "Man, thy sins are forgiven thee." No request had been made for such forgiveness, but Jesus read the heart. He saw the yearning of the sufferer for healing not only of his body but of his soul. He recognized his sorrow for the sin which had caused the sickness, and the anguish of remorse and immediately he spoke the word of pardon and of peace. Thus Jesus voiced the message which the world seems reluctant to accept. He declared that physical ills and social evils are less serious than the moral and spiritual maladies of which they are the symptoms and the results; and further, he expressed his claim of divine power to pronounce pardon and to remove guilt.

This claim at once aroused the bitter resentment of the scribes and Pharisees who were present and they began to reason: "Who is this that speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?" Their reasoning was correct. Jesus was a blasphemer worthy of death, or else he was divine.

To prove his deity Jesus proposed an immediate test: "Which is easier, to say, Thy sins are forgiven thee; or to [pg 061] say, Arise and walk?" Of course neither is easier; either requires divine power. Therefore, when at the word of Jesus the man arose and started for his home, "glorifying God," it is not strange that "amazement took hold on all, and they glorified God."

Thus the miracles of Christ were real proofs of his deity as well as expressions of his love; they were moreover parables of his ability and willingness to deliver man from the guilt and power of sin.

4. The Call of Levi. Ch. 5:27-32

27 And after these things he went forth, and beheld a publican, named Levi, sitting at the place of toll, and said unto him, Follow me. 28 And he forsook all, and rose up and followed him.

29 And Levi made him a great feast in his house: and there was a great multitude of publicans and of others that were sitting at meat with them. 30 And the Pharisees and their scribes murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with the publicans and sinners? 31 And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are in health have no need of a physician; but they that are sick. 32 I am not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.

Nothing could further emphasize the sympathy of Jesus than his calling a publican to be his close companion and friend. These taxgatherers were everywhere despised for their dishonesty, extortion, and greed; but Jesus chose one of them named Levi, or Matthew, and transformed him into an apostle, an evangelist, and a saint.

There must have been something admirable in the character of the man; at least there was something inspiring in his example, for as soon as he heard the clear call of the Master, "He forsook all, and rose up and followed him."

Probably he had more to leave than any of the twelve men who became apostles of Christ. He must have been possessed of wealth. At least, as soon as he was converted, he made "a great feast in his house" and invited "a great multitude of publicans and of others" to be his guests. He had the courage of his convictions; he was not ashamed of [pg 062] his new Master. He was eager to have his old friends introduced to Christ.

It was on the occasion of this feast that Jesus was criticized by the Pharisees for eating and drinking with publicans and sinners. He made this most significant reply: "They that are in health have no need of a physician; but they that are sick. I am not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." By this statement Jesus emphasized and vindicated his conduct and defined his mission. A physician enters a sick room, not because he delights in disease or rejoices in suffering, but because he desires to cure and to relieve; so Jesus companied with sinners not because he countenanced sin or enjoyed the society of the depraved, but because, as a healer of souls, he was willing to go where he was most needed and to work where the ravages of sin were most severe. He came into the world to save sinners. Their conduct distressed him, their sins pained him; but to accomplish his task he sought them out and showed his sympathy by his presence and by his healing power.

Are there any who do not need the spiritual cure he can effect? Are any "sound;" are some not "sinners"? These questions each must answer for himself. Probably those who like the Pharisees are least conscious of their sickness are in most desperate danger. Then again, are those who know his power willing like the Master to go with his gospel to the places of greatest need?

5. The Question of Fasting. Ch. 5:33-39

33 And they said unto him, The disciples of John fast often, and make supplications; likewise also the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink. 34 And Jesus said unto them, Can ye make the sons of the bride-chamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? 35 But the days will come; and when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, then will they fast in those days. 36 And he spake also a parable unto them: No man rendeth a piece from a new garment and putteth it upon an old garment; else he will rend the new, and also the piece from the new will not agree with the old. 37 And no man putteth new wine into old wine-skins; else the new wine will burst the skins, and itself will [pg 063] be spilled, and the skins will perish. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wine-skins. 39 And no man having drunk old wine desireth new; for he saith, The old is good.

The Pharisees were disturbed by the attitude of Jesus toward sinners. Much more were they distressed by his attitude toward the forms and ceremonies which to their mind constituted the very essence of religion. This attitude had been expressed by the failure of Jesus to require his disciples to observe the fasts which had become so prominent in the system of legalism taught by the religious leaders of the Jews. The Law of Moses prescribed no fasts. The rabbis had so multiplied them that a Pharisee could boast of fasting "twice in the week." The disciples of John the Baptist were taught to fast frequently, not as an empty form, but to express the solemn character of the ministry of John who had come preaching "repentance unto remission of sins." It was not strange, therefore, that the enemies of Jesus came to him with a complaint and with the question, "The disciples of John fast often, and make supplications; likewise also the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink." In his reply Jesus stated distinctly the view his followers should take, not only of fasting but of all religious forms: "Can ye make the sons of the bride-chamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come; and when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, then will they fast in those days." Fasting is an expression of sorrow. How absurd then would it be for Jesus' followers to fast while the heavenly Bridegroom was with them! They might express their distress thus when he should be taken away. Thus Jesus declared that fasting, like all religious rites, may be quite fitting if it is a true expression of religious feeling, but if it is a matter of form, of rule, or requirement, if it is regarded as a ground of merit, it is an absurdity and an impertinence.

Jesus added a parable which further indicates his attitude toward all the rites and ceremonies in which the Pharisees took such delight. He declared that he had not come to regulate the fasts and feasts or to amend the Jewish ritual. That would be like sewing a new patch on an old garment. This religion of ceremonies had served its purpose. [pg 064] Jesus had come with something, new and better. The life of freedom and of joy which he was imparting could not be bound up in the narrow forms and rites of Judaism. New wine could not be kept in old wine skins.

Christianity cannot be comprehended by any system of rites and ceremonies. It must not be interpreted as a set of rules and requirements; it must not be confused with any ritual. It controls men, not by rules, but by motives. Its symbol is not a fast but a feast, for its pervasive spirit is joy.

As reported by Luke, Jesus added a characteristic phrase indicating his tender sympathy, "And no man having drunk old wine desireth new; for he saith, The old is good." Those who long have been accustomed to a religion of forms find it difficult to be satisfied with the religion of faith. We must be patient with them. It is not easy for them to give up the practices of childhood and it takes time for them to learn the gladness and the freedom of spiritual maturity offered to the followers of Christ.

6. The Sabbath Controversy. Ch. 6:1-11

1 Now it came to pass on a sabbath, that he was going through the grainfields; and his disciples plucked the ears, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands. 2 But certain of the Pharisees said, Why do ye that which it is not lawful to do on the sabbath day? 3 And Jesus answering them said, Have ye not read even this, what David did, when he was hungry, he, and they that were with him; 4 how he entered into the house of God, and took and ate the showbread, and gave also to them that were with him; which it is not lawful to eat save for the priests alone? 5 And he said unto them, The Son of man is lord of the sabbath.

6 And it came to pass on another sabbath, that he entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man there, and his right hand was withered. 7 And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath; that they might find how to accuse him. 8 But he knew their thoughts; and he said to the man that had his hand withered, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth. 9 And Jesus said unto them, I ask you, Is it lawful on the sabbath to do good, or to do harm? to save a life, or to destroy it? 10 And he looked round about [pg 065] on them all, and said unto him, Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored. 11 But they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus.

Jesus had aroused the anger of the Pharisees by his claim to forgive sins. He had further enraged them by his treatment of sinners. But he brought their hatred to a climax of fury by his attitude toward Sabbath observance. Henceforth they sought to destroy him.

The question of the Sabbath has never lost its interest. The followers of Christ need to stand firmly by the principles set forth by their Lord. These principles are few but fundamental: The Sabbath is a day designed for worship and for rest and is to be broken only by works of necessity and of mercy.

The first of these exceptions to the required rest of the Sabbath Day was illustrated by the case of the disciples who were accused by the Pharisees of breaking the Sabbath because as they walked through the fields they picked the ripened ears and thus, according to the interpretation of their enemies, were guilty of working on the Sabbath Day. Our Lord did not deny that the Sabbath law had been broken. He merely referred his enemies to the case of David and his followers who, forced by hunger, broke the Mosaic Law in entering the tabernacle and eating the "showbread." Jesus argued that, when necessary to relieve their hunger, his followers were also justified in disregarding the law of rest.

An illustration of the second exception to the law of absolute cessation from labor was given "on another sabbath" when in the synagogue Jesus healed a man whose right hand was "withered." The Pharisees regarded this action of Jesus as another breach of the law of rest. Jesus defended his action on the ground that it was dictated by mercy and that work which secured relief from suffering was allowable on the Sabbath Day. He replied to his enemies by a searching question, assuming the principle that refraining from help is the same as inflicting harm. He, asked them whether they regarded the Sabbath Day as of such character as to make it right on that day to do that [pg 066] which on other days was wrong: "I ask you, Is it lawful on the sabbath to do good, or to do harm? to save a life, or to destroy it?"

While Jesus taught that the law of rest might thus be broken to meet the necessities of man and to show mercy to those in need or in distress, he by no means abrogated the Sabbath. He declared, however, that "the Son of man is lord of the sabbath," by which he meant that as the representative of men he had a right to interpret the Law for the highest good of man. He was justified in relieving the Sabbath from the narrow and burdensome observances which had been bound upon it by the Pharisees and to restore it to mankind as a glad day of rest and of refreshment and of fellowship with God.

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