In the Grainfields: Luke 6

In Summary: This chapter deals with the disciples and their snacking on the Sabbath; the calling of the Twelve; and the “Sermon on the Plain.” This latter section is generally seen as a parallel with the Sermon on the Mount of Matthew 5-7, and there are advocates that the record is of the same message. That is unnecessary. If Jesus is traveling and preaching, He likely preaches to different crowds at different times and so presents the same general teaching in diverse places.

The Twelve are called from among the disciples that are already following Jesus. We see Jesus call out twelve specific individuals after a night of prayer, and label these as “apostles.” Typically, these are now “The Twelve” or “The Apostles,” with capital letters signifying the group. The list ends, as each Gospel’s list does, with the name of Judas and his label as a traitor. This is an evidence of writing in retrospect. It also serves to clue the reader in to the various actions of Judas and his motivations.

More than, though, it makes clear from the outset: Jesus was not surprised by Judas’ inevitable betrayal. It may have seemed sudden, but it was known from the foundation of the world. No surprise there.

In Focus: We place the grainfields on the Sabbath in focus. The disciples are passing by a field of mature grain and pick a little bit to eat as they pass by. This was permissible under the Law (Deuteronomy 23:24-25), and hardly surprising for a world without a lot of grocers on hand. The disciples do what is necessary by hand-threshing the grain so they can eat it.

Enter the Pharisees. Or at least some of the Pharisees. It is a violation of the Law as they see it to thresh grain on the Sabbath. How can Jesus permit this transgression? And then Luke follows this with a story from “another Sabbath day,” when Jesus dares to heal someone on the Sabbath! The Pharisees become even more indignant. Eating is one thing, but healing? What will come of this?

Jesus calmly points out to the Pharisees that doing good on the Sabbath is acceptable, and that doing what is necessary is also within the bounds of His commands. After all, He is the Lord, even on the Sabbath! (Luke 6:5)

In Practice: In practice, let us note three things:

1. There are always Pharisees, and they show up when the rules get nudged. Now, admittedly there are rules which are necessary! No matter the financial need, one does not take up the offering at gunpoint. That’s not Pharisee, that’s godly. But sometimes we have rules and regulations that are helpful in general. However, to honor the spirit of the rules, sometimes the letter must be broken. It is not in the spirit of a day of worship and honoring the Lord to leave a man unhealed who could be healed. And it is not in the spirit of God’s law commending compassion to travelers to let them pluck grain…but not eat it.

2. There are always needs. Personal needs and community needs will always surround us. Though we need to keep on working, we also need to take time to rest. It may be that we need other times—note that Jesus takes time to pray before picking the Apostles—because one day is consumed with work for the Lord. That is the key, though, more than a calendar watch. Does the Lord have all your days?

3. There is always Jesus. We cannot separate out a day from Him, nor allot Him only one day. That is frequently our danger, that we would allocate Sunday as “The Lord’s Day,” and then claim Monday-Saturday for us. Especially Saturdays in the South, because football holds that day. No day is absent His lordship. Do not deceive yourself into thinking so.

Beyond that, we see the need to grow in our relationship with Him, for as the chapter finishes, why call Him “Lord” and not do what He says?

In Nerdiness: Compare your lists of Apostles: Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Acts 1:13; Luke 6:14-16.

They are not the same. What do we do with that?

First, look at similarities. Second, look at near similarities. Simon the Zealot in Luke is simply Simon the Cananaean in Mark and Matthew. What’s the difference? One is a Greek term for the political group out to get rid of Herod…the other the Aramaic.

Third, look at the differences. Are these possibly multiple named people? Judas, son of James, may be Thaddaeus. Why? Because who else wants to be Judas after the betrayal? Anyone out there in America naming kids Benedict Arnold yet? Not likely.


Before these are dismissed as errors or disagreements, look at the cultural concepts of name lists. Most difficulties resolve themselves.

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