Luke 6 Study Notes


6:1-2 The controversy with the Pharisees shifts to the issue of keeping the Sabbath day. Deuteronomy 23:25 permitted going through a neighbor’s field and picking . . . grain, as long as a person did not use a sickle. The issue here was the permissibility of such behavior on the Sabbath.

6:3-5 Jesus’s argument in answering the Pharisees was that there are exceptions even to important religious standards. He cited the example of David eating the bread of the Presence, kept in the holy place of the tabernacle and later the temple; 2Ch 2:4), which only priests were to eat. David once used this consecrated bread to feed himself and those who were with him (1Sm 21:1-6) in a time of need. Son of Man is a messianic title (see Dn 7:13) that Jesus often used of himself (Lk 5:24; 19:10). As Messiah, Jesus was the same Lord who instituted the Sabbath regulations. Thus he had full authority to make an exception to the observance of this special day.

6:6-7 The second Sabbath controversy occurred in a synagogue while Jesus was teaching and a man whose hand was shriveled (cp. 5:17-25) was present. The scribes and Pharisees began watching his every move. They saw this as an opportunity to have Jesus charged and arrested.

6:8-10 On he knew their thoughts, see note at 5:21-25. When Jesus had the man with the shriveled hand get up and stand near him, he thrust the man’s situation into the spotlight and confronted the Pharisees and scribes head-on. The answer to Jesus’s rhetorical question was obvious. Everyone should agree that it was lawful to do . . . good or save life on the Sabbath. Because healing was doing good, it would be wrong not to heal this man, even on the Sabbath. By stretching out his hand in obedience to Jesus’s command, the man’s hand was restored.

6:11 The Pharisees and scribes were filled with rage that Jesus had outwitted them again. The parallel passages in Mt 12:14 and Mk 3:6 state that they wanted to kill Jesus.

6:12-13 Although this is another example of Luke’s emphasis on prayer, it is the only time it is said that Jesus spent all night in prayer. That Jesus prayed all night indicates the importance of the choice of the twelve . . . apostles from the wider group of his disciples. It is not stated why he chose twelve apostles, though the fact that Israel had twelve tribes was likely the reason.

6:14-16 Other lists of the apostles appear in Mt 10:2-4; Mk 3:16-19; and Ac 1:13. Although certain details vary among the lists, Simon . . . Peter is always listed first and Judas Iscariot . . . the traitor, is listed last. “Iscariot” (Gk iskarioth) may be derived from Judas’s hometown of Kerioth or an Aramaic word meaning “assassin.” Bartholomew is probably another name for Nathanael (Jn 1:45). Matthew is an alternate name for Levi (5:27,29). Judas the son of James seems to be the same as Thaddaeus (Mt 10:3).

6:17-49 This section of Luke’s Gospel is often referred to as the Sermon on the Plain. It has many similarities to the Sermon on the Mount in Mt 5-7, but it is much shorter. The two best explanations for the similarities and differences are: (1) after becoming acquainted with the material found in Matthew, Luke selected and shaped the content to fit his purposes in writing (see notes at Lk 1:1,2,3,4 in regard to Luke’s editorial approach), or (2) since Jesus undoubtedly preached the same material in various locations, it is possible that the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain were presented on different occasions.

6:17 If this is the same event as the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5-7), the level place would be a plateau on the side of a mountain where Jesus went up to pray in v. 12. In Matthew, the message is directed only to the disciples of Jesus (Mt 5:1), while Luke added two other groups: (1) a great number of people from all Judea and Jerusalem (i.e., where Jesus would minister later), and (2) many people from the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon (these were probably Gentile regions).

6:18-19 The crowd did not gather just to hear Jesus preach. Many came to be healed of physical diseases or spiritual oppression by unclean spirits (demons). Since power (Gk dunamis) was coming out from him, all who touched Jesus were healed.

6:20-26 Verses 24-26 in this section are the exact counterpart to vv. 20-23 (blessed vs. woe; poor vs. rich; hungry vs. full; when people hate you vs. when all people speak well of you). In Matthew, it is “the poor in spirit” and “those who hunger . . . for righteousness” who are blessed. The same is true here, because the reward for the blessed ones is in heaven. Jesus noted that rejection was the way those in earlier generations used to treat the prophets, while speaking well was the way they treated the false prophets. The implication is that Jesus’s growing rejection by the religious leaders is proof that he was a true prophet.

6:27-49 The remainder of the Sermon on the Plain in this section deals with the attitudes and actions of those who are followers of Jesus.

6:27-30 Christ’s disciples are to be characterized by actions of love (loving enemies, doing good to those who hate you, blessing those who curse you, praying for those who mistreat you, not retaliating against violence) and generosity (lit “giving the shirt off your back,” lending and not expecting repayment).

6:31 This verse is usually referred to as the Golden Rule. This is apparently a restatement of the second greatest commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Lv 19:18).

6:32-34 Jesus discussed the logic of selfless love. It is not the kind of love his disciples display if they just return the love someone has shown them, or do . . . good to someone as a sort of repayment, or lend when they are certain to be repaid. There is no spiritual credit in God’s eyes for such behavior since even many unsaved sinners behave this way. Christians are to practice a deeper, selfless love.

6:35-36 The reward for obeying Jesus’s command to love your enemies, do . . . good and lend without expecting repayment will be great, though much of it will not be in this life. But your selfless love will reflect that you are children of the Most High. He is gracious and merciful to all people, and disciples of Jesus are to follow his example.

6:37 The problems here are hypocritical judgment, short-sighted condemnation, and an unforgiving spirit. These warnings do not mean that Jesus’s followers should not practice careful discernment (judgment).

6:38 “Measure” involves weighing and judging. Be fair to others, because the measure you use will return to you. If you are generous, generosity will be returned to you in full measure. If you are stingy and uncharitable, such will be the standards by which you are judged.

6:39-40 This parable is a warning about following the wrong person. Spiritually blind leaders mislead disciples.

6:41-42 A person is a hypocrite (Gk hupokrites, “one who pretends to be someone else”) if one harshly criticizes a small weakness (a splinter) in another person’s life while overlooking a large fault (beam of wood) in one’s own. We are in no position to criticize another person until we have dealt with our own shortcomings.

6:43-45 The type of fruit produced is determined by the type of tree that produces it. A person’s actions and words come from the heart, whether good or evil.

6:46-49 The illustration of building on a solid foundation versus building without a foundation points out the necessity for a disciple’s behavior to be consistent with his stated commitment. The difference between a life that can withstand storms and one that cannot depends not just on whether one comes to Christ and hears his words but also whether one acts on his teachings.