In Luke 6:9, Jesus asks a dumb question.
He asks whether on the Sabbath it is better to save a life, or to destroy it.
The answer is easy. It’s better to save a life. Right?
Well, not so fast.
The question Jesus asks was actually a famous theological question in His day. Today, it might be like asking, “Tell me, is hell real or not?” or “Is the atonement limited or not?” or “Is homosexuality a sin or not?”
The question Jesus asked a hot question in the days of Jesus, and the best and brightest Bible scholars of His day had constructed a neat and tidy three-point answer to that question. The Jewish Rabbis taught the following:
1. On the Sabbath, healing to save a life is not only permitted, but a duty. Though it was the Sabbath, Jews are required to perform work if it will save the life of a person who would otherwise die.
2. Caring for the seriously ill is sometimes allowed on the Sabbath, but only under certain restraints and conditions (which the Rabbis go on to explain).
3. Treating minor ailments is prohibited. This is because a minor ailment is not life threatening, and can therefore wait until after the Sabbath is over. Also, treating minor ailments often required the grinding of herbs to prepare medicine, and grinding is one of the prohibited forms of work.
So that was the official answer to the question which Jesus asks.
But then… why does Jesus ask it?
It is probably not because Jesus was ignorant of the official answer. He was well-trained. He certainly knew the answer.
Well then, is it because He thought His audience did not know the answer? No. Probably not. It was a famous question, and Jewish people everywhere probably knew the answer as well.
So then why did Jesus ask the question?
I’ll tell you why.
Because Jesus hated the answer.
It is not that the answer is wrong. The answer might have been correct.
Jesus asked the question because He was about to do something contrary to the answer, and He wanted to show that even if you have all the right answers to all the hardest theological questions, you can be quite wrong in your actions.
Jesus wanted to show that there was something God cared about more than right answers to tough questions. There is something God loves more than theological accuracy.
What did Jesus care about more than the right answer, and more than the question itself?
Jesus cared about the person which the question is about.
There is a man standing right there in the synagogue who couldn’t work, couldn’t eat, and couldn’t feed his wife and kids because his hand was ruined. That i’s who Jesus cared about.
When a person is standing in front of Jesus who needs help, He says, “Theology be damned. What can we do to help this person?”
Jesus loved theology and Bible study as much as the next person; but Jesus never loved theology and Bible study more than the next person, for if theology and Bible study does not lead us to love the next person, we have missed the entire point.
This post is based on the Grace Commentary for Luke 6:6-11.