“Then Jesus said to them, ‘I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?’” (Luke 6:9, NIV84)
The religious leaders are just looking for a reason to trip Jesus up. Rather than understand that Jesus was the fulfillment of all their religious hopes, they saw Him as a threat. On this Sabbath day there is a man with a shriveled hand standing before Jesus. Jesus knows the hearts of those who are present. Jesus is hurt and angered that they all are looking for a way to destroy His ministry. They are wondering whether Jesus might heal the man on the Sabbath, thereby breaking the law by working on the Sabbath. Jesus is dumfounded that the religious leaders have no thoughts about the man with the shriveled hand.
So Jesus asks the pointed question: “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” He is trying to get the religious leaders to understand that the Sabbath was made for opportunities for mercy. If there were any day, it would be the Sabbath that one should expect to find healing, redemption, and hope. But the religious leaders used their interpretation of “working on the Sabbath” as a reason for refraining from doing good when they could. Mark recorded this same event in his Gospel and added that the religious leaders refused to answer Jesus’ question. Thinking they were going to trap Jesus, they now found themselves trapped. Jesus, angry at their hardheartedness, healed the man in front of all of them on the Sabbath. He declared to all of them that saving lives and doing good to others is what the Sabbath is for. This act of mercy infuriated the religious leaders to the point that they began to conspire as to what to do about Jesus.
We have to be careful to avoid religious practices that get in the way of the love, grace, and mercy that God wants expressed. First and foremost, we should at all times be motivated to share the grace that we have freely received with the world around us. We have to make sure we are not being our own worst enemy. We need to make sure we are not getting in the way of God’s desire to work in the lives of the people He places in our lives. What I am trying to say is that we can never let our religious obedience get in the way of our religious obligation to do good and to save.