When Doing Good Is Evil

The Pharisees focused so much on living by the right rules that in fact they lived lives that became more evil.  Jesus asks them directly whether it is right to do good or evil on the Sabbath.  The implication is that to cure a person would be good and to leave them in the lame condition that we find them would be evil.  Jesus wishes to cure and so he disobeys the religious authorities of his time.  Finding that they can not control Jesus they want to eliminate him.

In response Jesus consolidates his leadership structure.  From among his followers he chooses twelve leaders.  He labours all night in prayer and chooses a mixture of fisherman, former government employees, revolutionaries and skeptics.  He even includes a follower who will betray him.  If I was a Pharisee in Jesus’ time I’d be delighted that he surrounded himself with such a disparate, and unruly rabble.  However, this will be Jesus’ very opportunity to show his strength.

Luke 6: 6-16

 6On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. 7The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. 8But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Get up and stand in front of everyone.” So he got up and stood there.

 9Then 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?”

 10He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was completely restored. 11But they were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.

 12One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. 13When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: 14Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, 15Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, 16Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.


  1. What was Jesus doing in a synagogue on the Sabbath?
  2. How did his actions teach his message?
  3. Why heal someone in such a way that will deliberately provoke opposition?
  4. What rules have people constructed about Sundays, worship styles, and devotions?
  5. How could breaking these rules undermine authority and also set people free?

Going Deeper

Read Romans 13 about authority. 

  1. How does Jesus respect religious and public authority in his day?
  2. How does Jesus oppose religious and public authority in his day?
  3. What principles does Romans 13 teach us about authority?
  4. How does Social Studies taught in schools respect or reject authority structures?  Use the following prompts to your thinking:
    • Revolution against tyranny
    • MLK and Human Rights
    • God and Country and Nationalistic pride
    • Feminism
    • Democracy
    • The rights of the South to break from the Union
  5. How will you respect and oppose authority in the church, state, and workplace?

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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