Summary: Matthew 15: 10-20 - Barclay stated that this Scripture was 'one of the supreme contests in history'. Two religious viewpoints clash with what Jesus says. Jesus again points to what is really important.
Laws are important in any society in order to keep peace and order. But there are laws and then there are laws. Here are some laws that are still on the books in our state of Kansas.
• In Derby, it is illegal to hit a vending machine that stole your money.
• In Dodge City, it is illegal to spit on the sidewalk.
• In Lawrence, it is illegal to wear a bee in your hat…and all cars entering Lawrence must sound their horn to warn the horses of their arrival.
• In Topeka, it’s illegal to sing the alphabet on the streets at night…and dead chickens cannot be hauled across Kansas Ave…and finally, in Topeka, you cannot yell at haunted houses.
• Oh…one more…In Wichita, before proceeding through the intersection of Douglas and Broadway, a motorist is required to get out of their car and fire three shotgun rounds into the air. That is if you can get to that intersection with a loaded gun in your car, now-a-days.
There are some pretty silly laws that are still on the books, and I’m sure there was a reason for each one of them at the time. I’m also sure there are lots of people breaking these laws each day in those towns…probably at this very moment…law-breakers whether they know it or not.
And usually, Christians don’t think of themselves as law-breakers, but believe it or not, followers of Christ have been and still are people who will break the law. This morning, I’m breaking the law. I’m wearing an illegal T-shirt. Just wearing this apparel in certain countries could result in my torture and death. Throughout history, from the first century right up to the present day, confessing Christ can be a flagrant act of breaking the law and even considered as insurrection in some countries and punishable by death.
Let me take a moment and tell you about one law-breaker. This story comes from a publication called, Jesus Freaks’, a book of true stories published by the organization Voice of the Martyrs. It is a story also found in our Bible.
Across the courtroom, the young man on trial continued preaching. The jury fidgeted nervously as he told of their religious heritage and forefathers. What did Abraham and Moses have to do with this Jesus? Another young man in the audience, about the same age as the defendant, seemed not to be listening. His mind was already made up on the matter of this Jesus follower. The crowd of Jewish leaders, however, grew more agitated at every word from the young defendant.
Suddenly the preacher turned to the audience. ‘You stubborn and hardheaded people! You’re always fighting against the Holy Spirit, just like you ancestors did. They killed the prophets who told about the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have turned against Him and Killed Him. You have received the law of God, but you have not kept it.’
When the crowd heard this, they were even more furious, but the defendant ignored their growing anger. His face glowed like that of an angel, and he stopped talking and pointed to the ceiling. ‘Look! I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’
This was too much. Yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him. They dragged him out of the city to stone him. He continued preaching all the way.
The young man who had been in the audience, one Saul of Tarsus, followed after them. He stood a short distance away from the defendant, looking steadily at the sky as the mob grew larger. The cries grew more heated now. A man handed Saul his coat, then stooped to pick up a stone as though waiting for a signal from Saul. Saul lowered his gaze, then looked directly in the man’s eyes and nodded. It was time to silence the young preacher.
Stephan, the defendant, continued despite the crowd’s jeers, because the Man he was telling them about was so important to him. He couldn’t stop talking about Him. Several more men had now removed their coats, handed them to Saul, and began gathering rocks.
‘This blasphemer must be dealt with!’
‘He speaks against Moses!’
‘We don’t want to hear about your Jesus anymore!’
A rock sailed past Stephan’s head. He ducked, dazed for a moment, then stood and continued. The second rock caught him near the temple and he fell to his knees. Another hit his shoulder…then there were too many to count.
‘No more Jesus talk!’, they shouted.
‘Let this be a lesson to all who would proclaim this Jesus.’
As each rock found its mark and the blood began to drip from Stephan’s wounds, he began to pray. ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he scanned the crowd until his eyes locked with those of the young man who held a bundle of coats…’and Lord,’ he said, ‘do not hold this sin against them.'