Summary: So Jesus came to challenge and to change the way people think. And as He continued to challenge religion His ministry led Him to a variety of places. We see two of them today.
“Challenging our Religion”
Eventually the ministry of Jesus was sure to cause great controversy. After all, Jesus challenged all of the religious leaders of the day. The Pharisees, the Saducees, anyone who was teaching tradition over truth. Jesus was never afraid to challenge the religion of man whenever it interfered with the grace of God. This is the difference between religion and Christianity.
(1) Religion is man reaching up to God. Christianity is God reaching down to man.
(2) Religion is all about works and trying to earn favor with God. Christianity is all about grace and what Jesus did for each of us on the cross.
So Jesus came to challenge and to change the way people think. And as He continued to challenge religion His ministry led Him to a variety of places. We see two of them today. (1) The first challenge takes place out in the community...in a grain field. The setting scripture tells us is that it was the Sabbath Day. The disciples were hungry and so as they passed through the fields of grain they picked some of the grain and began to eat it. To understand what was taking place here and why this was a problem we need to look at the laws of that day. Some of you will remember “blue laws.” When I was a child most places were closed on Sundays. If they were open there were limits as to what you could buy. For example as a teenager I worked in a grocery store. Half of it was for groceries and ½ of it was a clothing store. On Sundays the store was open but no clothing could be sold, only groceries. If you came in for instance to buy a pair of work gloves you could find these on the grocery side but you couldn’t purchase them.
Ladies hose were on the grocery side but ladies couldn’t buy them. Why? Because it was Sunday. Of course all of this has changed now. Not really for the better. It has simply changed. Sunday is now the 2nd busiest shopping day of the year. In the day of Jesus, traditions were very rigid. Let me give you 3 examples: (1) If a man’s ox fell into the ditch he could pull it out but if the man fell in, tough luck..he had to stay there. Billy Graham once said, “Jesus tells us it is OK to help your ox out of the ditch on the Sabbath. But if you ox gets in the ditch every Sabbath, you need to either get rid of the ox or fill up the ditch. (2) Taking a bath was forbidden on the Sabbath. Water could splash on the floor and you might wipe it up. That was mopping/work. (3) A man could look into the mirror but a woman was not allowed to do so. The man might see a gray hair and he’s just like, “oh well.” A woman sees a grey hair and it’s coming out buddy.
So what was the problem here? They picked grain, rubbed it in their hands and ate it. (1) the problem was not theft. People were allowed to pick grain at the edge of a field. So the problem was not theft. (2) The problem was not trespassing. Often the road went right through a grain field and they were allowed to pick the grain from the edge of the road. (3) The problem was this was considered to be work. They plucked it, they rubbed their hands together so they were threshing it so they could get to the kernel. But the Sabbath was a day of rest. Your animals were not to work-your servants-no one was to work. The day was for rest and worship and of course this was based on the 4th commandment. Now here is a BIG teaching that Jesus was giving them at this time. Write it down. The Sabbath was never meant to restrict necessities.
At this point Jesus is like an attorney and says let me give you three reasons why this is true. First Exhibit A. Vv. 3-4. This is the example of the temple bread. Jesus describes a time in the OT when David was running from Saul..... he was hungry so he took 5 loaves of bread from the temple-this bread was only to be eaten by the priests-but he took it and gave it to his companions. In man’s eyes this was wrong. In God’s eyes it was fine.
Next Exhibit B. Look at v. 5. This was the example of the priest. Throughout the OT God had jobs He gave to the priest to perform on the Sabbath so that others could worship yet the priest was never declared as guilty for working on the Sabbath. Why? The Sabbath was never meant to restrict necessities. There are certain people who we need to work on Sunday. If I call 911 I don’t want to get an answer that says, sorry this is the Sabbath, call back tomorrow. If I go to the hospital I don’t’ want to see a sign that says closed for the Sabbath today. Here is what Jesus was saying...If these men/priests in the OT could break the Sabbath inside the temple, pastors work on Sunday...if they could break the Sabbath for the purpose of doing something good...for the purpose of worship, then certainly the one who was being worshiped could do the same. The temple was made for God. Jesus puts it this way. “I tell you that one greater than the temple is now here.”