Summary: Looks at the challlange of legalism and grace.
Introduction: A man once asked a friend why he never got married? "Looking for the perfect girl" was the reply. "Surely you’ve meet at least one girl that you wanted to marry?" "Yes once. She was the perfect girl in every way." "Well why didn’t you marry?" "Well she was looking for the perfect man!"
Isn’t it true that as Christians we can often impose our Christian expectations upon others, so when others fail to meet those expectations, we can become judgmental of others. (Pharisical case in question). It was certainly true of these Pharisees when they looked upon Jesus he was sadly lacking in their expectations in regard to the law of God.
In the early years of missionary endeavour little imperial Britain imposed much of its own western expectations upon the inhabitants of Africa, which was not scriptual but cultural to the British as a nation. Where as today we are more aware of the cultural enviroment we are ministering in and do not impose expectations upon others which are not scriptual.
We continue to see further conflict with the Pharisees, this conflict is an underlying theme set right through the gospel, Here we have three stories that follow on from the questioning in Levi’s home. The first one linked no doubt as the Pharisees were fasting at the time of the banquet at Levi’s home. Hence he is questioned about fasting (18-22), then Picking wheat on the Sabbath (23-28) and healing on the Sabbath 3.1-6.
Jesus the radical
Through these encounters, Jesus emerges as one who draws alongside others and is not bound by a legalistic attitude, he is completely different he is radical! His holiness causes him to mix with sinners, he doesn’t follow the present day practices of fasting (twice a week Mon, Thur Lke..18:12).
Imagine Jesus being here today? How radical would he be?
Jesus himself did fast (Matt. 4:2) and calls us to fast also (Matt.6.16 –18).
He was never bound by it he certainly would never make a spectacle of such a thing. Further expectations continue with the picking of wheat on the Sabbath and healing on the Sabbath.
In fact all that Jesus had said and done had caused great uproar in fact so great was the animosity towards Jesus even in the early days of His ministry the Pharisees and Herodians began to plot to kill him (3:6) This unusual alliance would continue throughout the public ministry of Jesus.
What sort of Religion is that? These men had distorted the Jewish faith.
Many today have a distorted view of Christianity they hedge around a whole set of rules and regulations often to accommodate sin.As in the case of the Church of England’s current policy today, trying to work around the issue of homosexuality amongest its own gay clergy. Saying that gay clergy can work within the Church as long as they remain celibate. Is that scriptual?
So lets take a close look at one of these great expectations…..
1) The expectation of fasting (V18)
Begins with a thinly veiled form of criticism through a question?
This question had probably arose as a result of the piety and sombreness of Johns disciples which was in keeping with the disciples of the Pharisees and the stark contrast of Jesus and his disciples who were feasting at Levi’s home;
John’s disciples remember were called to repentance and as a result would fast because fasting is an outward sign of humility and regret for sin. It is an inner discipline, which clears the mind and makes the spirit alert. Like repentance empties the life of sin, fasting empties the body of food. The disciples of John were genuine fast as a result of repentance and as a result of John the Baptist being imprisoned at that time.
b) Pharisical or Scriptural
The Pharisees fasted twice a week every week for 52 weeks in a year total of a 104 times a year, there fast was one of religious piety and show (Matt6: 16) with none of the genuine heart change, that Johns disciples had encountered. It is highly likely they were even fasting at the point of the disciples feasting with Jesus and so arises the question on the day of a fast.
Unwarranted expectations of the Pharisees
To apply this to us we see that the Pharisees went beyond what even God expected of them The Law only required them to fast on the Day of Atonement (Lev16: 29,31) but after the exile four other feasts were added (Zech. 8:19). They were imposing their expectations not Gods upon Jesus and his disciples.
We need to be very careful we don’t go beyond Gods expectations and impose our Christian expectations when there is no biblical warrant for it. Often they are formed out of our own traditions, like these Pharisees and not out of Biblical warrant.