Summary: Building a continuum with the legalism of the Jews on one end and the Law of Love on the other end. Then trying to decide exactly where along that continuum Lent falls.
(Establishing the first end of the continuum - Legalism)
Exodus 20:8-10 (NLT)
“Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God.
“On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you.”
Matthew 12:1-2 (NLT)
“(One) time Jesus was walking through some grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, so they began breaking off some heads of grain and eating them.
“But some Pharisees saw them do it and protested, ‘Look, Your disciples are breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath.’”
Matthew 12:9-10 (NLT)
“Jesus went over to their synagogue, where He noticed a man with a deformed hand. The Pharisees asked Jesus, ‘Does the law permit a person to work by healing on the Sabbath?’
“(They were hoping He would say yes, so they could bring charges against Him.)”
This was probably the first time this question had ever been brought up!!!
Here are some other things Jews cannot do on the Sabbath …
Brushing dried mud from boots or clothes (grinding).
Drawing blood for a blood test (slaughtering).
Tearing through lettering on a package (erasing).
This is certainly not intended to humiliate the people of the Jewish religion in any way but to bring a few examples of the direction that religious practices can take when men attempt to improve or amplify the law of God.
So, let’s take a look at the other end of the spectrum. (The Law of (godly) Love)
One of our memory Scriptures:
Matthew 22:37-40 (NLT)
“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.
“And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Romans 13:8-10 (NLT)
“Owe nothing to anyone - except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.
“For the commandments say, ‘You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.’
“These - and other such commandments - are summed up in this one commandment: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.”
Colossians 2:20-23 (NLT)
“You have died with Christ, and He has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, ‘Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!’?
“Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline.
“But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.”
As you read through the New Testament; the teachings of Jesus and the letters to the churches you notice something very different. Every command on how to treat others or how to relate with God passes directly through the focal point of godly love!
Look at another one of our memory verses!
“Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love one another as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.
“Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and He will bless you for it.”
Are there any rituals commanded or even suggested for the church in the Bible?
What about baptism? No rules whatsoever, just that if you are saved you should be baptized! Not how or when or where.
What about communion, the Lord’s Supper? No details on how it should be prepared or how the elements should be distributed or when it should be observed, just “Do this in remembrance of Me." Remember what I did for you …
As I was writing this sermon something just popped out at me. What IF Jesus had made a ritual out of communion? What if He had said, “Make the bread exactly this way and make sure the fruit of the vine is from only this type of grape and it can only be served under these exact circumstances, etc.” What if He had done that?
If He had done that then anyone could have fulfilled the requirements of the law by observing the letter of the law but He made it a matter of the heart because this “remembrance” of Jesus is not just a remembrance of His life but a remembrance of the change He made in your life when His sacrifice on the Cross of Calvary made a way for you to be saved!