Summary: Our legalism vs. God’s graciousness
Theme: Book of Luke
Purpose: legalism vs. God’s graciousness
Almost every state in our nation still has laws on their books that would surprise most people. For instance,
In Florida, a woman may be fined for falling asleep under a hair dryer.
In Indiana, citizens are not allowed to attend a movie house or ride in a public streetcar within four hours after eating garlic. That seems like a good law.
In Eureka, Illinois, a man with a moustache may not kiss a woman.
And, it’s probably a good thing that I’m not a pastor in Nicholas County, West Virginia because no member of the clergy there is allowed to tell jokes or humorous stories from the pulpit. Or, maybe that wouldn’t apply to the humor I use…
We may laugh, or groan, at these out-of-date laws, because many of them seem absurd and ridiculous. But, if we were to list all the rules, expectations, and laws that are on the books in many churches today, chances are we’d stop laughing pretty quickly. Most of these religious regulations are not written down anywhere but many of us either attempt to keep them, or expect others to do so.
Our spiritual growth can be stunted, or even choked to death by the weeds of legalism. Legalism can be defined as a strict adherence to the law. Specifically, as it relates to faith, a legalist is one who believes that performance is the way to gain favor with God. Legalism is the human attempt to gain salvation or prove our spirituality by outward conformity to a list of religious “do’s” and “don’ts.” It’s often disguised in Christian terms and behavior.
Turn to Luke 6:1-11
Luke addresses this theme in Luke chapter 6 and what Jesus did about it. We know he arranged the stories this way on purpose because v. 1 says “one Sabbath…” and verse 6 says, “on another Sabbath…” So Jesus was breaking Sabbath rules as far as the Pharisees were concerned. Let’s look closer at each incident. Let me just remind us that the Sabbath was the Jewish Sunday—it was a day for worshipping God, spending time in his Word, and resting from physical labors.
Verse 1 says that one Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields and the disciples were picking some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands and eating the kernels. In verse 2 we see the Pharisees, the self-appointed men who were the religious rule monitors of Jesus’ day, coming unglued. Jesus, they said, why are you allowing your men to do what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
What was the problem? Theft? No. One could hand pick grain that was along the edge of a farmer’s field and it not be considered theft. It wasn’t trespassing. The Pharisees were bent out of shape because the disciples picked the grain (work) and threshed it (rubbed it in their hands so they could get to the kernel.
God gave Moses the 10 commandments and the command to honor the Sabbath—to make it holy. No one should work—not your animals or your servants either. It is a day of rest and worship. Over the years though, the Pharisees had made many more rules to interpret the command of Scripture.
Jesus challenged the Pharisees by pointing out that David and his companions did the same thing in the Old Testament. They ate consecrated bread when they were traveling once. And then Jesus asserts his divine authority in verse 5: “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
Luke tells us another Sabbath incident in verses 6-11. Jesus is preaching and teaching in the synagogue and a man whose hand was shriveled was there. v. 7 Notes that the Pharisees were looking to see if he would heal on the Sabbath—and thus they could claim he was working on the Sabbath and curb his popularity with the crowds. Luke notes in verse 8 that Jesus knew exactly what they were thinking. If he was concerned at all for man’s opinion, he would not have done what he did next. Stand up, he said to the man, and he did.
Jesus asks the Pharisees the pivotal question in verse 9, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?”—and then he healed the man’s hand.
Of course the Pharisees were furious. They could not rejoice in the miracle. They could only fume at the broken rule. So what do we learn about the Sabbath, and about God in these incidents?
1. the church is not bound by the Sabbath
2. nor can we treat it cavalierly
3. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath
4. the Sabbath is made for doing good for others