Love Breaks The Rules
Have you ever used a paint by number kit? According to the very unreliable Wikipedia website, paint by numbers kits were introduced by the Craft Master brand in 1951 and to date have sold over 12 million kits. The kits proclaimed, “A beautiful oil painting the first time you try.”, and after a few experiences with these kits I truly believe that Craft Master employees a bunch of liars.
Anyway, the goal of these paint by number kits is that a no talent, want to be artist, like me could actually paint a beautiful picture. The goal is that your painting would look just like the beautiful picture on the box, all you have to do is follow all of the rules. Every space that has the number one you paint red, the spaces that have a number 5 you paint green. They give you these nice grey or black lines so that you know exactly where the paint is supposed to go and when you have made a huge mistake. The whole point of painting by numbers is that by following the rules we will all end up with a picture that looks like every other painting.
Truth be told, there are a lot of folks who like the paint by number life style because we like the rules. Rules bring order and keep us safe. Rules let us know when we are behaving in a respectable way and when we have gotten out of line. Rules are there for our benefit and for our comfort. But there are times when the rules are not enough; in an effort to make sure that our painting comes out right we have to make more rules to help us keep the rules we already have.
As we continue our look at The Story of Jesus we come to a very interesting passage in Luke 6. We have already established, that Jesus was perfection, and sinless. We have talked about the fact that Jesus kept the law perfectly, at least God’s law perfectly. You might remember that there were these groups, the Pharisees and Sadducees, who took it upon themselves to make more rules in an effort to help us not break God’s laws. By setting up their own rules they had taken the beautiful gifts that God had given us and turned obedience into a heartless, passionless, dead relationship.
When we approach God with a paint by number mentality we take the relationship He offers and turn it into an eat this, do this, pray this, read this, do that, tithe this dead relationship type of religion. We throw away the relationship and focus on rules.
God wants more. God wants more than a paint-by-number, outward focused relationship with His people. He wants a living, active, vibrant, prayerful, joyful, living, loving, life-giving relationship with you. And religion, or legalism, kills that kind of living, loving, life-giving relationship with God. The law keepers were concerned with the outward appearance, while Jesus was concerned with the person.
Our text this morning deals with the sabbath, or day of rest. So, let’s look at what God really said about the sabbath. Exodus 20:8-11: Remember the Sabbath day to set it apart as holy. For six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; on it a you shall not do any work … For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that is in them, and he rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy. As God is laying out the basis for His relationship with the Nation of Israel, there is this 4th commandment about rest, and the Lord says this day is holy.
In Exodus 31:13-14 we get the reason why the day is holy and how seriously God is about this day of rest. Tell the Israelites, 'You must keep the rules about my Sabbaths, because they will be a sign between you and me from now on. In this way you will know that I, the LORD, make you holy. Make the Sabbath a holy day. If anyone treats the Sabbath like any other day, that person must be put to death; anyone who works on the Sabbath day must be cut off from his people.
While that may sound a little harsh, consider that the sabbath was a sign of the covenant between God and His people. He knew how easily we would drift from our relationship with Him so this command carried a death penalty. That death penalty is why the Israelites were concerned with this covenant law. It’s why they taught the importance of this law to their children and to those who came into the Jewish faith. And it’s why they established 1,521 rules on how a person could break the Sabbath. For example their law said that you were breaking the sabbath law if you separated two threads, or wrote two letters of the alphabet side by side, or blew out a candle.
God gave His children the Sabbath as a gift to be enjoyed, and they made it into a burden by putting so many rules around it that it took the joy away from the relationship. I imagine it would be like having rules for birthday cake. If you want to ruin a birthday cake all you have to do is go to a kid and say, we’re gonna give you a birthday cake. I know you wanted chocolate, but we don’t do devils food cake here, we prefer angel’s food because … you know devil. And there will be no sprinkles or icing. We are giving you this cake, but you can only eat it on Tuesday, and you can eat it between 2:17 and 2:39. We need you to use your right hand and use a spoon, actually a tea spoon not a table spoon and it has to be metal and not one of those cheep plastic ones. Now, enjoy your birthday cake.
Why do we need birthday cake rules? A Birthday cake is a wonderful thing that is meant to enjoy. You don’t need a list of rules, you just need a fork, or fingers. When we start putting rules around this gift we make a beautiful thing feel like going to the Doctor for your yearly check up. It’s something you have to do, not something you get to do. It could have been awesome, but now it’s ruined.
That’s what religious people do to everything; it’s what they did with the Sabbath. God says, Take a day off to rest so we can spend time together. You’d think people would be excited to get that gift. Until the religious people come along and say, We need to put together a rule book for this. Like we need a rule book for a day off. What was supposed to be a gift has now turned into a lot of work.
Religious people like to make rules where God never made a rule. This is the world that Jesus was born into; a world that has the best of intentions to keep the covenant between God and man, but they have made so many rules and laws that they have taken the joy out of the journey. That’s why when Jesus appears on the scene He reminds us that He is love and love breaks the rules.
We need that reminder, because we still struggle with legalism and desire rules and boundaries. Do you know why hotels on the beach have swimming pools? It’s because we prefer the pool to the ocean. You can see the bottom of the pool, if it says 5 feet and you are 4 1/2 foot tall you know the water is over your head. You can see where the pool starts and where it ends. The ocean, is scary. You don’t know how deep or wide or big it is or what’s in there with you. We prefer the pool for the same reasons we prefer the rules. And while rules are helpful, there are a few things we need to know about the rules and the legalists who are making them.
First Legalist are bold. (Read Luke 6:1-2)
It’s a Saturday and Jesus is walking through a grain field. We noticed last week that Jesus was pretty familiar with the book of Deuteronomy. In Deuteronomy 23:25 we read, If you go into your neighbor's grain field, you may pick grain by hand. But never use a sickle to cut your neighbor's grain. The law here is making a generosity provision for the hungry.
Jesus and his disciples are walking through a field and they pluck a little bit of grain. They rub it in their hands so they can eat it. According to the religious people, you’re not supposed to prepare a meal on the Sabbath, that’s supposed to be done the day before. They look at Jesus and they realize, He has broken four of their rules: He is reaping, threshing, winnowing, and preparing food.
They come up to Jesus and ask Him why is He breaking the Sabbath rules. That’s pretty bold, to walk up to Jesus and assume since you disagree, He’s wrong. But that’s what legalist do; they’ll follow you around, get right in your face, and they assume if there’s disagreement, they’re right, you’re wrong. The simple fact that they would confront Jesus to His face should be our first sign that something seriously wrong with them. But they have based their existence in rules, and Jesus has based His in love.
Legalists are Unbiblical. (Read Luke 6:3-4)
Jesus says, You guys have a lot of rules, but your rules don’t agree with the Bible, so you’re in catch 22. Do you keep your rules and disobey the Bible, or do you keep the Bible and repent of your rules?
Jesus doesn’t argue about their goofy law, He reminds them of the story in 1 Samuel 21. King Saul had lost his mind and thought that he needed to kill David, who was supposed to be the next king. David is running for his life, on the Sabbath which is a violation of the law, and he shows up at the tabernacle. He asks the priest for something to eat and all they have is the Bread of the Presence. These were twelve loaves that were placed on the alter every Sabbath to show their dependence on God. No one was allowed to eat that bread except the priests after it had been taken off the altar. The priest says, all we have is this holy bread and he gives it to David and his men.
Jesus asked these law keepers to figure out if David sinned when he ate the bread? Did the priest sin when he gave David the bread? The answer is no, but legalism makes you unbiblical. Jesus reminds them that He is greater than David who the priest allowed to eat the holy bread on the Sabbath. If that was not sinful, then surely Jesus can pick a few heads of grain to eat on the Sabbath. They were not dishonoring God or sinning against Him. Jesus remembered that God loves mercy, and He cares for people.
Legalism is unbiblical because it makes rules outside of the Bible. Then you make a rule that God never made you end up painting yourself in a corner where you have to start disagreeing or rewriting parts of the Bible.
Legalists are Arrogant. (Read Luke 6:5)
These keepers of the law are so arrogant they come to Jesus to argue, not to listen. Jesus claims the Messianic title of divinity from Daniel 7. When He says The Son of Man, He is claiming to be God, ruler, and king. He says, I’m Lord of the Sabbath, I’m the creator, I’m God. The whole Sabbath idea was mine in the first place, so I get to decide what’s acceptable and unacceptable on the Sabbath. Jesus is saying, don’t argue with me, follow me. If we disagree, assume you’re wrong.
But legalist are so arrogant, they put themselves in the judgement seat. They thrive on judging others and making people give an account to them. All of a sudden, we’re trying to earn their favor and approval. We are looking to them to hear, Well done, good and faithful servant. They’ve assumed God’s position, and Jesus will not tolerate that. Instead He points us back to God.
Legalist are Unloving. (Read Luke 6:6-10)
We have moved from one Sabbath to another and we see that legalism still works the same way. If you want to confront someone, you do it in a very public way so that you can cause as much embarrassment as possible. These men are hanging out in the Synagogue, watching for Jesus to make a mistake so they can publicly ridicule and humiliate Him.
In the 1800’s and 1900’s the church did this with the printing press. If you wanted to humiliate someone into your way of thinking you write them up in a brotherhood publication. Today you just have to go to Facebook, or Twitter. Legalists are always looking for away to pressure you, back you down, and make you fall into line with the way they believe. That’s why these guys are watching Jesus, looking for a crowd so they can pick a fight. And they find the right time and the right place, on the Sabbath, in the synagogue, in front of an audience.
They use a man with a withered right hand to set their trap. We don’t know how the man’s had became disfigured, he could have been born this way or had a traumatic accident. What we do know is that because of his withered hand he was not allowed to worship God with his family. According to Leviticus 21 this man was not allowed to approach the alter of God.
While we don’t know much about this man, I believe it’s safe to assume that what he really wants is to be healed so he can go to worship, and be an active part of his community. But the legalist would tell you that’s not a good enough reason, so you just need to come back another day. It’s like someone talking about minor surgery, if it is happening to you it’s minor but if it’s happening to me it’s MAJOR!
Jesus is faced with a decision, does He heal this man publicly knowing that the scribes and Pharisees will use this opportunity to attack Him, or does He cave and say, I’ll do it tomorrow. For a Savior who knows that love breaks the rules it’s an easy choice. Jesus tells him to stand up and raise his hand. Jesus is asking the man to show his faith, if you really believe that I can heal you and you are willing to endure the firestorm that comes from living a life of faith then let’s do this. The man acts on his faith and is healed. The religious people are mad because Jesus didn’t paint by their numbers. It’s amazing and tragic and legalism.
Finally we see that Legalism is Dangerous. (Read Luke 6:11)
Their big problem with Jesus is that He broke their rules, not God’s rules, their rules that they founded in their interpretation of scripture. Jesus doesn’t just break their laws, He does it in public. They started the fight but it’s a fight they can’t win. Kind of like a beagle picking a fight with a pit bull.
So as they sit in the corner and lick their wounds, they begin to plot and the situation get’s septic. They decide their best option is to go on the attack. When religious people attack, they are willing to fight to the death to defend their idols. It’s a bit ironic that there are laws against healing on the sabbath, but apparently there is not a law against plotting someone’s murder on the Sabbath.
Legalism makes you dangerous, it not only kills everything that we enjoy of God’s grace, it kills people’s desire to know a God of love. That’s why Jesus had to come and break the rules.
This morning God is inviting you to come and swim in His ocean. He knows that it’s a bit scary, especially when we are comforted by the rules and laws that we have set up to keep us safe. But He continues to call us to a better life. He calls us to love Him, and to love the people He loves. The painful part is that as soon as we hear that God wants us to love Him and love the people He loves, we begin to make plans, and rules, and decisions about what that means.
God says that love breaks the rules. Love doesn’t sit back and decide who is good enough to come in and who must be left outside. Love says that everyone is welcome. Everyone is equal. Everyone has value. Everyone is loved. Love breaks the rules because there is Power in the Blood.