Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Monday, May 05, 2008

Sermon-- Offensive Fulfillment-- Mark 2:13-3:6

Here is the audio for this message.

Twenty-Five Statements That Stop Creative Thinking
1. We’ve always done it that way…
2. We've never done it that way before. . .
3. It’s worked for years, what’s wrong with it now?
4. You don't understand the problem. . .
5. We haven't the manpower. . .
6. It's not in the budget. . .
7. We've tried that before. . .
8. We're not ready for that yet. . .
9. All right in theory, but can you put it into practice. . .
10. Don't move too fast. . .

For the Jews in Jesus’ day, the Law had become stifling and oppressive. Fulfillment
of the Letter of the Law had become more important than the God they were supposed to be relating to. The rules had become more important than the principles. The Pharisees saw themselves as the caretakers of the Law—preservers of the past to ensure the future. This is the way you’re expected to fulfill the law—so long as you don’t deviate from nor challenge our expectations—you’ll be right in the eyes of God. Anyone who suggested that they missed the point were clearly in error. They were trying to put all new wine into the old wineskins. Jesus took the opportunity of Mark 2:13 to challenge one of His culture’s greatest moments of missing the point.

In the mind of the Pharisees, Jesus was…

Offensive to the Sabbath

It’s pretty simple and straightforward.
Exodus 20:8—Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God…. vs. 11—For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth... but He rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

But How do you observe the Sabbath? What can you do? What can’t you do? Are there any exceptions? When does it become legalistic?

Examples of modern day Sabbath mandates.

There was a condo complex in Florida a couple of years ago that voted to spend $11,000 to upgrade its elevator because the community was filled with Orthodox Jewish retirees. They wanted to program a special provision in this elevator. On Saturdays, the elevator had to stop on every floor. See the problem was, for Jews who wanted to leave their apartment on the Sabbath, pushing buttons is considered work and a violation. On the Sabbath, they are not allowed to do anything that would create energy, such as drive a car, turn on a light.
In case you’re wondering, the elevator will automatically stop for approximately 30 seconds on each floor every 15 minutes.

There were many such rules—down to the smallest rule at work even in Jesus’ day.

Mark 2:23-27
The Pharisees were acting just like Tattle-tales—did you see that, Jesus! Did you see that—they picked some grain. O, they’re in trouble now right? You’re going to do something about that aren’t you? If you are really a servant of God, if you really love Him, you’ll put a stop to that! What is this country coming to when a man thinks he can work on the Sabbath—are you really going to let them get away with that?

Charges—You’re Not Supposed to do that at all.
You’re not supposed to do it that way.
Doing that means you are dishonoring God
Not doing it means you are honoring God

You’re doing what you’re not supposed to.
You’re not doing what you’re supposed to.

We’ve never done it that way before and we’re not going to start now!


We’ve always done it this way and we’re not going to stop now!

But Jesus reminds the Pharisees that their expectations, their rules do not always conform to the heart of God. They cannot dictate His actions, nor His conscience.

There are times when our expectations of what we are supposed to be doing and how we are supposed to be living are in one place and God’s expectations of what we are supposed to be doing and living are in another place.

Which should we choose? Who’s expectations should we fulfill?

In the church, you’d think those two things would be the same, but they are often not. Tradition, the past, preferences all create expectations of certain ways of doing things. But if there is ever a conflict between, fulfilling human expectations versus fulfilling God’s expectations—between doing things our way versus doing things His way—I hope you will join me in saying, “I must obey God, rather than men.” It is more important to please Him than any other.

Here was Jesus, walking with His disciples and they decided to pick some of the heads off the grain harvest. Matthew tells us it was b/c they were hungry, Luke adds that they would take the kernels, rub them in their hand and pop them in their mouth. And they were accused of harvesting on the Sabbath.

If Jesus would have been more concerned about the opinions of men, he would have rebuked His disciples and expected them to go hungry. When you think about it, it’s not as if his men were starving and about to die. Their lives were not at stake so why not accommodate the Pharisees?

Just so you know—what they were doing was not considered stealing. Deuteronomy 23:25—“If you enter your neighbor's grainfield, you may pick kernels with your hands, but you must not put a sickle to his standing grain.”

A lot of what Jesus did, said and allowed ruffled feathers. He did what many thought He shouldn’t, He didn’t do what many thought He should. He was not answerable to them, He was answerable to God. So long as His conscience was clear, Jesus was not worried about popular opinion and their approval.

He looked at His disciples and saw that they were more important than the flattery and good opinion of the Pharisees.

In the same way, if Paul was more interested in pleasing men, he would have altered the freedom we have in Christ, altered the Gospel—and never have said, Galatians 1:10—“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

The world outside the church expects the church to become more like them—dismissing our convictions. They expect me as a pastor to sugarcoat the holiness of God, the seriousness of sin, the exclusivity of Jesus as the only way of salvation. They want to tell me what I can and can’t do, should and shouldn’t talk about. But my conscience is not captive to them—I must obey God rather than men—as must you. You should not live for their approval, but for God’s—at home, at work, at play.

But those inside the church also have their own set of rules, regulations and expectations. Certain demands based on past experience, personal preference, but in the same way, even here, I must obey God rather than men. In the end, I am only interested in His approval. As you should be.

Mercy, people in need were more important than fulfilling expectations. And there is no greater need than the healing & saving power of Jesus to a lost and dying world.

In Matthew 12—Jesus said, “If you had known what these words mean, `I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent.”

Mark here adds the important words—“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

In other words—the Pharisees had it all backwards. The Sabbath was supposed to be a blessing, not a burden.

The Sabbath was supposed to be a testimony to the Creative Power of God in Exodus,
a reminder of the Protective Rescue of God from Egypt in Deuteronomy—
a testimony of the goodness and provision of God for our rest and not another means of God finding fault with us or someone else controlling us.

That’s why David and his men were not condemned by receiving bread meant only for the priests. The need was real and urgent—and God met it approvingly

The principles of the Sabbath—Honoring God and Resting were supplanted with burdensome expectations of following rules. And Jesus was more interested in God’s expectations—touching people’s lives—than the rules of men.

Jesus went out of His way to prove this point.

READ 3:1-6

Here was this man who was suffering with a shriveled hand. And those in the synagogue, the assembly, the equivalent to the church, were more interested in condemning Jesus than the joyous possibility of this man’s healing

That’s kind of like saying we don’t really want to see a move of God in this church—we don’t want to have visitors because that may mean I don’t get to sit in my favorite seat. Like saying we don’t want families with kids because they’re too noisy and don’t know how to act in church. Like the story last week at a sister church, we don’t want the man getting saved and testifying to the church of his salvation because he’s wearing a beer T-Shirt.

Jesus challenged their assumptions and expectations. Vs.4—which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?”

Debate had raged about whether they could fight or defend themselves as Jews on the Sabbath—during the Maccabean revolt, the Greek Seleucid armies deliberately attacked on Sabbath days because of the unwillingness to fight. By the end of the conflict—that rule had been suspended and Jews were able to defend themselves and kill even on the Sabbath. So you allow yourselves to kill and not violate the Sabbath, but healing is forbidden?

Again, they are missing the point—and I love Jesus reaction to their hardened and stubborn hearts. He gets angry, He is deeply distressed. The Pharisees had so missed the point of the Sabbath, so missed the point of the law, so missed the point of their relationship with God that showing mercy to another human being was considered wrong. In the mind of Jesus, healing this man was more important than fulfilling expectations and satisfying a list of do’s and don’ts.

In Christ—we have the Freedom to be a Blessing even if not everyone else likes it or approves. In fact, withholding the good, withholding mercy, when it is within your power is a greater problem. You are missing the point if you think your Christian life is all about being good—not smoking, drinking, cussing—you are missing the point of church if you think the Church is here to serve you.

We are here to be equipped to serve. My role is to encourage you to minister, provide opportunities for you to minister, to train you to share your faith in Christ and be a blessing.

We have been given the Freedom to be a Blessing. The Greater calling is to serve the Lost and the Hurting in Need within the church, and outside the church. We exist as a Church to bring the good news to those in need of God’s mercy. You are a spiritual healer when you share about the saving, life changing power of Jesus Christ. When you provide food or clothes or shelter—whatever you do unto the least of these—you are doing unto Him.

We come together for Him—for His Glory

and for Them and their Salvation
and that kind of fulfillment is offensive to some. A pat on the back is less important than hearing “well done, my good and faithful servant”.

Tell me, where are you today? Are you living your life to fulfill expectations put on you? are they the same expectations Christ has for you? if there is a conflict—choose Christ and accept the consequences.
And if you are here this morning and your spirit is burdened, in need of healing—know that the heart of Jesus is to touch you and heal you.

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