Jesus breaks the rules

breaking the rules

Rules. Rules. Rules. They are everywhere. There are rules for school, rules for the road, rules for table manners, rules for marriage, rules for parents and children, rules for governing, rules for meetings, rules for church, written rules, unspoken rules, and even rules for rules.

Sometimes rules can seem nettlesome when we don’t understand their purpose. Like, why can’t we use #1 or #3 pencil for tests? Now, rules aren’t all bad. Think of a world without rules. It would be chaos. Rules are good. Rules are meant to protect us and help us. This is the heart behind a parents saying to their children, “Look both ways before crossing the street.” It’s a rule that could save ones life.

God has made rules too. His rules perfectly and lovingly protect us and help us. However, some people have seen God’s rules as overbearing or unreasonable and choose to rebel. Rebellious people break the rule by ignoring them altogether. Others have seen God’s rules as insufficient and needing additions to fit their religious system. Religious people make rules for God, themselves and others.

So is it ever okay to make or break the rules? In Luke 6, Jesus will answer this question as He’s being accused of breaking their rules. What rules does Jesus break? Certain religious leaders accuse Jesus of breaking the Sabbath rules.

What is the Sabbath? Literally, it means “rest” and is rooted in the seventh day of creation when God rested after six-days of creating (Genesis 2:2-3). God did not rest because He was tired, but He set an example for mankind (Mark 2:27-28). God knew in His infinite wisdom that man would be weak and need to take a day off from work and enjoy the day of rest. The Sabbath is a day dedicated to God (Exodus 20:9-11). So how do the religious leaders think Jesus breaks the rules of the Sabbath?

1) Jesus breaks the rules by helping His hungry friends (Luke 6:1-5)

no_food_or_drinkJesus and His disciples were hungry and there was no McDonald’s drive-thru available to get a quite bite to eat. In accordance with the law (Deuteronomy 23:25), they go into a field, pick grain, crush it with their hands, and eat it. The Pharisees catch wind of this and cry foul. They ask, “Why are you sinning on the Sabbath?” (v.2) Why do they assume Jesus and His followers are sinning? The Pharisee’s saw this as harvesting and threshing, and accuse Jesus of doing work on the Sabbath. Sounds like a stretch, eh?

The Pharisees were sticklers for law keeping. The took God’s law and added to it a man-made framework to give them the appearance of righteousness. So with such laws like, “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy,” (Exodus 20:8ff) they made-up a list of rules to look really holy, but the Sabbath became just another religious activity.

Isn’t that easy to do? Have you ever made the Sabbath a religious activity to boast in yourself? It is easier to keep your own rules of righteousness than measure yourself by God’s rules. According to their rules, Pharisees were on the Varsity Team and everyone else was on warming bench.

How does Jesus respond to the Pharisees accusation? First, He compares the situation to the example of David and his soldiers eating the bread of Presence from the temple, which was only to be eaten by the priests (1 Sam.21:1-6). Jesus points to the fact that God is more concerned about the person and the motivation of their heart than the particulars of the law. Jesus could see through to the hearts of the Pharisees and they were evil.

Second, Jesus doesn’t appeal to the religious leaders authority or accept their theology, instead He claims, “I am Lord over the Sabbath” (v.5). In other words, Jesus says, “I wrote the law and the Sabbath was my idea. Stop arguing with Me and start listening. Don’t fight Me, follow Me. Since I made the Sabbath, He define it.” Not only does He define it, He lives and fulfills it before their very eyes.

Sabbath is a wonderful gift from God to be enjoyed. Religious people suck the joy, passion, and purpose out of it (and everything they add rules to). They make the Sabbath as fun as going to the dentist on a free day. This particular Sabbath should have been the most unique, memorable, and joyful ones of their lives because they were in the presence of the Son of God.

2) Jesus breaks the rules by healing a man’s hand (Luke 6:6-11)

no peopleOn the Sabbath, Jesus goes to the synagogue for worship. He’s teaches. And Luke, the doctor, tells us there is a man present who has a withered hand. The Pharisees and scribes are listening critically to Jesus words and waiting with baited breath to see if He will heal the man. Like wolves ready to pounce on their prey, they were salivating at the opportunity to catch Jesus doing something they thought offended the law. Religious people are quick to tear apart and devour others.

This time Jesus asks the question, “I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?.” (v.9) No response is given because the answer is obvious. Jesus then has the man to stretch out His hand, in faith, he does what Jesus says, and Jesus heals him. In that moment, Jesus showed the religious people that helping someone in need trumps holding tightly to your rules. Jesus transforms this man life. Forever will he remember this Sabbath as the day Jesus healed His hand and healed his heart.

Religious people are not ruled by loving God or loving people, they ruled by a love for rules. Loving rules is legalism. Legalism is when people take the Bible and add to it. They make rules outside of the Bible that are equal to the Bible. Legalism is unbiblical, unloving, moralistic, man-pleasing, compromising, critical, judgmental, arrogant, self-righteous, and godless.

Legalism is an enemy of Jesus and His Word

Legalism is a dangerous enemy; it adds to the Bible and rejects Jesus as the only sufficient means to righteousness. Legalism denies something called sola scriptura, where Scripture alone are our highest authority. Sola Scriptura was first coined by the Protestant Reformers. All other authorities, like other books, teachers, rules, and leaders, are under, not equal to, Scripture. Religious people tend to elevate teachers and also other lists, and rules, and books equal to Scripture.

So dangerous is legalism that it kills Jesus. The Pharisees were so angry that they connived a plan to get rid of Him, “But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.” (v.11) Religious legalist don’t lose because they make their enemies pay. When they are angry they attack. Luke 6:11 will lead to Luke 23:46, which is the murder of Jesus.

Jesus summarizes the rules with two rules

Jesus doesn’t break any of the Bible’s rules, but He breaks certain religious rules. He does so because He values helping people more than following others expectations, traditions or religious rules. He knows that religious legalism is the default setting of every human being. So in Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus shares the two most important rules, often known as the greatest rules,

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

These rules show God’s heart for giving the law: love. God intends the law to protect and help you love Him and others around you. It’s not about loving the rules or loving to rebel against them. It’s about loving the God and others. As Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28)

Some of you need to repent of your religion. Enough with the legalism. Enough with the rule making. Enough adding to the Bible. Enough with the self-righteousness. Enough with the boasting and bragging. Enough with the criticizing and judging. Repent of your religion and come to Jesus. You can’t have Jesus and religion. It’s just Jesus.

Some of you also need to repent of your rebellion against Jesus’ rules. Enough with rebellion. Enough with rule breaking. Enough ignoring the Bible and subtracting from it. Enough with bashing the religious. Enough with reverse legalism. Enough with lawlessness and licentiousness. Repent and follow Jesus.

Come to Jesus. Receive His death for your sin, His righteousness for your unrighteousness, let Him do the work of grace and transformation in you. The truth is Jesus lived the perfect life. He died a substitutionary death, and He rises to give you the gift of righteousness. Stop trying to be righteous on your own and receive the righteousness of Jesus, and share that message of grace with those around you who need it too.

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the heart of the matter

Why do I do the things I do? Why am I so angry? Why is my friend so depressed? Why was my family awesome one day, but now it seems like guerilla warfare? Why do I get angry in traffic? Why is she so critical and controlling? Why is he so ungrateful? Why is she so afraid? Why won’t he talk? Why am I the way I am? The simple answer is: the heart.

What is the heart? The heart is not just a muscle that pumps blood, the shape of a card you receive on Valentines Day, nor where romantic feelings come from. It is said that you cannot understand a human until you understand the heart. The Bible describes the heart as your inner man [spirit, soul, mind, emotions, passions, will, etc.]. The heart is the real you, where your beliefs affect your behavior. It is the control center of a your life.

There is something seriously wrong with your heart. Your control center has a glitch in the main frame. What is the matter with the heart? It is stained with sin. Sin is like the fat that clogs your heart from functioning properly. Sin is like eating a constant diet of junk that will eventually kill you if you do not do something about it. Sadly, there is nothing you can do about it. However, God has done something about it. He has given you Christ whom if allowed will do surgery on your heart opening up the clogged arteries and capillaries so His life-giving power can clean you from the consequences of sinful living.

The Bible Uses a Tree to Illustrate Heart Change: Fruits & Roots [Luke 6:43-46]

When the Bible speaks about fruit, it is usually referring to the responses to your behavior [what you do and think based on what you believe]. The fruit is what speaks in Luke 6:43-46. Jesus says something very powerful about words [i.e. fruit]: they flow from the heart [cf. Matthew 5:21-30].

Now it is important to understand that people and situations do not cause you say what you say or do what you do. Why can’t people cause you to sin? This may fly in the face of modern psychology and self-esteem talk, but you alone are responsible for the way you respond to people and situation. People and situations might influence you to sin because you are being blamed, threatened, manipulated, piled on with guilt, or spoken to unjustly, but you are the root causer of your responses to these influencers. Your words and responses are revealed in the fruits of your heart.

You can recognize a tree by the fruit it bears. If you plant apples what do you expect to take root? What if you plant giant pumpkin seeds? How about an acorn? The type of seed you plant is the plant that will grow. It is unnatural to plant a pumpkin seed and discover a few years later an oak tree. When you are dealing with plants you recognize there is an organic connection between the roots and fruit. The same is true with people—the roots of your belief bear the fruits that resemble

When the Bible speaks about roots, it is usually referring to your heart [where beliefs are born, incubated and grow]. You have the kind of fruit you bear because of your roots. You will speak and act the way you do because of what is in your hearts. The heart is how you function. Your sin problem is a result of our heart [cf. Matthew 23:25-26; clean cup]. You cannot change your behavior until you change your heart.

How can you change your heart? It begins by a change of belief [roots], which will affect your behavior [fruit]. When I was growing up my gramps had an apple tree. The apple tree didn’t produce many apples. It began to produce dry, wrinkled, brown and mushy apples. Knowing my gramps he would try to remedy this problem. Let’s say gramps went out to the tree with trimmers, a staple gun, stepladder and a box of Washington apples he bought from the grocery store. He decides to cut off the bad apples and puts on the new store bought ones. Did he fix the tree? Stapling apples will not help because the new apples will rot too. Change that doesn’t reach the heart [roots] does not last. Cosmetic changes never satisfy. Are you stapling? What kind of fruits are you trying to staple in place of actually changing?

To Change Your Heart You Need to Understand What Rules Your Heart [Ezekiel 14:1-5]

In Ezekiel, the spiritual leaders of Israel come to the prophet because they have questions they want to ask of God. As they come to the prophet he sees something is wrong with them. What is wrong with them? [Idolatry] What kind of idols? [In their hearts] These idols run deeper than cultural or religious idols they are idols inside the heart of man.

What is God’s response? Idols in the heart are a ”stumbling block before the face” Ezekiel 14:3 If you put your hands in front of face and walk about the room you will not make it far without stumbling. That is exactly God’s point about idols of your heart; eventually, they will cause you to sin.

An idol is anything that rules me other than God. Sin is fundamentally idolatry [cf. Romans 1:21-25 & Matthew 6:19-24]. Idolatry is the great exchange: creation for the Creator. Here is a great truth from this passage: Whatever rules your heart will exercise inescapable influence over your life and behavior. You live for some kind of treasure. Whatever you treasure will control your heart, “where your treasure is your heart will be also.” [Matthew 6:21] Whatever controls your heart will control your behavior, “no one can serve two masters.” [Matthew 6:24]

Isn’t it impossible to know the heart of another man? Yes, you can only see the outside of a man [behavior]. However, Hebrews 4:12-13 tells you that the Bible is like a scalpel. It cuts through layers of flesh and exposes the condition of your heart. Although you do not have x-ray vision to any mans heart, God and His Word do. The Bible is a heart-revealer. The Word of God has the power to change your heart. That is the Bible compares itself to a surgical tool that can cut to the innermost part of your soul—the heart. For without heart change, there is no real change. Here are some great x-ray questions to ask to see the condition of your heart, preparing you for potential heart change:

What do you love? Hate? What or who do you trust? Who do you seek to please? Whose opinion matters most? Who are your role models? Who do you want to be like? What makes you tick? If this were your last day on earth what would you do? How would others describe you on your deathbed? What is your definition of success? What would make you feel rich? What brings you greatest joy? What do you desire, crave, lust, and wish for? What desires do you serve and obey? What is your life aim? Goal? Purpose? Where do you bank your hopes? What do you fear or worry about? Where do you find refuge, safety, comfort, escape or security? What do you pray for? How do you live with yourself? Where do you find your identity? How do you define what you are?[1]

Next week we will talk more about understanding your heart and in the weeks that follow how to guard your heart from influencers in our world seeking to distract you from giving all your heart toward God.


[1] Taken from an article by David Powlison, X-ray Questions: Drawing Out the Whys and Wherefores of Human Behavior, The Journal of Biblical Counseling, Volume 18, Number 1, Fall 1999. Pgs. 2-9