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15 Luke 6.1-11

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The Spirit or Letter of the Law

READ 6:1-11

v    Sabbath Confrontations

Ø     Jesus had many of them

§        We have had one already

·        Luke 4:31 ~ Healing Demoniac

·        Later in Luke 13:10-17 ~ Crippled woman healed on Sabbath

·        In John 5:1-15 ~ Healing of 38 yr invalid at Bethesda Pool

Ø     Here we have two more confrontations

§        One regarding picking grain on the Sabbath

§        One regarding healing on the Sabbath

v    The question is…

Ø     RQ: Why did Jesus continue to pick the Sabbath to do these things?

v    I think it is because the Sabbath is so important to God

Ø     And the Jews had totally misinterpreted, misunderstood and abused it

v    God gave us the Sabbath for several reasons

Ø     To be refreshed bodily ~ Ex 23:12

§        No work so that ’’…you may be refreshed”

·        Not the most important reason, but…

¨     Anyone who has worked 7 days a week for any stretch understands this

Ø     My days at Taco Bell

Ø     To show honor and dedication to God ~ Ex 20:10; Lev 23:3

§        “…it is a Sabbath to the Lord”

§        We are to show our dedication to him by honoring him 1 day out of 7

·        By doing this there is a wonderful side effect

¨     We are a witness to the world around us

§        The Lord is constantly requiring things of us that make us stand apart from the world, isn’t he?

·        Old Covenant…

¨     Circumcision

¨     Dietary requirements

¨     Centralized worship

·        New Covenant

¨     Love our enemies

¨     Go the extra mile

¨     Sabbath worship

Ø     When people see you going to church, it is a witness

Ø     The Lord is always giving us opportunities to set ourselves apart from the rest of the world

§        We are to be a “holy” people

·        Holy = separated, set apart for a purpose

¨     That is what 2 Cor 6:17 is talking about when Paul quotes Isaiah saying

Ø     Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord

Ø     One of the saddest sights in my opinion is a Christian trying to “fit in” with the world

Ornithologists now know that the great albatross flies around the world several times in the course of its life. These birds can withstand almost hurricane-force winds over the ocean for days, but interestingly enough they become seasick if they stand on the deck of a moving ship.

The true Christian can go across the face of life, buffeted by all the winds of time and space, as long as he remembers that he is in the world but not of it. When he comes down and becomes a part of the movement of this world he loses his Christian equilibrium, because he is entirely out of the element for which God created him.

·        You see…

¨     We are created to soar on wings as eagles

Ø     But sadly many Christians prefer to waddle among the masses

Finally, the Sabbath was given to man in order…

Ø     To Imitate God ~ Heb 4:4, 9

§        And on the seventh day God rested from all his work…There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God

§        Genesis – made in the image of God

·        We are called Christians…”little Christs”

¨     We are to be like our God

¨     We were made in his image

Ø     And he still wants us to be His image

§         Col 3:10

·        Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator

v    But the Pharisees had forgotten the real reason for the Sabbath

Ø     And buried it under regulation after regulation

§        Law after law

v    And instead of the Sabbath being a joy…

Ø     It grew to be a millstone around people’s necks

And what the Pharisees were enforcing as they confronted Jesus and his disciples was…

The Letter of the Law

v    They see them walking through the fields picking grain and eating it

v    V. 2 ~ “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

Ø     Here they accuse Jesus and his disciples of breaking the Sabbath by walking through fields eating the grain

§        In other words…

·        Working

v    At the time of Jesus there were some 39 Pharisaic Laws on what defined “work”

Ø     These were laws that had been added to God’s law

§        To keep people from breaking the Sabbath

v    And among these 39 regulations was that there was to be no

Ø     Reaping, Threshing, Winnowing and Preparing food on the Sabbath

§        And the Pharisees saw Jesus and his disciples…

·        Picking grain, thus…

¨     Reaping

·        Rubbing it in their hands, thus…

¨     Threshing and winnowing

·        And eating it, thus…

¨     Preparing food

v    Don’t misunderstand…

Ø     The law does forbid working on the Sabbath

§        But by focusing on the letter of the Law

·        They missed the purpose or “spirit” of the Law

§        In other words…

·        They were so concerned with the trees

¨     That they miss the forest

Ø     They missed the real meaning or purpose of the sabbath

v    What the Pharisees did here proves that…

Ø     One can know the Bible inside and out and yet completely miss the real meaning

v    The Pharisees made two mistakes when coming to Scripture…

Ø     And we can too!

§        Pharisees not humble before Scripture

·        Not wanting to learn but find proof texts for their beliefs

¨     It is said that there are two ways to study the Bible…

Ø     Studying it with your mind made up

Ø     Studying it to let it make up your mind

§        Correct attitude should be that found in 1 Sam 3:10

·        “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening”

¨     We have to be careful not to lay our grid upon Scripture and fit the Bible into our way of thinking

Ø     We have to allow Scripture to inform and mold us

§        Approach it with humility

·        Giving it the authority in your life


§        Pharisees not needy before Scripture

·        Not coming to God’s Word knowing their own sin

¨     Pharisees used the Scriptures as a bludgeoning tool

Ø     That is at the heart of Legalism

§        It looks at others, not at self!

·        What the Scriptures should do is bludgeon your sin

¨     The sin in your life

Ø     It exposes you for the sinful person you are

§        M. Luther

·        The Bible is alive it speaks to me. It has feet, it runs after me. It has hands, it lays hold of me

v    We must take these warning ourselves

Ø     Approach Scripture with humility and with a sense of need

v    But because the Pharisees approached Scripture in Pride and without need…

Ø     They lived full of pride and did not understand the true purpose for the Law

§        They did not understand…

The Spirit of the Law

v    And so Jesus taught them and showed them

v    He first taught them

Ø     V. 3-4

§        “Have you not read…”

·        Pharisees familiar with the story, but miss the point

§        Here Jesus answers their question to him by quoting 1 Samuel 21:1-6 (READ pg. 454)

·        Main idea:

¨     The ceremonial law was never meant to be interpreted so strictly as to exclude the needs of man

Ø     In Mark’s parallel passage (Mk 2:27) Jesus states…

§        The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath

·        The purpose of the ceremonial law was to foreshadow Christ

¨     To lead men to a knowledge of the Messiah

Ø     As Paul later states in Gal 3:24

§        The Law was put in charge to lead (pedagogue) us to Christ


But the Pharisees completely misunderstood, so…

v    On a subsequent Sabbath Jesus showed them what the Sabbath meant

Ø     V. 6-11

§        Here Jesus knows their accusing hearts

·        So he asks them a question

¨     Is it lawful to do good or evil, to save life or destroy it?

·        And so he puts on a demonstration to show them the legalism in their hearts

¨     Healed a man with a withered hand

Ø     Showing that doing good is what the Law is all about

§        That was the purpose of the Law..

·        To direct people to God, and

·        To encourage them to do good

·        To act as God would act

·        To be the image of God

§        Hosea 6:6 sums this up

·        For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings

v    And this is what the Pharisees missed

Ø     They were so wrapped up in the external show of piety…

§        Legalism

§        The letter of the Law

Ø     That they completely missed the purpose of the Law

v    You may be like me and look at this text and see how silly the Pharisees are acting

Ø     And say…

§        This could never happen today

§        Never happen in this church

·        But not so…

Ø     Read SWHCC History

v    We must be careful that our obedience to the letter of the Law does not overshadow the spirit in which the law was given…

Ø     To direct men and women in serving God by loving our neighbors


v    Previous section teaches us that Jesus came to bring a new structure, a new covenant

Ø     No new wine in old wineskins

§        Ceremonial part of Law

v    He also came to correct the misunderstandings and misinterpretations of that which was going to be re-established

Ø     The part of the Law that was going to remain

v    Somebody once figured out that we have 35MM laws trying to enforce ten commandments

v    By the time Jesus comes on the scene

Ø     The Sabbath had become a joyless work

v    But the Pharisees had turned the Sabbath into a

v    We also have to remember what Jesus said about it himself

Ø     Mark 2:27

§        The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath

·        The Sabbath was to be a gift for mankind

¨     Other Laws were put around it as a hedge

Ø     The problem was…

§        These Laws eventually became as important as God’s

Before you laugh at the minutia of their Pharisaic legalism, we tend to forget that sandwiched among our country's sound and workable statutes, there are thousands of cockeyed ordinances that remain on our law books.

For instance, in Amarillo, Texas, it is against the law to take a bath on the main street during banking hours.

In Portland, Oregon, it is illegal to wear roller skates in public restrooms.

In Halethorpe, Maryland, a kiss lasting more than a second is an illegal act.

The list goes on and on. Suffice it to say that down through history man has been inclined to live by and enforce the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law

v    Egg Illustration

v    The sin of the Pharisees was paying attention to outward demonstra­tions of piety for appearance's sake rather than giving attention to inward obedience. This can be well illustrated by two eggs. One egg is a normal raw egg that, when placed under the palm of the hand and pressed evenly cannot be broken because of the structure of the egg itself. The second egg is exactly the same on the outside, but its insides have been removed. When it is placed under the same palm pressure, it breaks easily because it is internally weak. So, too, one who gives himself to the sin of the Pharisees is empty of substance and will eventually crack under pressure

Ø     Exodus 20:11 ~ Forbids working on the Sabbath

§        Most people would say they are not working, but stealing

·        Not true…mercy Laws ~ Dt 23:25

¨     Can pick grain with hands, but no sickle

v    The Pharisees saw this as work because they added Laws to define what “work” was

Ø     For example…

§        How far could a person walk before it became work?

·        Pharisees proclaimed about ¾ of a mile from home

¨     Temporary Domicile ~ And burying personal items in the ground and considering that home so that they could travel further

¨     People took to walking backwards

§        Even in present day Israel there are still leftovers of this legalism regarding the Sabbath

·        Sabbath elevator

¨     Pushing buttons considered “work”

v    A man lived in another country whose laws were such that one could not walk on the sidewalks after 6:00 P.M. Eventually this man moved to the United States. After arriving here he decided to see the sights and so went for a long walk. Suddenly he realized it was getting close to 6:00 P.M. and he was far from where he was staying. In despera­tion, he stopped a stranger who was getting into an automobile and in halting English said, "Please, sir, help me! It is almost six and I am too far from my hotel to walk back before I will be arrested. Can you give me a ride?"

v    The stranger at first was confused but then realized that the man was new to the United States and so said to him, "Sir, let me assure you that in the United States we do not arrest people for being out after six."

v    This man knew he was in the United States, but he had not cast off his obedience to the laws of his old country and so was still being controlled by what no longer had any jurisdiction over him. He was a free man, needlessly bound to the rules and regulations of his former life.

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