Rules and Rulebreakers

Some think Christianity is about following rules in order to earn salvation or eternal life. But it’s not! Christianity is all about relying on God’s grace, which is his unearned favor.

Pharisees and teachers of the Law in Jesus’ time strictly enforced the law of Moses. They were convinced following it to the letter would make them righteous (right or just before God). Jesus challenged these religious leaders and their understanding of the Sabbath ‘rules’—the primary one being not to work on the Sabbath.

One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” Mark 2: 23-27 NIV

Jesus not only confronts the accusation with Scripture, but he tells them they misunderstand the purpose of the Sabbath. He is so bold!

Did they believe resting on the Sabbath was commanded for God’s benefit rather than their own?

On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Get up and stand in front of everyone.” So he got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” Luke 6: 6-8 NIV

I love this passage because it tells us Jesus knew what they were thinking and doesn’t shy away from speaking straight to their hearts.

Who is Jesus addressing? Is he confronting the Pharisees alone?

He looked around at them all…

Jesus looks at them all and asks what is in keeping with the will of God on his Sabbath—to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?

  • Do good cries the heart of the man with the shriveled hand.
  • Are you accusing us of evil? shout the hearts of the proud and skeptical Pharisees and teachers of the law.
  • Save us call the hearts of the bystanders—could he really be the Messiah?
  • Do good—whisper the hearts of his disciples in awe of his authority and power.
  • Save us our hearts cry—two thousand years later—as we still struggle with the idea of a God who does not demand perfection from us, just humility and faith.

But no one responds aloud.

Poor man with the shriveled hand. He just came to hear the teacher. He is disfigured, hiding in the crowd. Then Jesus has him stand in front of everyone—exposed.

… then said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was completely restored. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus. Luke 6: 9-10 NIV

Jesus restores the shriveled hand to health on the Sabbath. A man’s life is saved. The Messiah has come.

The Son of Man is Lord!

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