Today’s Reading: Luke 5:27-6:11; Mark 2:13-3:6; Matthew 9:9-17, 12:1-14
Questioning Jesus’ authority to forgive sins was only the beginning of the many questions that would come at Jesus, questioning why he did something or why he failed to do something else. Things have not changed much today. We continue to question Jesus on the things we do not fully understand, or perhaps the things we understand but disagree with. God is Almighty and we say we trust Him, yet we find ourselves challenging him. We like to think of ourselves as nothing like the teachers of the law and Pharisees in the Bible. Yet, if we were honest, we would probably have to acknowledge that we have moments that are much more similar than we wish to admit.
“Why do you eat and drink with such scum?” – Luke 5:30b
This was the question asked of Jesus when he attended a banquet that Matthew (Levi) held in his home in Jesus’ honor. The guest list included Matthew’s coworkers and colleagues – tax collectors and other guests. Scripture says the Pharisees and teachers of the religious law complained BITTERLY that Jesus was spending time with people who were considered unrighteous. In the ancient world, meals were rituals of social status and Jesus’ act of dining with Matthew and his friends was seen as Jesus socially accepting them regardless of their lifestyle.
Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor – sick people do. I have come not to call those who THINK they are righteous, but those who KNOW they are sinners and need to repent” (Luke 5:31-32).
I wish today’s Church could not be accused of questioning the acceptance of sinners into our fellowship, but sadly this happens often in our congregations. Investing in sinners by spending time with them and inviting them into our fellowship is not accepting their sin, as some would accuse; it is accepting anyone who needs Jesus and loving them as they come to recognize their sin and understand what it means to repent – to admit they have sinned and come to a point of change.
“John the Baptist’s disciples fast and pray regularly, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees. Why are your disciples always eating and drinking?” – (Luke 5:33)
Why can’t you be more like your cousin?!! Okay, this isn’t exactly what they were saying but it did remind me of the tendency for people to compare one follower of Christ with another. It also reminds me of our own tendency to compare ourselves with others and worry about how we measure up with someone else, or how someone else measures up with us. God has made each one of us unique and He has a plan for each of our lives that is different from anyone else’s. It is NOT God’s plan for us to criticize our brothers and sisters in Christ, but to lift them up in prayer and support their obedience to God. Jesus’ response came to the heart of this question.
Jesus responded, “Do wedding guests fast while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. But someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.” Then Jesus gave them this illustration: “No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and uses it to patch an old garment. For then the new garment would be ruined, and the new patch wouldn’t even match the old garment. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the new wine would burst the wineskins, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine must be stored in new wineskins. But no one who drinks the old wine seems to want the new wine. ‘The old is just fine,’ they say” (Luke 5:34-39).
Sometimes the old is not compatible with the new. If I buy the newest available software and then try to load it on a computer I have had for ten years, the two are not going to be compatible. Would I build a brand new house and then fill it with old furniture? (Okay, I might but most people would not.) My point is that sometimes we hold so tightly to the old that we miss out on the new thing that God is doing.
“Why are you breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath?” – Luke 6:2
The Pharisees watched Jesus closely, especially on the Sabbath. They wanted to catch him breaking the Jewish traditions and laws so as to have grounds to accuse him and shut down his ministry. They had the activities of his disciples under surveillance and then watched to see if Jesus would heal on the Sabbath.
“The Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath.”… Jesus knew their thoughts. He said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.” So the man came forward. Then Jesus said to his critics, “I have a question for you. Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?”
He looked around at them one by one and then said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored! – Luke 6:5,8-10
Wouldn’t you have loved to have been there in that moment as Jesus took the time to make eye contact with each and every one of his accusers? Jesus knew their thoughts and he knew their motives. He looks at the heart of each and every one of us – individually. He knows when we use the Sabbath as an excuse to make the day about ourselves when His intention has always been that the Sabbath would be about Him. The Sabbath is not a day for us to focus on our own needs for rest but to slow down the busyness of our lives and focus our attention fully on Him.
If in that moment, when we are fully focused on God and we feel His eye on us, God moves on our hearts to do something for Him, our response should be one of obedience. The Sabbath is a great day to worship God and a great day to hear from Him. Isn’t it also a great day to respond in obedience, no matter what He is asking us to do? “The Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath.”
“Hold out your hand.”
Let’s reach out and allow God to use our hands however and whenever He asks.