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Jesus answered questions with clear, deep wisdom that challenged his audience in their thinking, often leaving them stunned, and sometimes angry. In Mark, Jesus pointed out the Pharisees' perversion of the law - particularly their love for rules, ritual and performance - and their lack of real relationship with God and one another. In other words, we should stop "showing out" and instead, "show up" for those God puts in our path, demonstrating His mercy and grace.
Putting the Pages Back In - A New Look at Devotion as We Begin Year 2
Jesus' Return to Nazareth - The Shocking Results
Come, Change, Confess: His Pattern to Touch Lives Then and Now
When Little Lambs Arise, We'll All Experience the Joy of Jairus
A Man Living Among the Dead Meets the One Offering the Gift of Life
The Storms of Life: The Reasons For Them, the Captain of Them, and Your Response to Them
Sow the Seed, Shine the Light, Feed the Sheep, and Wait for the Day
3 Sometimes, 3 Anytimes -that You Need to Listen to 1 Time: Jesus on Family & Pharisees
Christ's Change of Strategy - His Plan for Them Then and His Plan for You Now
Their Opposition and His Answer - Getting to Know God for Who He Really Is
When Tyson came out of his incarceration and went again with Don King, even though he was involved very shortly after that with another lawsuit with King getting his money back, they asked Duva, "Why do you think Tyson went back to King after those three years?" He said, "Why would anyone expect him to come out smarter? He went to prison for three years, not Princeton."
Pat Williams, the Orlando Magic general manager, on his team's 7-27 record in 1992 said something like this, "We can't win at home. We can't win on the road. As general manager, I can't find any place else to schedule our team to play."
Steve Spurrier, Florida's coach, was telling Gator fans that a fire at Auburn's football dorm had destroyed 20 books, and he said, "But the real tragedy was that 15 [of them] hadn't been colored yet." My favorite is this. Shelby Metcalf who coached basketball at Texas A&M in the 80s. He was talking to a player one time who brought him his report card, and he got four F's and one D, and they said, "What did you say to him?" He said something like, "Well, I said, 'Son, it looks you're spending too much time on one subject.'"
That's good stuff. Y'all know Jim Hightower. He was pretty funny. He had some good quotes. He was known for encouraging people to take strong stands. In trying to communicate to his fellow Texans, he said something like, "Don't get in the middle of the road. There ain't nothing in the middle of the road except yellow stripes and dead armadillos. Get out of the middle of the road. Take a stand."
In talking about one political adversary who he was told was learning Spanish, Jim Hightower said, "Oh good. Now he'll be bi-ignorant." Then he was talking about a former president of ours at one point, and he was frustrated with some of the policy decisions he was making, so he said something like, "When ignorance gets to 40 bucks a barrel, I want drilling rights to that man's head." McJunkin is writing these down. He finally has something to apply from the sermon here…good quotes for his buddy.
One more, because these things, I tell you, I like them, wise sayings that kind of just cap off an argument or silence your foes. I just love cowboy logic, and here are just some great little quotes from cowboys compiled over the years that I've kind of pulled together at different places, and I want to read a few of them to you.
I like this one. This one makes a lot of sense. The proverb says, "Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will also be like him." It says that in Proverbs 26. This is the way cowboys say it. "Never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty, and the pig likes it." Ever been in one of those? You get in a little throwdown with some guy, and you find out that you're both getting dirty, and he likes it because he's a fool? Yep, I've been there.
"Broke is what happens when a cowboy lets his yearning get ahead of his earning." That's not a bad way to say it. How many of y'all can identify? Cowboys say, "Being too positive in your opinions can get you invited to a dance in the street to the music of shots nicely aimed." Cowboys say, "Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance." A pretty good observation. That rain dance doesn't do a lot, but if the timing is right, it's going to be good.
Now I like this one. "There are two theories to arguing with women…neither of which works." Again, application for McJunkin there. "Never kick a cow chip on a hot day." Now there's some good… Here's a good one. "If you're riding ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure they're still riding with you." Not a bad idea for leaders.
"When you give a personal lesson in meanness to a critter or to a person, don't be surprised if they learn their lesson." Some of these aren't so funny. Some of them make you go, "You know what? That's right." Proverbs says, "A gentle answer turns away wrath…" Cowboys say, "Listen, don't be surprised if you give wrath and other people learn how to give wrath back in return." Here are a couple more here that I thought were really good.
Cowboys say, "Letting the cat out of the bag is a heck of a lot easier than putting the cat back in the bag." Isn't that a fact? "The quickest way to double your money is to fold it over and put 'er back in your pocket." This one is a good one. A cowboy said, "After eating an entire bull, a mountain lion felt so good he started roaring. He kept it up until a cowboy came along and shot him. The moral…when your mouth is full of bull, keep your mouth shut." That's pretty good advice.
Well, there are some men who were roaring during Jesus' time, and they should have kept their mouths shut because Jesus came along to these men and just said, "You know what? Some of what you're teaching is bull, and it's affecting my people, and I have a problem with it. I'm going to set you straight." Turn with me to Mark. We looked last week at the very first of these little controversies that rose up. As the popularity of Christ continued to rise through his words and works, so did his opposition and the controversies that surrounded him.
What I want to do is go back and read through from verse 14 all the way through chapter 3, verse 6. We're going to cover some ground this week, and what you'll see is there are three different scenarios where Christ was approached, and people took him on by asking him a question, to which he responded with a wise saying, either a parabolic saying or proverbial saying…something they could not refute.
We said last week and observed very simply that Jesus was not a master at comfortable conversation. He was a master at speaking the truth in love, and we want to learn to do that as followers of him. When these controversies arose, as his opposition increased in the light of his popularity, he came alongside sometimes and said, "You know, your mouth is full of bull, and you ought to keep it shut." Very straightforward, very loving, but very clear.
There were three times that they challenged him, and then a fourth time when he challenged them in the same way, and you'll find out they did not have a parabolic saying or they did not have a proverbial saying that could silence Christ because he had wisdom and these men had bull that was oppressing the people of God. Now let's read for a while starting in Mark, chapter 2, verse 14. This is a familiar text to you. We looked at it last week, but you'll see him now in totality.
"As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, 'Follow Me!' And he got up and followed Him. And it happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, 'Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?'"
See, also, they are saying, "Why is he having all the fun? Why does he go to dinner parties and accept invitations and play with kids? Why doesn't he have a problem with that?" "And hearing this, Jesus said to them, 'It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'" There was his first response to the very first controversy that showed up.
The Pharisees were a group of men who wanted to pursue what they thought was a way to honor God by being separated in a horizontal plane. Remember this? Christ says, "My followers ought to be different, and they ought to be separate from the world they are in, but not by being removed from it…by being in the world but not of the world." We are to walk on a different plane in terms of our morality, our ethics, our wisdom living.
It's separate and set apart because we have come to understand what the Scriptures have taught ( "…what eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man…" ), all these things God has freely given to those who believe, the Scripture says. We ought to be in a different plane but not in a different world, where we don't know lost folks. Christ entered right into where they were.
Now let me just say again, empathetically towards the Pharisees, that they did what they did because they thought they knew what would please and honor God. They thought, if they removed themselves from all that was unholy and therefore with people who were unholy, they would be more and more pleasing to God.
Now Christ, in fact, said, "You're right about the fact that God wants you to be a different and distinct people." In fact, he gives the same command to us, "Be holy as he is holy," but he said, "Your understanding and application of the law has become extremely perverted, and in fact, what you guys have done is you have become prideful in your thinking that some of your activity would be pleasing to my Father."
If the Old Testament shows you anything, it should show you that, in striving to keep the standard which God puts out before us, you do not meet that standard. Therefore, you need a merciful God who makes provision for your lack of performance. That provision in the Old Testament took the form of sheep and goats, whose innocent blood was shed for your sins.
How were you saved in the Old Testament? In the same way you were saved in the New Testament…by faith…by faith that God in his mercy would overlook your sins because his wrath was satisfied in another, but what we see is the sacrificial system of the Old Testament was a shadow. It was a type. It was a picture of the one real and true sacrifice that was eventually to come.
God is concerned with righteousness, and he by no means will look away from sin and just say, "Aw, boys will be boys. Come on in." What he did was, one day, he brought the perfect lamb, the one who would fully and finally and completely satisfy God's standard of righteousness so that people would have faith in God's provision and find forgiveness there. I will tell you again that, as I stand before the Lord on that day, I will not turn into him a resume.
I will not say, "Well, of course, you should let me in. Look what I did for a living. Look how I tried to serve others and love my wife and look how I confessed my sin. I did really pretty good, and you have to acknowledge that. I made some sacrifices, some career choices…the way I handled my personal time and money." I'll never say that.
I will stand before him and say, "The reason I know that I'm acceptable in your sight is because by faith I have received the gift which you have offered me, which is a sacrifice, an innocent one whose blood was shed, which I accept as provision for me, and you told me that is perfect provision which would make me acceptable in your sight." That's all I'll offer him, nothing more and nothing less but Christ in his righteousness, as the hymn says.
The system in the Old Testament was set up to show you, "Hey, God does have a righteous standard." Paul says it's a tutor. It is somebody who is brought along beside you in your youth and your ignorance to teach you what is right and true, that you don't meet that standard. That's what the law is for. It's a teacher. It shows you don't meet the standard; therefore, you need something, and then here comes the divine teacher, the one who will come…the perfect, the Good Physician; the Good Shepherd who gives his life for the sheep.
Christ was saying to these Pharisees who thought they could hand in their performance, their activity… They were removing themselves from all activities that were unholy and all those who performed activities that were unholy. They thought they would be righteous, and God said, "No, you've missed it. Righteousness doesn't come by works. Righteousness comes by faith and provision for your incompetency in being holy before me.
I am holy, and you should seek to be that in every way, but your holiness will only be fully accomplished as you trust in my provision for you." How are you saved in the Old Testament? By faith. How are you saved in the New Testament? By faith, by God's gracious provision, by giving us what we don't deserve. It's never changed. Don't be confused. People have always been saved by faith, in the Old Testament looking forward that God will ultimately one day bring a sacrifice that is perfect…us looking back that that sacrifice has been provided.
By the way, it's like the priest in the Old Testament… This is the entire argument of the book of Hebrews, that on the Day of Atonement, the most holy day of the year for Jews, when the high priest would go in, he would offer the sacrifice for the nation. The people would fast, and the people would, with great reverence, observe this sacrifice that the priest made for them, and then he would come out.
In the place that the priest ministered, there was never a chair for him to sit because it was a picture of the fact that, in the Old Testament, the work was never done. He continued to have to offer that sacrifice every year. There were sacrifices outside the most holy place that you had to offer a sacrifice every day, and there was no place for the priest to sit because there was no place for him to rest.
That's why it's so significant that, when the Great High Priest, Jesus Christ, came and offered his life as a sacrifice for the sin, it says he ascended, and now he does what? He is seated at the right hand of God. Why is he seated? Because his work is finished. It's over, and his sacrifice is acceptable…no longer needs to stand, no longer needs to labor. It's done, so he's seated…not in a picture of the heavens (that's what the most holy place was) but in the very place of heaven itself.
In the presence of God, he is seated because he's done, and that's what we have faith in. Notice, the Pharisees had a problem with Matthew. They said, "Christian cocktail parties are not an acceptable method of kingdom advancement." You know, they walked into Jesus' little crusade and said, "Where's the podium? Where are the credentials? You can't do ministry like this." Jesus looked at Matthew and said just the opposite.
He said, "Matthew, you did good. You loved your friends. You took a chance. You cared for the lost, and secondly, Matthew, you were creative. You put a little energy into this. You asked yourself, 'What do you do good? You throw parties, and what changed your life? Time with me,' so you threw a party, and you got me there, and you brought your friends. Matthew, you did good." Then he said to those who were scoffing at him, "Let me just tell you why I'm here with these guys.
I know you think you have a problem with me, but again, it's not the healthy who need a physician. It's the sick, and I'm here to care for them, and I'm here to care for you who think that you're righteous on your own. Your problem is not that you're sitting with these people. Your problem is that you don't know that you have the same need that these people have. It's the sick who need a physician, and you need to go take your temperature."
We covered that in detail last week. I won't tell you, I'll beg you… Go ask for that tape. We'll give it to you for free. Listen to it. It is the heart and soul of what we exist about here as a body. We're desperate for you to understand that message. Look what happens in verse 18. It continues. It says, "John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and they came and said to Him, 'Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?'" How come you get to live the good life and we don't?
"And Jesus said to them, 'While the bridegroom is with them, the attendants of the bridegroom cannot fast, can they? So long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.
No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment otherwise the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear results. No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.'" Now what's he doing right here? The second controversy is coming up in a very short window of time, and men are coming to him, and they're saying, "We have a problem, and not just with who you hang out with. We have a problem with the way you live because we are very spiritual people."
There was one day of the year God commanded the nation to fast, and that was on the Day of Atonement. We call it Yom Kippur. Even today, to the Jews, it's the most holy day of the year, but Pharisees added to that two weekly fasts, one on Monday and one on Thursday. When they would fast, they would adorn themselves in burlap or sackcloth. They put ashes on their heads and then sucked their cheeks in to look all gaunt.
They would walk through the streets moaning because they were fasting, thinking that that was a sign of their piousness and love for God that not only would gain God's attention but would elevate them in society's eyes with how consumed they were with religiosity, how consumed they were with this act of surrender, and Jesus in effect says, "You guys miss it. You don't understand, do you? First of all, I've never commanded men to fast in the way you fast." Go with me to Matthew 6, where Jesus talks about this. He says,
"Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you."
These men were all about doing things the world could see, so they would be elevated in the world's eyes, and Jesus said, "It's not about having men think your holy. It's about seeking earnestly a relationship with the Father, and what you guys don't understand is that all that God has been about is bringing relationship to you, and relationship is here in the person of me. You guys think that faith is a funeral," Jesus would say to them.
It's not a funeral. It's a wedding feast. See, if you were anything if you were a Jew, you understood that God (it says Jehovah) is the bridegroom of the people of Israel, that he is their lover and his banner over them was love. Through the miracle of God's grace and through the ministry of Jesus Christ, we find out that God's love, which has always been his purpose that through the Jew to make his love known to the world.
God specifically came to a place where he said, "You know what? My love for Israel is not doing a good job of elevating my love for the world, so for a moment, I'm going to take the mantle from them, and I'm going to wed myself to another. It's called the church, not non-Jews but not exclusively Jewish people anymore, a place where there was no distinction between Jew or Greek, between circumcised or uncircumcised, between slave or free, between male or female in God's eyes…a place where there is no distinction between a barbarian or a Scythian.
It's called the church, and we are the bride of Christ. He's saying, "What you people in Israel have always longed for is intimacy with the Father. It's been veiled, but now the veil is taken down, and the way that that relationship has been bridged is not through your public displays of mourning but through the love of God, who comes and dresses himself in the drag of sin and identifies with you.
He says, "That is a time of great rejoicing. Do you want to know why these men aren't fasting? Because the bridegroom is still here. It's a wedding feast. Have you ever been to a wedding feast where people walked around mourning and full of woe? You've seen maybe a few fathers of the brides like that when the bill comes to them, but you don't see that at weddings."
Now let me just read to you from some guys who you maybe wouldn't expect to say this, but I love this observation by an Anglican man, a guy named A.W. Tozer, who preached himself out of every Bible conference in the country for the last 50 years because he spoke the truth in love like the one who he was a fully devoted follower of did. Listen to this.
"The treacherous enemy facing the church of Jesus Christ today is the dictatorship of the routine, when the routine becomes 'lord' in the life of the church. Programs are organized and the prevailing conditions are accepted as normal. Anyone can predict next Sunday's service and what will happen. This seems to be the most deadly threat in the church today. When we come to the place where everything can be predicted and nobody expects anything unusual from God, we are in a rut.
The routine dictates, and we can tell not only what will happen next Sunday, but what will occur next month and, if things do not improve, what will take place next year. Then we have reached the place where what has been determines what is, and what is determines what will be. That would be perfectly all right and proper for a cemetery.
Nobody expects a cemetery to do anything but conform. […] Everyone and everything in a cemetery has accepted the routine. Nobody expects anything out of those buried in the cemetery. But the church is not a cemetery and we should expect much from it, because what has been should not be lord to tell us what is, and what is should not be ruler to tell us what will be. God's people are supposed to grow."
Rut, rot, or revival…you choose. Jesus is coming to these folks, and he's just saying, "You guys are in a serious rut, and that rut is getting you to be rotten. You need a revival. You need to know that God is not impressed with your public displays of separation. He has been about engaging and loving and reaching and seeking, and he wants you to be the same as followers of him." Jesus says, "Get rid of the gloom, and joy is on the scene." Listen to another man who lived just about 20 years later than this guy did.
He says, "In these words, our Lord is putting his finger upon the nature of the new relationship he had come to demonstrate and to bring to men—what it would be like, and what it would mean in terms of activity and expression. All this time the Jews had worshipped in the temple—solemn, ceremonial, ritualistic services centering upon sacrifice and silence before the greatness of God.
Now our Lord is teaching them that a new relationship has come in which there is a vitality and a warmth of intimacy with the bridegroom himself which only can be expressed in terms of joy and gladness and celebration." Has that been your experience in church? Man, I can tell you, as a young man growing up, one of the reasons that Watermark exists is because my whole life was about going to a funeral.
At times, I'd walk into that church, and I'd go, "You can wake me up at 11:35, and I can get right in sync with what's being said at that moment. It doesn't ever change, and everybody there looks like their faces could be cover shots for the book of Lamentations, and there's just this gloom that hangs out over the crowd. Everybody has this stomachache." There was no life. There was no sense of joy, of God busting through, but boy, I'll tell you what, we were in the rut of ritual, and we reverenced the Holy God.
I'm tell you, I had the fact that God was somebody to take seriously down pat, but I knew also as a young man that God was somebody who, as soon as I had a chance to not deal with him, I would get out because he wasn't alive and he wasn't engaging and he wasn't full of concern and love for me. It was all about "hup to!" and get it right. I have to tell you, those folks did me a great disservice because they did not represent the God of the Scriptures. Listen to what Stedman continues to say.
"This is what we Christians need to see again. Jesus is commenting here upon the drastic changes in the character of worship which occur when people discover the reality of relationship with Jesus Christ. Church services, for far too many centuries, have been borrowed from an Old Testament concept of worship, and have presented a scene of solemnity and silence and ritual.
This predominated in the Roman Catholic Church, and it has been carried over unthinkingly into Protestant churches [community churches] as well, so that even today we suffer from the attitude that a church service ought to be a time of silence, when everyone sits in supposed awestricken solemnity before God. But this is not the picture Jesus came to give. 'No,' he says, 'instead of the fast, it is a feast; instead of the sackcloth, there is a robe; and instead of solemnity, there ought to be joy.'"
That is not to say that we are to dumb down God. That is not to say that he is still not holy, but it's to say that the standards of holiness have been met, and Jesus said, "You need to understand this. You cannot take what God has done and fit it back into your old systems. It is the day of gladness, and you people ought to be at the wedding feast. There ought to be joy, and people ought to know the King has come. Hosanna is what they were supposed to cry! That's good news."
Jesus continued in this little parabolic response by saying to them at this particular time. He said, "Look at me," and said, "No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; otherwise the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear results. No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost…"
Jesus says, "I don't believe it." Wine, biblically, is always a picture of joy or a presence of the Spirit, which brings joy. He says, "You guys aren't getting your arms around joy. Joy is what I'm wanting to give you. Y'all say we don't really care about the joy. We love this wine bottle. We don't care really what we store in there, but we've always had this wine bottle. We love this wine bottle."
Jesus said, "My goodness! What's the purpose of the wine bottle? It is to contain the fruit of the vine. Lose your wine bottle and drink the wine. You guys are trying to take what God has done and shove it back into this old system, which was to teach you something which you clearly didn't learn. It was to teach you that you need God to intervene radically into your life, or you are going to be separate and far from him forever."
Can I tell you something? God has shattered through our separation. The bridegroom has come and accepted us…a very ugly, unworthy bride. He says, "No, you're not ugly to me. I will make you acceptable. I will adorn you in my clothes. I will put upon you my beauty, and you will become acceptable to me. Hey, have you heard that? Have you heard that God loves you and that when he looks at you he sees you as holy and blameless in his eyes if you are in Christ?
Hear it today and shatter those old systems of religion and performance and legalism that have shackled you…the rut of ritual, the rut of false piety. There are two ways to destroy something. One is to smash it, and the other is to let it fulfill itself. Yesterday, I was listening with my kids to KZ Rod. He has a thing called the Joke Box.
The Joke Box had a joke in it yesterday that said this: "What has eyes like a cat, nose like a cat, whiskers like a cat, and looks like a cat but is not a cat?" I thought to myself, "I ain't got a clue. This is a kid's radio show, and I just got an F." What's the answer? A kitten. Now how do you get rid of a kitten? My preferred way, which is to smash it, or… Okay, I like kittens, all right? The problem with kittens is they turn into cats.
It's like Shere Khan in Jungle Book. You remember that? They were fighting for Mowgli to live, and basically, they said, "Hey, there's no problem with man-cubs. The problem with man-cubs is they turn into men, and men are wicked, and men kill us." How do you get rid of a kitten? You either smash it with a hammer, which I don't recommend (save your letters), or let it fulfill itself, and it turns into a cat.
How do you get rid of a tadpole? You either give it to a 4-year-old, or you let it fulfill itself, and it turns into a frog. How do you get rid of an acorn? That one you can smash with a hammer, or you let it fulfill itself, and it becomes an oak. How do you get rid of the law? You can tear it up and say it was never any good, or you can let it fulfill itself, and that's what Jesus came to do. He said, "You don't need what you had. The law has been fulfilled. Don't hold onto it.
Don't do away with it but look what the law has brought. The law has brought you to a place where you need mercy, a place where you need grace, a place where you need a savior. The Savior has come, and don't try and stuff him back into what you had him in. He doesn't fit there. He's fulfilled that. Every jot and tittle has been completely satisfied. The law is fulfilled in Christ. Don't run back to the law but take what Christ has fulfilled and rest in it." What a great response.
Look what it says in verse 3. "And it happened that He was passing through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples began to make their way along while picking the heads of grain. The Pharisees were saying to Him, 'Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?'" There's their concern about the law again.
"And He said to them, 'Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions became hungry; how he entered the house of God in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the consecrated bread, which is not lawful for anyone to eat except the priests, and he also gave it to those who were with him?'"
He was saying to them, "The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. Consequently… Therefore, look, the Son of Man is here. He is Lord of the Sabbath. I will tell you what can happen on the Sabbath." Now this is a great section of Scripture, one you have to know a little Bible to get right.
Jesus and his disciples were walking along on the Sabbath. The disciples took some of the grain that was there in the field, and they used their hands to winnow it and to get some fruit of the plant and to provide nourishment and provision for themselves, but this was against, not the law of God, but the traditions of men.
This is going to amaze you. I had some fun looking for this stuff this week. Jesus said… Don't miss this fact, okay? The Sabbath was given by God to man. The purpose of the Sabbath… It was designed for the rest of man so he might worship and give service to God. The initial purpose of the Sabbath was to protect underlings and oppressed people in a nation that was afflicted with greed.
He said, "I don't want you guys to be so consumed all the time with profit and working yourselves seven days a week, 24 hours a day. I want you to learn that everything comes from me, so one day, I want you to quit working altogether, and I want you to focus on service to me and relationship with me and realize that even the strength you have the other six days is as a result of my goodness to you."
In fact, God had this built in so every seventh year there was supposed to be an entire year of rest. He said, "I will make sure that every sixth year I will give you such a bounty from the harvest that the next year you can focus an entire year on your relationship with me, and then we'll get at it again." Every forty-ninth, every seventh seventh year, there was supposed a year where all debt was erased.
It was called the Year of Jubilee, and God was to bring everybody back together and say, "Let's just free up some folks from some of the decisions of the last couple of years. We will make amends based on certain things that were laid out so no one will take advantage of this," and he says, "This is the Year of Jubilee. It's a time of rest." In fact, when Christ came, he proclaimed it was the Year of Jubilee, the time of Jubilee and a much greater rest than having to go out into the field and work the soil in order to get food.
He came to give food for your soul. You no longer have to labor in order to impress God. In fact, you guys missed it all along. It was always about God's provision for you. "Man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was my gift to you." Moses said, "Thou shall not do any work on the Sabbath." Now the Pharisees didn't like this. They didn't think it was stringent enough, so they came up with 39 different definitions of work. Just watch this with me because this is still out there.
They came up with 39 different, what they called fathers works. Plowing was a work. They got very specific about work. Burden-bearing was a work. Then from each of those 39 different major areas of what work was, they had what were called descendant laws. For instance, it was clear to the Pharisees that you couldn't plow because that was work, but they said, "If you so much as pick up a chair from the table and draw it back, if you make little ruts in the dirt with the chair, that's plowing, and it's punishable by stoning."
You could not wear false teeth on the Sabbath because that was bearing a burden. Now you think, "This is crazy. I mean, didn't these guys get over this?" I have two things here that have come very recently. One of them, you're not going to believe. I'll save that one, but here's one. This is from the Dallas Morning News a couple of years ago. It says, "'Orthodox Jews Find Answer with a New Contraption: Science and Religious Laws Team Up for a Wind Microphone."
See, they had a problem. A lot of Orthodox Jews who have nothing to do with God, except one day a year on Yom Kippur, the most holy day, and they come to church or to the temple…the tabernacle. When they come that day, this tabernacle in New York that's the Hampton Synagogue which normally seats a couple of hundred, a thousand people show up, so they have to put tents outside so these Orthodox Jews can be there the most holy day of the year. It's their version of Christmas and Easter combined, so you understand why there's overflow.
They had a problem getting the message out to those folks. The Steven Spielbergs and the Marvin Hamlischs who would come to this couldn't hear the message, and they were frustrated because they could not use electricity because that was an extension of the prohibition of lighting or extinguishing a flame because, if they turned the sound system on before Friday evening, that was fine, but there is something about amplification that causes a spike in electricity.
It wasn't a static level of power, so the Orthodox Jews said, "You can't use amplification on the Sabbath, on the holy day," so they had to come up with this microphone that this guy on an aircraft carrier came up with because they couldn't use amplification on the deck of this aircraft carrier because there were explosive materials there they could set off by the heat of the speakers, so he learned this system which used a small electric pump. If you could turn that electric pump on before the Sabbath or a holiday, the power needs don't change, and they could amplify it.
The problem is that it cost about $20,000. After 15 years, the rabbis debated and said, "This is an acceptable form of amplification on Yom Kippur. Now here's another one to the great extent they go to. This one, I swear as I stand here… You can read it. "Leading Israeli Rabbi Okays Nose Picking." Previously, this had fallen under one of the prohibitions of harvesting. Do you see why Jesus was just a little bit miffed? He goes, "You guys have made this thing which was supposed to be a gift from God to man such a burden. I mean, people can't do anything."
You know what was even more damnable about this thing? The rabbis believed anything the priest did was an act of worship; therefore, it wasn't a violation of the Sabbath law, and where they would retreat on the Sabbath day was to the temple, where they could do whatever they wanted and not themselves be a victim of that law. They had this thing. Thou shall not do any work on the Sabbath. Why? So you can worship God, enjoy life with him…the chief end of man, and it made it a great burden on the people. It bothered God.
He gave his children a gift to free them, and that gift became an oppressive thing at the hands of leaders who were full of bull, and it bothered him. When Jesus really laid this out, he went back and he answered them with this great insight, and it was so interesting. In Matthew, chapter 12, here's this scenario laid out in the book that was written by Matthew, the guy who just was saved a little bit earlier because Jesus went to him. He wrote his fellow Jewish people, and he gave a much longer response than Mark did. Here's why. This will tell you something about your Bible.
Matthew is the gospel to the nation of Israel and the gospel to the Jews, so he goes back and doesn't just talk about the great King. He talks about the priests and the prophets. When you read the gospel of Mark where we are, all that Jesus is referring to there is this person, David. Now why is that? To a non-Jewish mind, they don't care about the priest, and they don't care about the prophets of this other nation, but they love and revere kings, caesars, rulers, and they know of this David.
When Mark writes his gospel, he doesn't give anything about the priests and the prophets who come up here in Matthew, the gospel to the Jews, which Jesus clearly shared, he just selectively pulls out the great story of the king and uses the logic of what the king got to do to communicate that Jesus was entitled to do what his servants did. You learn a lot about your Bible sometimes. Listen to what it says in Matthew 12, though.
"At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat." This was not forbidden by the law. You'd think, "Well, they're stealing." No, they're not. Anytime you walked through some property in Israel, you were entitled to pick an apple or to take some grain, as long as you didn't use a tool or you didn't have bucket with you to fill up on your way through, and these guys clearly weren't doing that.
"But when the Pharisees saw this…" They said, "You're doing this. This is a problem, not because you're taking it but because you're harvesting on the Sabbath." Jesus couldn't believe it. He said, "Look, you guys missed it. It's not about feeding yourself on the Sabbath. It's about working, and these guys are not concerned right now with making money for themselves. They are in service of the King, and they are worshiping the King.
They can eat what they need to eat to have strength. They are in service of God, so they can eat what they need to eat on the journey just like," he said, "…David did when he became hungry, he and his companions, how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone?" Look, David did something that was prohibited, but God did not have a problem with David doing that. Why?
Mercy and need and provision were greater to God than his ritual, and the priests knew that…that this was God's man on God's journey, escaping a wicked king, so he gave him provision, even though that was strictly forbidden. It was only for the Levitical priests, but he gave him to him. "Priests, you have a problem with that. Why is that? You're hypocrites." Here's the second reason Jesus gave to them.
He said, "Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent? But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here." He's saying, "You guys can go inside your little room and do whatever you want in service for God. I have to tell you something. Do you think you're serving God by being in that temple? You have a real Holy One right here, and these men are serving me." Then he says, "But if you had known what this means…" And he quotes from Hosea 6:6.
"'I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent." He said, "There's a higher law, and that higher law is not that you guys do all these little tidbit things that make you think I'm going to honor you but that you love kindness, do justice, and walk humbly with the Lord for, he says, "'…the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.'" What a great response!
Look what it says in Mark, chapter 3, verses 1 and 2. Jesus now comes, and he says, "You guys have had three different confrontations with me. You've asked me questions, and I've silenced you with my replies. Now let me ask you a question." It says, "He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there whose hand was withered. They were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him." Notice why they were looking at Christ.
W.C. Fields was known to say on his deathbed… He was reading his Bible. They couldn't believe it, this man who was given to all sorts of indulgences. They said, "What are you reading the Bible for?" He said something like, "I'm reading it looking for loopholes, my friend, looking for loopholes." These guys were not looking at Christ to model their lives after him. They were looking at Christ to be critical of him and to find a reason they were not accountable.
That's not the reason to read your Bibles, my friends. That's not the reason to look at God…to find a reason where you maybe aren't culpable for not taking his provision. You look at God to see his grace, his mercy. You look at God to see if there's a promise that you might claim, a command that you might obey, a sin you might confess, or a path that you might follow. Verse 3: "He said to the man with the withered hand, 'Get up and come forward!'" See, he took them on.
He knew they were there to watch him. He knew they were there to see if he would do something on the Sabbath that he shouldn't do that they might accuse him and discredit him before the people. They knew, also, if Christ was in the presence of somebody in need of help, he would help them. Some people think this man was sent there by them. He looked at those guys, and he looked at this sick man with this withered hand.
He said, "You rise, and you come here," and then he turned, and he asked them the question. "'Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?' But they kept silent." Do you see a difference here between the other three controversies? Something happened, where now, if somebody asked a question that there wasn't a good proverbial statement or parabolic answer to, Jesus exposed their error. They had tried to expose his, but there's no exposing truth. But there is exposing hypocrisy.
"After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored." I love this. What were they there to accuse him of doing? Working on the Sabbath. There was another time that Jesus did heal on the Sabbath, and he said, "Which one of you guys wouldn't find your animal in a pit and pull him out on the Sabbath.
If you don't have a problem with that, how much more am I, the Creator of this guy, not going to reach in and deal with him in his pit on this day. Come on, people. Don't have a problem with my loving them." They were there to accuse him of doing work. What work did he do? "Stick out your hand." Whoosh…done! I love Christ. I'll tell you what. This is not the little meek and mild, pale-faced wimp who some of you think this Lord is.
This is a man's man, and he is very confrontational sometimes, and he says, "Get the bull out of your mouth because this is kingdom stuff. This is eternal stuff we're wrestling with, and you need to get it right." I love it when Jesus pulls back the cloak a little bit and flexes his pecs and says, "You guys are off base." What was the question he asked those guys? What's lawful to do…good or evil, to save a life or to kill it?
Clearly, the men couldn't respond because they knew the right thing to do was to heal, the right thing to do was to save a life. What did Jesus do? Heal, give life to a man who had a handicap in his life. Look what they do in verse 6. "The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him." That is like saying the NAACP went out and aligned themselves with the KKK in order to accomplish their political objective together.
It like saying the ACLU phoned the religious right that they might work together. The Herodians were people who had sympathy for Herod's right to rule over the Jews. The Pharisees were people who were sworn to do everything they could to rebel against Roman rule. There were not two crowds more different. Do you see the hatred that is being raised up against this King? Do you see the wisdom with which he handles that opposition?
Let me give you some very quick applications that just speak right into our lives, I think. First, personal bias can blind you to the truth. See, these guys… Some of it was zeal without knowledge; nonetheless, Christ tried to shake them out of that zeal and said, "Let's get the knowledge thing right. I mean, it's great that you have zeal about your beliefs, but you'd better make sure your zeal for your opinion is locked in on truth."
I will tell you, you have a right to your opinion, but you'd better make sure your opinion is right. I often share Proverbs 9:12 with people who have very strong opinions about the way to heaven. It says, "If you are wise, you are wise for yourself, and if you scoff, you alone will bear it." Don't let your bias blind you to the truth. The thing I love about this book is, if it is true, then no amount of scrutiny can affect it.
Let me just say again, if you are here, and you are wrestling with questions about this Jesus, you are welcome here. We don't ask you to mindlessly agree with us. We say to you, "Come! Ask your questions. We've got studies that are set up just for you that you might investigate this Jesus, investigate the reliability of the Scriptures. There are some good questions that are out there.
Would you give us a chance to honestly dialogue with you about them and then to figure out if your biases are rooted and grounded in truth or if there's another problem, not one of the intellect but a function of your will, and we can just be honest about agreeing with that together?" I think it was Mark Twain who said something like, "The problem with most men is not that they know so much but that they know so much that just isn't so."
You need to be aware of this, believers. There's a study that just came out this week that says that though most Americans, when they are given a chance to respond to surveys, will gravitate towards the middle, a moderate response one way or another, there is an exception. It is in dealing with matters of faith. Contrary to every other poll that's out there, where most folks somewhat or possibly agree, when it comes to faith it says the majority of Americans will say, "'I strongly agree'" or 'I strongly disagree.'" Okay, well, that's fine, right?
What's interesting is this man (George Barna) did this study and came up with the fact that, of the 14 items that were of biblical truth that he tested in America, only two of the 14 statements were strongly held in a way that people agree with that were consistent with the Bible. None of the 14 belief statements registered even one out of 10 adults who had no opinion.
In other words, he walked up to a bunch of folks or had people call them, a very good broad sampling of society, and he gave them 14 different statements that were biblical truths, and there wasn't even one where one out of 10 adults had no opinion on it, always less than that. Barna said, "In fact, while survey respondents often gravitated towards the midpoints of scales in response to such queries, just the opposite is true in regard to the belief statements evaluated.
On all 14 statements tested, a majority of respondents chose one of the extreme points on the four-point scale—that is, 'agree strongly' or 'disagree strongly'—rather than one of the more moderate points on the scale… One of the most startling findings was that only 3 out of every 1,002 adults interviewed—less than three-tenths of one percent—had both a firm and biblically consistent opinion for all 14 topics.
Now why do I share that with you? Maybe you're lost. "What did he just say?" What I'm saying is less than three-tenths of one percent of people who you will meet this week have a consistent biblical view, but 85 percent of those people will be firmly convinced that what they believe is right. That means, probably in just a casual conversion they're not going to go, "Oh, really? Okay. Well, let me trust Jesus."
We have to think through the fact that we don't live in a biblically literate culture anymore and that evangelism is not going to be event driven. It's going to be process driven, and that's why tonight we will share truth, but we won't call individuals to make life-changing decisions based on a 50-minute puppet show.
We'll say, "You heard some truth tonight. We'd love to dialogue with you about that. Parents who are here with your kids…we're so glad you're here. If your children want to talk some more about that, if you're comfortable with that, we'd love to talk with them with you present.
If you want to enter into a relationship with us through which some of your biases and understandings can be put up against the light of truth, we'd love to do that with you in the context of a relationship and let you get to know this Jesus who is not probably who you think." Personal bias can blind you to the truth, and we have to ask ourselves, not just what is their personal bias but what is ours.
Second, don't love form over function. Don't love form over function. There is something that is splitting the church in America today, and it is this war over styles of worship which has to drive God absolutely insane. I want to read this to you. This is classic. "An old farmer went to the city one weekend and attended the big city church. He came home, and his wife asked him how it was.
'Well,' said the farmer. 'It was good. They did something different, however. They sang praise choruses instead of hymns.' 'Praise choruses?' asked the wife. 'What are those?' 'Oh, they're OK. They're sort of like hymns, only different,' said the farmer. 'Well, what's the difference?' asked the wife. The farmer said, 'Well it's like this. If I were to say to you: "Martha, the cows are in the corn," well that would be a hymn.
If, on the other hand, I were to say to you: "Martha, Martha, Martha, oh, Martha, MARTHA, MARTHA, the cows, the big cows, the brown cows, the black cows, the white cows, the black and white cows, the COWS, COWS, COWS are in the corn, are in the corn, are in the corn, in the CORN, CORN, CORN, COOOOORRRRRNNNNN." Then if I were to repeat the whole thing two or three times, well that would be a praise chorus.'
As luck would have it, the exact same Sunday a young, new Christian from the city church attended the small-town church. He came home and his wife asked him how it was. 'Well,' said the young man, 'It was good. They did something different, however. They sang hymns instead of regular songs.' 'Hymns?' asked the wife. 'What are those?' 'They're OK. They're sort of like regular songs, only different,' said the young man. 'Well, what's the difference?' asked the wife.
The young man said, 'Well it's like this. If I were to say to you: "Martha, the cows are in the corn," well, that would be a regular song. If on the other hand, I were to say to you:
Oh Martha, dear Martha, hear thou my cry
Inclinest thine ear to the words of my mouth.
Turn thou thy whole wondrous ear by and by
To the righteous, glorious truth.
For the way of the animals who can explain
There in their heads is no shadow of sense,
Hearkenest they in God's sun or his rain
Unless from the mild, tempting corn they are fenced.
Yea those cows in glad bovine, rebellious delight,
Have broke free their shackles, their warm pens eschewed.
Then goaded by minions of darkness and night
They all my mild Chilliwack sweet corn chewed.
So look to that bright shining day by and by,
Where all foul corruptions of earth are reborn
Where no vicious animal makes my soul cry
And I no longer see those foul cows in the corn.
Then, if I were to do only verses one, three and four, and change keys on the last verse, well that would be a hymn.'"
This will make you sick. I mean, how sad is it that we fight over worship and not agree in the one who we do worship. I will tell you the kind of worshiper the Father seeks, and it has nothing to do with instrumentation, beat, or volume. It has to do with your heart. It has to do with your attitude, and it has to do with your content. He said the kind of worshippers the Father seeks are those who worship in Spirit and in truth.
I will tell you; I believe that there are some churches in America that have a high form of church that worship with a good intent, good content, and good attitude, and there are others that are in a rut. I will tell you that there are some churches that have more of a casual atmosphere like us, that worship with good content and with good Spirit, and good heart, and there are others that use an instrumentation that might be familiar to what we use…a beat and volume…that I think are missing the Spirit and the truth.
It's not our jobs to concern ourselves with them. It's our job every Sunday here, whether we sing about the glad bovines or whether we sing about the cows, that our heart is right for God. We happen to believe that the most effective way to minister to people who God has called us to serve is with a combination of classic hymns sung for centuries and some new praise choruses done with music that is mostly relevant to the folks who largely live in the area we are trying to serve.
We don't think God loves us more because we have a drum, and the day we think a drum is not the most effective way of leading people and worshippers, we are out of it. God is grieved by stubborn hearts. It's right there. We just have to ask ourselves, "Are our hearts going to be stubborn or not?"
Third, there is no day or place so holy that you cannot display the love of Christ. You know what? We need to do a better job of getting here on time. We're late, and I say that, and you go, "Todd, you need to do a better job of ending on time." We're committed to worship, not a specific ending.
We're committed to gathering together and entering with integrity into a time of worship, and let me just say this: Being at church at 10 o'clock is not a license to verbally undress your bride, to be mean to your kids, to break the law and to shoot ugly faces at folks in traffic. There's no day or place so holy that you can't display the love or Christ.
I happen to believe that Christ would have you be 10 minutes late to church than to make your family miserable to get to church, but you know, I think we can do better about getting to the same place on time, but if something happens, don't just stand there and say, "Let's go! Let's go!" Say, "What can I do to help?"
If it's just, "Stand there and be patient while I get myself comfortable to leave," then stand there and be patient and don't violate the very reason you're going for. We need to do a better job of honoring those who want to worship by being here at 10:00 to start, but being here at 10:00 to start is not so holy that you have to sacrifice love to do it."
Fourth, excluding sinners, piety which creates gloom, religious rituals and customs at the expense of what is best for others…they're gone. Reaching out and looking for the lost, joy and gladness, serving, helping and displaying mercy to others is in. Let's pray.
Father, we know that our lives might be the only Bibles that some people ever read, and the questions we have to ask ourselves are, "Will they see you for who you really are when they read our lives? Will they know us by our love? Will they know you as being the one who transforms lives by the fact that we can say, 'Just look at our lives. His banner over you, his banner over me is love, love, love'?
Will they see us walk in humility? Will they see us reaching out and looking for the lost? Will they see joy and gladness instead of darkness and gloom? Will they see us serving, helping, and displaying mercy to others? Will they see us caught in religious rituals and customs at the expense of what is best for them?"
Lord, it is our great desire as men and women who want to be fully devoted followers of Christ that, because of the lives we live and surrender to you, yielded to and directed by your Spirit that, unlike some of the men we've studied today, they could look at our lives and see you for who you really are. Might you do that? In Christ's name.
The most influential person in history is also the most misunderstood and misrepresented. Two thousand years after He walked the earth, Jesus of Nazareth is still a mystery to many people. Whether you admire Him, worship Him, despise him or simply don't know about him, it's difficult to deny that any other single person has had more influence on our world than Jesus has. But how do we come to understand a man who is so commonly misunderstood? Join Todd Wagner for a walk through the Gospel of Mark and look into the life of one man who changed the entire course of human history. See Jesus for who He truly is and learn how He can change the course of every individual life that understands, responds to and trusts in Him. This volume covers Mark 2:14 through Mark 6:6.