Posts Tagged ‘Legalism’

Part 3 – Matthew 12:9-14 -DEFORMITIES OF THE HEART AND HAND

Gnarled Root System

Yesterday, with the encouragement of my wife, I got rid of some THORNY WEEDS growing like trees in the back garden. The thorns were now like razor sharp nails and so it was difficult to get to the roots without punctures, scratches and a bad attitude. I knew that if I didn’t get to the roots, they would just grow again so I used the MATTOCK. A mattock is a hand tool similar to a pickaxe, particularly suited for digging. Unfortunately, I am not! It took forever to dig around the roots and pull out the bulbous, deformed hand of the root system with it’s disfigured fingers reaching out insidiously in all directions.

Hebrews 12:15 (NLT) warns us “…Watch out that no POISONOUS ROOT OF BITTERNESS grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.” There are some poisonous thorny people Jesus has to deal with in Matthew 12:9. RAZOR SHARP in their responses to Jesus and just as destructive. The CLAWED FINGERS of their law system are DISTORTED AND MALFORMED and particularly difficult to uproot. It is not at all surprising that Jesus uses a man with a DEFORMED HAND to illustrate what needs to be done if ever they are to be healed of their DEFORMED HEART.

I notice in Matthew 12:9-10 (NLT) that it says that “Jesus went over to THEIR synagogue, where He noticed a man with a deformed hand. “THEIR synagogue”. Nice point, Matthew. Not the place where God chose to reveal Himself, but where THEY chose to do THEIR religious rituals and make THEIR rules and regulations.

But this verse also says something about Jesus. He didn’t back away from weeding God’s garden. He meets me on my turf. He confronts me about my LEGALISM in the place where I am more DEFORMED ON THE INSIDE than this man’s withered hand, in the synagogue of my own making (Sorry but I couldn’t help but make the analogy).

The man with the deformed hand is probably not allowed to enter the synagogue because of his disfigurement, yet the fact that he is here perhaps gives me the clue that he is in some way looking to God for help. He happens to be in the place where Jesus is – a good place to be if you are looking for healing. Nevertheless healing is often appropriated in the midst of a SPIRITUAL BATTLE.

The Pharisees could see that Jesus noticed this man and so with their THORNS BRISTLING they ask Jesus, “Does the law permit a person to work by healing on the Sabbath?” (They were hoping He would say yes, so they could bring charges against Him.) 

There’s all sorts of reasons that I can raise as to why Jesus can’t heal me when I am DEFORMED on the inside, as these Pharisees were. I can be so concerned with maintaining my RELIGIOUS APPEARANCE that I miss the fact that I need healing of my SPIRITUAL DISFIGUREMENTS. When I am so wrapped up in myself and my legalism, and I don’t even notice the needs of others, that’s when Jesus confronts me with a question to counter my MISSHAPEN AND MALFORMED thinking.

In Matthew 12:11-12 (NLT) Jesus says, “If you had a sheep that fell into a well on the Sabbath, wouldn’t you work to pull it out? Of course you would. And how much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Yes, the law permits a person to do good on the Sabbath.” 

Later on Jesus encapsulated the essence of the commandments of the law by saying, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.'” (Matthew 22:37-39 NLT)

What He says to me is “Do you value your religious rituals more than you value people?” Do I put some of my TWISTED AND WARPED ways of thinking in the way of showing COMPASSION to others? What are my PRIORITIES?

You can determine what kind of person I am by my PRIORITIES and by what I do with the OPPORTUNITIES I have to show compassion. I can equally see what kind of person you are by your priorities and the opportunities you use to show compassion. That day Jesus is not only wanting to heal a deformed hand but SPIRITUALLY DISFIGURED HEARTS. Instead the Pharisees look for opportunities to kill Him (Matthew 12:14).

In Matthew 12:13 (NLT) Jesus says, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was RESTORED, just like the other one!” Jesus doesn’t just give me perspective by His WORDS but also by His ACTIONS. He demonstrates the truth of loving God and loving people. He encourages me to reach out to Him and in that very act I am HEALED AND RESTORED.

God bless you Church as you reach out to Jesus and as He brings healing to the DEFORMITIES of our hearts and enables us in turn to reach out with our hands to others with a compassion that makes a difference.

Pastor Ross

PART 1 – MATTHEW 12:1-3 – JESUS BROKE THE LAW! WHY CAN’T I?

Does Jesus Speed?

Not long ago I witnessed an ACCIDENT. A car ahead of me pulled out of it’s lane into a bus lane and collected the car that had been coming up from behind him in that lane. It left a sizeable dent in each car. Each morning as I travel to the Shalom Centre I see many people use Sydney bus lanes ILLEGALLY. It’s so easy and CONVENIENT to do. The temptation to save time and zip into a bus lane obviously overrides the possibility that a policeman will pull them over at the corner. Living on the EDGE! Is it worth the risk of 3 licence demerit points and $253 fine and progressive $50 fines until it is paid? It’s not! And I should know. But doesn’t Jesus break the law when it’s convenient?

In Matthew 12:1-2 isn’t Jesus just IGNORING parts of the law that He doesn’t like? Is He walking to the EDGE of the law to explore where the BOUNDARIES really are? Is He the kind of person who would drive past a policeman just over the SPEED LIMIT or leave it until the last second to get through the AMBER TRAFFIC LIGHT instead of stopping? Or drive in a bus lane?

Matthew 12:1-2 speaks about a time when “…Jesus was walking through some grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were HUNGRY, so they began breaking off some heads of grain and eating them. But some Pharisees saw them do it and protested, “Look, Your disciples are BREAKING THE LAW by harvesting grain on the Sabbath.” 

If it was me I would have said something like “What is your problem? Mind your own business! Who made you the Sabbath police?” Besides, the Law of Deuteronomy 23:25 (NLT) says “…when you enter your neighbour’s field of grain, you may pluck the heads of grain with your hand, but you must not harvest it with a sickle.” So they weren’t STEALING.

The problem is that the disciples are plucking grain on a SATURDAY. Saturday is the SABBATH, a rest day. Picking grain is viewed as work by the Pharisees even though technically the law only prohibited harvesting grain for PROFIT on the Sabbath. It’s not as if they were driving a Massey Fergusen tractor with a COMBINE HARVESTER on the back and setting up a CUT PRICE SILO SALE for the grain.

Jesus always seems to confront me with my LEGALISM and calls me to think carefully about my responses to God. There’s a difference between obeying God’s law and legalism.

“Jesus said to them, “Haven’t you read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He went into the house of God, and they broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests are allowed to eat.” (Matthew 12:3 NLT)

So can I break the law everytime it suits me? What about speeding because I’m late to work? I could try explaining to a policeman “Haven’t you heard that when it didn’t suit David to keep the law, he broke it? I have a genuine need, officer. Learn the meaning of the word ‘mercy'” I don’t think that this will go down well and even though it might be a genuine need, it wouldn’t stop me from getting a ticket and perhaps even a psychiatric evaluation.

So what is Jesus saying here? Where does it stop? What’s the point where I am no longer on the boundary but well and truly OVER THE EDGE? Sometimes we view the law as UNNECESSARY simply because in our sinfulness, we don’t want to obey it. That’s NOT what Jesus is advocating!

I don’t believe Jesus is saying that it is OK to DISOBEY THE LAW if you have a genuine need or if others have a genuine need, but I keep reading commentaries that say that genuine need makes it OK for Jesus to break the law!

An AMBULANCE DRIVER will speed legally in order to get someone to hospital, but he is breaking the law if he does it any other time. Same ambulance. Same driver. Same speed. Different purpose. Obeying the law depends on fulfilling the PURPOSE OF THE LAW.

Jesus is saying “The real PURPOSE or SPIRIT OF THE SABBATH LAW allows for MEETING GENUINE NEEDS without disobedience being an issue. You DISOBEY the Sabbath Law when you merely go through a ritual, perform a ceremony and adhere to a regulation. That is not the PURPOSE or spirit of the Sabbath law.”

Did Jesus break the Sabbath or did He show what keeping the Sabbath law was really all about? Matthew 5:17-20 (NLT) “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to ACCOMPLISH THEIR PURPOSE. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the SMALLEST DETAIL of God’s law will disappear until its PURPOSE is achieved. …”But I warn you-unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!”  

1 John 5:3 (NLT) says “Loving God means KEEPING HIS COMMANDMENTS, and His commandments are NOT BURDENSOME.”   

Jesus didn’t BREAK THE LAW! He invented it! He lived by it, and fulfilled it perfectly. The Pharisees broke it by not understanding the purpose of the law and by applying it wrongly.

God bless you Church as you “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby FULFILL the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2 NASB95)

Pastor Ross