Sun, Sep 16, 2001


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Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.
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MATTHEW 12:9-14

Please turn in your Bibles to Matthew chapter 12 as we are going to be looking at love and law this morning, grace and legalism, truth and tradition! And as you are turning there, listen to this story that Charles Swindoll tells. He says:

Several months ago I was conversing with a man I greatly admire. He is a Christian leader in a position that carries with it heavy and extensive responsibility. He said he was grieved on behalf of a missionary family he and his wife had known for years. The legalism they had encountered again and again on the mission field from fellow missionaries was so petty, so unbelievably small-minded, they had returned to the states and no longer planned to remain career missionaries. He said it was over a jar of peanut butter. I thought he was joking, to which he responded, "No, it’s no joke at all." I could hardly believe the story.

The particular place they were sent to serve the Lord did not have access to peanut butter. This particular family happened to enjoy peanut butter a great deal. Rather creatively, they made arrangements with some of their friends in the States to send them peanut butter every now and then so they could enjoy it with their meals. The problem is they didn’t know until they started receiving their supply of peanut butter that the other missionaries considered it a mark of spirituality that you not have peanut butter with your meals. I suppose the line went something like this: "We believe since we can’t get peanut butter here, we should give it up for the cause of Christ," or some such nonsense. A basis of spirituality was "bearing the cross" of living without peanut butter.

The young family didn’t buy into that line of thinking. Their family kept getting regular shipments of peanut butter. They didn’t flaunt it, they just enjoyed it in the privacy of their own home. Pressure began to intensify. You would expect adult missionaries to be big enough to let others eat what they pleased, right? Wrong. The legalism was so petty, the pressure got so intense and the exclusive treatment so unfair, it finished them off spiritually. They finally had enough. Unable to continue against the mounting pressure, they packed it in and were soon homeward bound, disillusioned and probably a bit cynical. What we have here is a classic modern-day example of a group of squint-eyed legalists spying out and attacking another’s liberty. Not even missionaries are exempted.

- Charles R. Swindoll, The Grace Awakening

Before you get too hard on these people who put out the fires in this family, what peanut butter laws or traditions are you holding on to in your life that are hurting others, keeping people in bondage? We are going to see in our text this morning, how tradition, laws, don’t free people, don’t help people, in fact, they hurt people!

Remember in Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus said, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Jesus is saying to the religious leaders and to us that we need to rest in Him. But the religious leaders saw no need to rest in Jesus, they had their rest, it was called the Sabbath, or SHABBAT in Hebrew, which means ceasing from work, resting, inactivity. But, as you look at the rest or what they called rest, it was nothing of the sort!

In Exodus 20:8-11 we are told what the Sabbath was all about. We read "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it."

Now, out of those four verses were born volumes of heavy burdens of tradition, that became law. They began to interpret what the Law said and in the Talmud, for instance, in only one section they had twenty-four chapters that dealt with the Sabbath Law. So there was no rest for them, only work, burdens, they were weighted down trying to rest on the Sabbath instead of coming to Jesus and resting in Him.

Also, in around 200 BC the Scribes and the Pharisees put together what is called the Mishna, which is nothing more than their interpretations of the Scriptures. In regards to the Sabbath day you were to do no work. And they came up with 39 principle categories of work with 6 subdivisions. Think about this, one law now has almost 240 aspects to it, almost 240 applications. Thus, this is no longer the Law, but man’s interpretation of it. And there is no rest in that, as you can easily see.

Again, they missed the whole point of the Sabbath day. It was a day given over to the Lord, to worship Him, and they made it into a day of rules and regulations. But Jesus said in Matthew 12:8, "For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." So He can speak with authority on this subject for He is the Authority! Thus, He was their rest and He is our rest! With that said, let’s begin reading in Matthew chapter 12, starting in verse 9, and see what the Lord has for us this morning.

MATTHEW 12:9-13

The Scribes and the Pharisees, the religious leaders, knew the heart of Jesus, that He had compassion towards the people, those that were sick, those who were in need. He would touch those that needed His touch and allowed Him to touch them. So they brought this man with this physical handicap, a withered hand into the synagogue. They were setting Jesus up knowing full well that He would heal this man on the Sabbath. And the reason I say that this was all planned, that it was a set-up, is that anyone with a birth defect or some kind of physical handicap or impairment was not allowed into the synagogue. You see, they saw this as a judgment of God upon a persons life, for their sin. And thus, they were unclean and were not let in. That would be like saying if you were a sinner you couldn’t come into the church. If that were true, the church would be empty! So these religious leaders, thinking they can catch Jesus, came up with this evil plot to try and do away with Jesus. To stop Him from doing good!

Now that all the participants are set, the religious leaders throw out this question to Jesus, trying to catch Him breaking the Law by His response. They ask Jesus "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?" And, of course, in their minds it wasn’t. You could prevent a man from dying, but you could do no more until the Sabbath was over. No healing, no mending, because it was against the Law, or so they thought!

It was so bad that an orthodox Jew would rather die than break the Sabbath Law, or should I say their interpretation of it. During the time of Judas Maccabeus, some Jews sought refuge in the caves in the wilderness, hiding out from Antiochus and his army. But Antiochus’s soldiers found their location and attacked them, and that attack occurred on the Sabbath. And in I Maccabees we are told of the forces of Antiochus that "gave them battle with all speed. Howbeit they answered them not, neither cast they a stone at them, nor stopped the places where they lay hid; but said: ‘Let us die in our innocency: heaven and earth shall testify for us, that ye put us to death wrongfully.’ So they rose up against them in battle on the Sabbath, and they slew them with their wives and children and cattle, to the number of a thousand people."

I Maccabees 2:313-38.

That is what Jesus was fighting against, that immovable frame of mind, that tradition that was more important than the Word of God. You see, the Scribes and the Pharisees did not care about the condition of this man, only their rules and regulations. They posed the question to Jesus, and now He was going to give them back a question to make them think about their position, the shaky ground they were standing on.

You see, it was lawful for them to care for a sheep, a animal if it falls into a pit, but a man, which is more valuable to God, they couldn’t care for. You see, the need of man does supercede the Law! Jesus used the example of David and his men who were on the run from king Saul, and they were very hungry. And as they came to the tabernacle, which was located at this time in Nob, they asked for food, but all Ahimelech, the priest, could give them was the 12 loaves of showbread that were only for the priests to eat. And yet David and his men were permitted to eat it because the need of man supercedes the Law.

And Jesus tells them it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath, and thus, not to do good or refuse to do good is evil! In fact it was the religious leaders who were doing evil on the Sabbath, but in their self-righteous, holier than thou attitude, they saw themselves as right and Jesus as wrong. And that same attitude can develop in our own lives if we are not careful. But here, the question that Jesus posed to them put them to silence, they could not argue, for Jesus hit the nail on the head. So as they sat in silence, Jesus healed this man who had the withered hand. He set him free from this bondage. And that is truly what love does, it sets people free, that is the love of God flowing through us. On the other hand, the Law, tradition, only burdens people, it puts them into bondage, there is no rest, and sometimes they even are driven to death!

Now some of you may be thinking I am overboard on this issue. Bondage, yes; death, no way! You may be thinking I am just using scare tactics, but believe me, I am not. The Law, legalism, tradition can and does cause death! Let me explain.

My pastor, Pastor Phil from the Chicago area, had a women come to his church for a few weeks. This woman came out of a very legalistic church where she never felt she was good enough for God. There was no love, just the constant burden of keeping the Law, the tradition of man. And those laws, those traditions became overwhelming to her. And as she attended Calvary Chapel for those few weeks, people shared with her the love of God, the grace of God, the compassion of God. That God loves her more than she will ever know and there is nothing that she can do to cause God to love her less and nothing she can do to cause God to love her more!

But those traditions, those laws were deeply ingrained in her and she finally went back to her church with all its legalism, she couldn’t free herself from it. A short time later Pastor Phil received a call from either her sister or her daughter saying that this woman had committed suicide and they wanted him to do the funeral, they wanted nothing to do with the church she was attending, their legalism killed her. You see, those rules, all those regulations to make God love her more, she couldn’t keep. They became a heavy burden to her. There was no rest. And she finally reached the point where she couldn’t go on any longer, and she tragically ended her life.

So please, don’t tell me that traditions, legalism, has no dangerous affects on peoples lives. It not only burdens them, it not only weighs them down, but it can destroy them, it can kill them! You see, what was going on in Jesus’ day is still going on today with many Christians, within many churches!

One writer put it this way regarding what is going on today in churches. He said:

One of the most serious problems facing the orthodox Christian church today is the problem of legalism. One of the most serious problems facing the church in Paul’s day was the problem of legalism. In every day it is the same. Legalism wrenches the joy of the Lord from the Christian believer, and with the joy of the Lord goes His power for vital worship and vibrant service. Nothing is left but cramped, somber, dull, and listless profession. The truth is betrayed, and the glorious name of the Lord becomes a synonym for a gloomy kill-joy. The Christian under the Law is a miserable parody of the real thing.

- S. Lewis Johnson, "The Paralysis of Legalism," Bibliotheca Sacara, April - June 1963

Turn to Galatians chapter 3 for a minute and let’s explore this issue a little closer. Paul tells us beginning in verse 1 of Galatians chapter 3, "O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? Have you suffered so many things in vain-- if indeed it was in vain? Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?-- just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, ‘In you all the nations shall be blessed.’ So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham." Galatians 3:1-9.

Paul’s point is simple, it is faith and not the works of the Law that justifies a man before God. And Paul is calling them foolish for negating the Word of God to hold on to some tradition, some Law when the love of Jesus was clearly shown to them. It is not faith plus works, but faith alone in Christ alone that saves us! You see, their eyes began to move away from the cross and onto the Law!

You see, you can’t add anything to what Jesus has done. He did it all. He paid for all of our sins and yet some think they can add to the finished work, assist Jesus in their salvation. Foolishness! Paul says if you think that way you are acting like you are under some evil spell. Why? Because these things are not from God!

And for those Jews that struggled with this, Paul says that even father Abraham was justified by faith and not the works of the Law. Therefore, if we are children of Abraham, by faith, there is no works we can add to the finished work. And think about that for a minute. If the work is finished, what more can you add to it? NOTHING!

Think of it this way:

Suppose we began a family vacation in a new car. We filled it with gas, put our family in it, and took off. The car operated beautifully; the engine purred, and we zipped along at 55, maybe 60 miles an hour down the highway.

However, the further we got along the way, long before the need to fill up with gas again, we noticed more and more people were pushing their cars. They’d wave at us as we’d go by and we would wave at them and keep driving.

Finally we came to a rest stop 250 miles from L.A., out of the smog, out in the clear country. While we were stopped to relax a little, somebody who had been pushing his car comes in the same rest stop and asks, "Hi, how are you doin’?" We reply, "Fine." the car-pusher asks, "Where are you goin’?" "Well, we’re takin’ a trip up north. We’re gonna get up into Oregon and enjoy the beautiful country." He then asks us, "Well, why are you driving? We’re all pushing."

"Yes, we noticed that, but we don’t understand why," we remarked back to him. "Oh, if you push your car the air stays clean. It makes a lot of sense to push your car. We used to rely on gasoline a lot, but no longer. Now that we really understand what it’s all about, we’re pushers. We’re not drivers," was his explanation.

And so you let your car run out of gas. All the family gets out and we begin to push this beautiful, lovely, comfortable car to our vacation site and back.

That’s what Paul is writing about in Galatians 3:2-3. In essence, he says, "You’re telling me that you who began with a full tank of the Spirit are now pushing your way through life? You’re telling me that that’s an advantageous message? I’m telling you, it’s a degenerating message. That means that Christ, the miracle-working One, now He lays back and He watches you as you (so-called) ‘pull off’ a spiritual life that you never had before. Whom are you kidding? Cars are made to drive, not push."

- Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart, pp. 340-341

It sounds ridiculous, and it is! But that is what the Law, traditions will do to us. And as you hold onto these things, as these traditions bind you up, weigh you down, your heart will get cold, it will get hard towards people. That is what happened to these religious leaders. They didn’t care about this man, only their traditions. And Jesus, who came to do good, they saw as evil, because He broke their traditions. And yet, we are told in Matthew 12:14, "Then the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him." You see, they plotted evil on the Sabbath, to kill, to murder Jesus, and they saw that as good. In fact, several years ago, a Calvary Pastor was in Israel on vacation, and he went running. The problem was it was on the Sabbath and that was work. So as he ran, the orthodox Jews picked up stones and started throwing them at him. You see, you could throw stones at a person if they were breaking the Law, and you were not guilty of breaking the Law by throwing stones. That is what the Law, what tradition will do! It is confusing and contradicting!

With the tragedy that took place on September 11 of this year, 2001, the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing over 4,000 people, some of you may be wondering how in the world does this relate to what is going on today? How does this apply to me?

Let me ask you this. What peanut butter laws are you holding on to? Whatever it is you need to let it go or you will rob yourself of the joy of the Lord, and you will burden people, weigh them down, you may even destroy them. You won’t be helping them, pointing them to Jesus, but to your own set of rules and regulations that you must follow to find God, to make God happy, to appease God!

Instead of going down that destructive path, listen to what Jesus said in John 13:34-35, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

Jesus is not saying that we are to condone sin, but we are not to let our traditions become laws and prevent us from showing mercy towards others, to those that are in need, of loving them. You see, as Max Lucado said, "Legalism has no pity on people. Legalism makes my opinion your burden, makes my opinion your boundary, makes my opinion your obligation." And we see that so often today, and it is very sad.

Let me show you a better way, LOVE! God will not hold you accountable for reaching out and touching a person, showing them mercy, showing them the love of God. But He will hold you accountable for not doing that which was shown to you.

Don’t finish in the flesh what God has begun in the Spirit! Love supercedes tradition! Love supercedes the Law! May we not forget that and may we remove those peanut butter traditions that are causing us to be stuck in our tracks, and may we rest in the Lord of the Sabbath!

Let me leave you this morning with these words from Jesus from John 3:16-17. He said, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." Receive His love and let it flow in you and through you to touch the lives of others. You see, the Law condemns us, His love saves us. There is nothing you can do to make God love you more or to make God love you less. Just receive Him by faith and enjoy the joy of the Lord! And thus, in a world that is fearful, a world that is hurting, a world that has lost hope, we can point them to Jesus, the One who can calm those fears, the One who can take away that hurt, the One that can give you hope! We do have a opportunity to minister to those that are in need after this horrible tragedy. May we not let legalism get in the way of the love we are to share with people! May you allow God to take this mess and use it for His glory!

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