A couple summers ago we did a sermon series on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. That sermon is found in chapters 5-7 of Matthew. “Sermon on the Mount” is a pretty lame title. A better title for this sermon would be “Adventures in Missing the Point” or “What Following God Really Means”.
With His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus plowed into the false teachings of the Pharisees and started to dismantle those teachings in view of the people. Some people don’t like teachers who point out how others are wrong. But, that’s exactly what Jesus did, and with good reason.
Most of the religious teachers of Jesus’ day didn’t get it. When they looked at God’s Word, they mostly saw rules to be kept. And it’s not hard to see why they saw this. Huge sections of the Old Testament Bible are just that, rules from God.
But the thing about rules is, they’re made to serve a purpose. Behind every rule is something that we want to happen or not happen. When we start to enforcing a rule without remembering WHY that rule exists, then we walk dangerous ground. Then we’ve probably already missed the point.
Today we’re going to focus our thoughts on Luke, chapter 6. In this chapter, Luke records parts of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. But at the beginning Luke adds two stories illustrating how the Pharisees had missed the point of God’s Word.
EPIPHANY READING Luke 6:1-11 (NIV)
1One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. 2Some of the Pharisees asked, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
3Jesus answered them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” 5Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
6On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. 7The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. 8But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Get up and stand in front of everyone.” So he got up and stood there.
9Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?”
10He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was completely restored. 11But they were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.
Sermon Bite: Wrapped Up in Rule-Keeping
These two events are also recorded in Matthew and Mark. In the parallel accounts we find a couple verses that help us zero in on the points Jesus was making about the Sabbath. In Mark 2, verse 27 Jesus says…
““The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27 NIV).The Pharisees missed the whole point of the Sabbath. God had established this day as a day of rest. The Jewish people were forbidden to work on this day. That’s the rule they thought the disciples were breaking. They considered rolling grain in your hands to be the work of “threshing grain”.
But the whole point of the Sabbath was to reserve a place for God in the weekly routine of the people. You didn’t work on the Sabbath Day so that you could go to church and honor God in worship. You didn’t work on the Sabbath so that you could come back to God’s Word and have your faith re-centered and strengthened.
The Sabbath also served as a preview of the complete rest that would come to God’s people in Heaven.
The Pharisees were so focused on rule-keeping that they missed the point. To them the Sabbath had become a day to count your every step and watch your every move to make sure that you weren’t working. It had become a day of keeping rules for the sake of rules.
They needed to revisit the REASON God established the Sabbath if they were going to have any chance at properly observing it.
In Matthew 12, verses 11-12 Jesus told the Pharisees…
“If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:11-12 NIV).The Pharisees had gotten SO wrapped up in rule-keeping that when Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath, it made them angry instead of glad. Their reaction shows that they were far more concerned with worshipping their own rules, than worshipping God.
Now, we can look down on the Pharisees, or we can learn from their foolishness. As a fellowship dedicated to following Jesus, we must take care not to make rules that go beyond the Word of God. We must make sure we know WHY God tells us, “Do this” or “Don’t do this”. That way we can make sure we are followers of God, and not just slaves to man-made rules.
EPIPHANY READING Luke 6:12-26
12One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. 13When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: 14Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, 15Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, 16Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
17He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coast of Tyre and Sidon, 18who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by evil spirits were cured, 19and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.
20Looking at his disciples, he said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
22Blessed are you when men hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.
23“Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.
24“But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
25Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
26Woe to you when all men speak well of you,
for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.
Sermon Bite: The True Mark of God’s Blessing – Faith.
The Pharisees connected earthly blessings with pleasing God. They taught that those who made God happy would receive wealth and good times on this earth.
Jesus openly refutes this idea in the first words of the Sermon on the Mount. Lots of money in the bank doesn’t mean you’re God’s favorite. On the other hand, having few earthly possessions doesn’t mean God hates you.
In verse 20, Jesus says…
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20 NIV).What He was saying is this: If you belong to the kingdom of God because you TRUST in God, than you are BLESSED even if you have nothing else. If you’re hungry, weeping, hated and excluded by people BECAUSE OF YOUR FAITH in God’s Son – then you are blessed by God, and your future is brighter than you can possibly imagine.
The apostle Paul said it like this…
“We live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7 NIV).Christ followers don’t need wealth and popularity to prove that God loves them. They know that God loves them because He says it in His Word. Above all we know that God loves us because He sent His own Son to suffer and die in our place so that all our sins stand forgiven through His sacrifice.
It is FAITH in God’s promises that identify God’s followers, not outward circumstances like wealth or popularity.
EPIPHANY READING Luke 6:27-36
27“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. 33And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. 34And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. 35But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Sermon Bite: Love is a Function of Experiencing Forgiveness
The Pharisee’s teachings were marked by harsh judgment. Christ’s teachings are marked by incredible generosity and mercy.
The God of the Bible is a giving God, a God of generosity and mercy. Some consider generosity and mercy to be signs of weakness, but in fact they are signs of strength. And in the Christ follower, they are the marks of faith.
When Christ followers are generous and merciful to others, we show that we have experienced God’s generosity and mercy regarding our sins against Him. He has forgiven us through Christ’s sacrifice, so we are then moved to forgive those who sin against us.
A Christian follower’s love is a function of experiencing God’s forgiveness. As we begin to comprehend just how deeply God loves us, our love for others is enabled to grow and express itself more fully.
In the next chapter of Luke, we hear about a woman who came to Jesus when He was having supper at a Pharisee’s house. The woman came with a very expensive bottle of perfume and poured it on Jesus’ feet to honor Him.
The Pharisee looked at this woman and saw a sinner. Jesus looked at her and saw what her action meant. She had understood His message. She got the point. Because she trusted in Jesus for forgiveness, she came to express her love to Him.
Jesus knew that the Pharisee didn’t understand. So He told him…
“…I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:47 NIV).This is why our church focuses so much on the message of sins forgiven through our Lord. Free forgiveness through Christ gives rest to the sinner who knows he has much to be forgiven. The greatness of this forgiveness empowers the Christ follower to love through generosity and mercy.
EPIPHANY READING Luke 6:37-45
37“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
39He also told them this parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.
41“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
43“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. 45The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.
Sermon Bite: Experience Grace, Teach Grace
The Pharisees were judgmental and unforgiving. As a result, their followers would be the same. They were like the blind leading the blind. Because they didn’t know God’s forgiveness, their disciples could never learn of forgiveness from them. Each Pharisee was like a man with a board stuck in his eye going around offering to help other sinners get the specks out of theirs.
To teach God’s grace, we must first know it ourselves – by heart. This means seeing our own sins and our own huge need of salvation and then trusting in God’s way of providing salvation – Christ Jesus. Only those who have experienced God’s grace can teach it to others.
Jesus was forgiving and giving. As a result, His followers would be the same.
On the shores of the sea of Galilee, Jesus once met a man that was possessed by many demons. Jesus freed this man by casting out the demons who possessed him. When Jesus was about to leave the area in a boat, the man came and asked to go with Jesus. Jesus said no. He told the man…
“Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you” (Mark 5:19 NIV).This man was more qualified to teach the Word of God than any Pharisee, because He had experienced God’s mercy. Through Jesus’ message, we too have experienced God’s mercy. He tell us that our sins stand forgiven through cross. We are now qualified to teach that same grace to others.
EPIPHANY READING Luke 6:46-49
46“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? 47I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. 48He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. 49But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”
Sermon Bite: Build on the Foundation
The religious teachers of Jesus’ day thought that because there were so many rules in the Bible, heaven must be reached by rule-keeping. They missed the true point. There plethora of commands in God’s Word exist to show us that we are sinners who have no hope of earning God’s love.
The Good News of sins forgiven through God’s Son shows us how heaven is earned. By Jesus, who then give it freely, as a gift, to sinners like us.
Instead of building on this message, the Pharisees insisted on building their lives on the unstable ground of rule-keeping.
If we learn anything from Luke chapter 6, let it be this – the Pharisees had it wrong. Our foundation is not rule-keeping. It is Christ. It is all that the Son of God has done for us, and said to us. On this foundation we stand secure. On the foundation of Christ we see our sin and our Savior. Here we live our lives according to Jesus’ teachings. And each time we fail, and find we have sinned again, we look down on the firm foundation of Christ’s forgiveness and know all is right between us and God. On the foundation of Christ, we stand forgiven.
Prayer: Father in Heaven, help us always to view our day of Worship as a day of peace and rest in your house, not as a day of rule-keeping for salvation. Give us wisdom through your Holy Spirit so that we don’t miss the point of your Word. Help us to see our sins, and to see our Savior in the pages of the Bible. In whatever circumstances we find ourselves, lead our hearts to rejoice because our names are written in Heaven, inscribed by the very hands that took our nails. Through your love, expressed in Jesus’ life and sacrifice, lead us to love others, especially our enemies. Give us forgiving and giving hearts so that we become more like You. Fill our hearts so full of the joy of forgiveness that our mouths have to open to share with others all that you have done for us. Amen.