Luke 5:27–6:11. Jesus and the Rules.

Key Notes: Eating with sinners, neglecting the fasts, harvesting on Sabbath. Jesus is the Doctor saving lives, the Bride-groom enjoying the party, Lord of the Sabbath, Bringer of new wine.

We should try to sympathize with the Pharisees. They were a small group of perhaps 7000 that was devoted to Scripture and obedience to the Law. They knew the great price Israel had paid for spiritual decay and idolatry that led to the first captivity in 586BC. They were fundamentalists, sticklers for the details, contending with many other Jewish groups: Sadducees (the liberals), Herodians (the politicians), the Zealots (revolutionaries), the Essenes (desert ascetics), the Messianic imposters, the disciples of John the Baptist, and the burdened and discouraged who had no vision or group to associate with.

This new Rabbi frustrated the Pharisees at every turn. He had already created a riot in Nazareth (4:16), driven out a demon on the Sabbath (4:31), touched a leper (5:12) and announced forgiveness of a paralytic in front of an assembly of Pharisees and teachers (5:17). And now there was more.

5:27 He called a tax-collector into his discipleship. And the tax-collector gathered his friends to hear the Rabbi. When the Pharisees protested that such people were the dregs of society, and that He was ruining His reputation,  He said He was a doctor who had come to save sick people, to call them to repentance.

5:33 They also complained that His disciples were at parties instead of fasting and praying like John the Baptist's disciples and their disciples. He replied that as long as the Bridegroom was present, the disciples would celebrate. Later they would fast. {He was the Bridegroom. The Bride was yet to come.} Then He said that His new way would not repair Judaism and that they would not like the taste of His new wine. If He thought He was establishing a new religion, then they must really try to crush it.

6:1 The next thing they knew, he was allowing his disciples to work on the Sabbath. They were out in a wheat field picking heads of grain, (harvesting), rubbing off the husks of the wheat between their hands (threshing), blowing away the husks (winnowing)--preparing their snacks, right out in the open.

When they protested, He said something about David eating the Bread of the Presence, and giving it to his men. ISam.21:1–9 But what does that have to do with working on Sabbath? The Bread of the Presence was made on the Sabbath by the priests. (Lev24:8–9). David had broken a divinely ordained regulation {Lev.24:9} to feed his men but Jesus and the disciples only broke a man-made rabbinical interpretation of what constituted work on Sabbath.

6:5 Now the scribes and Pharisees were really on edge. When He saw a man with a withered hand in synagogue, they were ready. This Man must be stopped before He turned everyone away from the Law of Moses. But He was not intimidated. He asked them if it was lawful to do good or save life on the Sabbath. We all know that it is lawful to do good, but He was not going to save a life, just save one man's livelihood. Paralytics should come back some other day than Sabbath. He healed the man's hand by a word, and they were so angry that they could not enjoy the man's healing.

Comments: Jesus broke three kinds of rules. We must learn why He did, and what communications came from it.

A. Eating with tax-collectors was breaking social rules: if you associate with dishonorable people you will lose your reputation. If you are seen with a mob of anarchists, you are branded as an anarchist. If you are often in bars, you are considered an alcoholic. You also do not gave comfort to Israel's tax-collectors who are traitors to their country by sitting down to dinner with them. You will be considered a traitor yourself.

However, Levi had had such a dramatic change of heart that he left his job and the money behind. It was a dramatic conversion, turning‘0 degrees from greed and extortion to a life of surrender and giving. Levi promptly introduced his colleagues to Christ at a dinner. Jesus came to the party to do the same work with them that He had done with Levi--making the sick well, bringing sinners to repentance. He was doing evangelism.

B. Eating and drinking while others fasted was breaking spiritual discipline. Fasting and prayer was not required except during special religious holidays like The Day of Atonement, but was practiced weekly or twice weekly (Lk.18:12) by John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees. It was evidence of their devotion to God. To be eating and drinking while others were fasting suggested spiritual indifference.

Jesus replied that He was the Bridegroom at a party. In the Old Testament, Israel is described as a bride (Isa.62:1–5, Jer.2:2). John the Baptist called himself the friend (best man) of the Bridegroom (Jn.3:29). In IICor.11:2 and Rev.19:8 the Church is the Bride. Jesus is the bridegroom and His followers, the beginning Church, are the bride. (Eph.5:21-). Curiously, in Jesus' parables (Matt.22:2–14; 25:1–13; Lk.12:35–6) Israel is not the Bride, but servants or guests at the wedding.

Jesus also said He did not come to patch up the old, but to introduce the new--the New Covenant (Heb.8–10)--which would replace ceremony and ritual with spiritual reality, Christ's sacrifice in place of the animal sacrifices, forgiveness once for all and the Law written in the heart. Are Christians who try to carry over the OT concepts (priest, altar, sacrifice) into church service putting new patches on old wineskins?

C. Preparing food and healing a lame man on Sabbath was breaking regulations--not the Law of Moses, but the regulations built around the Law. The Law did not say that one could not feed oneself in the fields on the Sabbath. However, Israel was not to cook food in the wilderness on Sabbath. (Ex.16:29; 34:5,21). The law was to train the people as a group to have faith in God for one extra day's supply of manna.

Jesus' taught two lessons about Sabbath: the first was that performing acts of mercy was pleasing to God. And it was lawful to do good (heal) on Sabbath, even if the person was not mortally ill. The working man's hand was the basis of his livelihood.
Jesus also pointed out that as David broke priestly ritual by eating the Showbread and offering it to his men, we may put human need over ceremonial rules. Obeying the letter of the Law had become more important to the Pharisees than "justice, and mercy and faith." (Matt.23:23)

The second lesson was that "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." In effect, he was greater than Moses, the servant of God and on a par with God.

In breaking rules, Jesus was salvation to sinners, Bridegroom to new Israel, Author of a New Covenant, restorer of the disabled, and Lord of the Sabbath.

Like their Master, Christians are operating against evil on many fronts. Traditionally, the rescue missions and overseas missionary work were the main strategies of Christian outreach. Today we are working for social justice for minorities and helping immigrants. Christians are opposing sexual sin of all kinds—adultery, homosexuality, pornography, prostitution and divorce. We protest at abortion clinics and write angry letters to politicians. Home-schooling is having a rebirth. We adopt orphans and feed the homeless. The persecuted Church abroad gets attention although less than it deserves.

If we must break society's norms, let us have high goals and clear motives.
How would Jesus do it? Let us keep our Master in mind when we do evangelism and work for social justice.