Read His Words Before Ours!
Jesus constantly pushed the boundaries and did things that were socially unacceptable for ‘good’ people to do. He didn’t follow the rules. He didn’t do what was expected.
Jesus spent time with people I wouldn’t approve of.
I wouldn’t feel comfortable with the people Jesus hung around.
I wouldn’t want my daughter dating the people that Jesus spent time with.
The people I would approve of, the religious ones who followed the law and the traditions of the church, were the ones Jesus rebuked.
This challenges me!
While the religious leaders were always close by, the disciples Jesus called to follow Him were not the religious elite. They were a motley crew of misfits and rejects (I mean that in the most loving and respectful way possible) who other Rabbis hadn’t wanted to take on as students, or who did not qualify for a good religious education.
When Jesus taught the crowds and performed miracles, it wasn’t the good religious people who were at the front of the line, deserving the focus of the Messiah. It was the oppressed, marginalized, outcaste and rejected of society. Jesus interacted with women and children, the sick and disabled, tax collectors and prostitutes. Sinners.
God gave his people the law to show them his character and holiness, to show them how to have a relationship with the living God, to give them a way to live in tabernacle with the Almighty God.
But they missed the point.
They took the law as a set of rules and set up more rules around the rules.
They invented ‘religion’.
Religion made them feel good about themselves.
They could tick their boxes and make their sacrifices and fulfil their requirements.
They became proud and judgmental, and their hearts became hard.
Then Jesus came along and challenged everything they knew as right and good. He said,
“But go and learn what this means:
‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’
For I have not come to call the righteous,
but sinners.” Matthew 9:12-13 (NIV)
Jesus went on to explain, you can’t mix the old way of thinking with the new.
You can’t follow the law for salvation, you must have faith in a Savior.
Religion must give way to relationship.
The law was to show us that we cannot rely on ourselves for salvation.
The law shows us we need a Savior.
The law brings us to Jesus.
Our human propensity to develop formulas, follow and obey rules is persistent.
Obeying rules makes us feel good about ourselves.
It also makes us proud and judgmental,
just like the religious leaders who heckled Jesus.
It makes our hearts hard and callous.
We need to hear Jesus’ message loud and clear today,
“I desire mercy, not sacrifice!”
We can’t mix and match the old way with the new. In one short parable Jesus teaches: if you use new cloth to patch an old tear, you make the tear worse. If you put new wine into old wineskins, the wineskins will be ruined, and the wine will be wasted.
We have a couple of thousand years of church tradition to follow. There are many wonderful examples of faith and spiritual discipline, but we can easily turn tradition into formulas to follow and rules to obey.
Jesus calls us into a dynamic, innovative, exciting adventure instead!
I’m a rule follower.
I think I would have been a good Pharisee.
I like knowing what to do and what not to do.
I like knowing where I stand and what the consequences will be.
I have been driving for 30 years, and I have never received a parking or speeding fine.
True story. I find comfort in the rules.
This makes me a terrible passenger!
I can’t cope. I’m constantly distracted, looking to see if we are speeding, changing lanes without indicating, or sneaking through an orange light.
I am filled with anxiety. The road rules have my full attention.
I miss out on appreciating the beautiful scenery.
It’s difficult for me to engage in a good conversation.
I miss out, because I’m focused on the wrong thing.
I’ve been a Christian all of my life and have grown up in church each Sunday. I know what a ‘proper’ service is like, how many hymns should be sung, and how long a good sermon should last. While I’m busy critiquing the service, I miss out.
I notice the drums are too loud…..while missing the words of adoration I should be singing to my King.
I notice someone’s skirt is too short….. while missing out on the look of hurt in their eyes. I’m focused on religion instead of relationship.
I’m holding on to old wineskins, while claiming to want new wine.
Jesus’ ministry shows us what God is like.
He spent time with people who were lost and loved them.
He healed the sick, fed the hungry and loved the lonely.
He wasn’t interested in following the Pharisee’s rules.
Instead, Jesus focused on relationships.
He loved people.
This is a constant challenge for me, and I hope it is an encouragement for you.
Let’s reject the striving for approval, which makes us proud and judgmental.
Together, let’s enjoy an intimate relationship with our loving Savior and nurture a heart that loves one another.
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!