Jesus is Better | 7.16.23 | Oh No He Didn’t Pt. 3
Mark 2:18-22, 3:1-6
Pastor Erik Anderson
We’re going through Mark this summer and we’re gonna look at two different passages that kind of have a similar theme here in the early Mark. We’ll get to that in a second. So that’s why we’re looking at two separate passages and right in between them is the passage that Danny preached on last week. So we’re gonna be in Mark chapter two beginning in verse 23, excuse me. And then that’s not correct. We’re gonna be in verse 18 in Mark chapter two. And then we’re gonna jump down to Mark chapter three. So we’re gonna start with Mark chapter two, verse 18 to 22. And this is what it says. “Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, ‘Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast? But your disciples do not.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘The wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The day will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them. And then they will fast on that day. No one sows a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloth. Otherwise the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise the wine will burst the skins, but the wine is lost and so are the skins. But one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.” And then we jump down to chapter three, verse one. “Again, he entered the synagogue and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the Sabbath so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand come forward. Then he said to them, ‘It is lawful to do good.” Excuse me, is it lawful to do good? Or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill? But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger. He was grieved at their hardness of heart. And he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched out and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him how to destroy him.” This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God. Well, good morning, everyone. My name is Eric. I’m one of the pastors here. And I have to admit to you that I have a problem. My problem is that I have this personality that enjoys a good argument. Does anybody with me on that, anybody like that, just enjoy a good argument. I enjoy kind of poking at people and seeing what they believe about things and then hashing it out. When I was in college, in fact, when I was less mature, I would say things like, “Well, you know that I like you “because I argue and yell at you.” That’s how you know, ’cause I want to engage. I want us to spar a little bit mentally and have some fun. And of course, when you are young and immature and hollering and yelling and all this kind of stuff, it turns some people off. In fact, I lost a few friendships. And in fact, some of my roommates actually left the school that we went to partly because I was such a pain to be around. I don’t know if any of you are like that. Kind of like poking the bear, like having an argument. It feels good to just kind of get all the emotions out and to figure something out together. And it’s actually a means to connect and to love each other to have a verbal dispute in an argument. Well, luckily, I have matured since those times that I was more just of a bully and that kind of stuff. But sometimes it still comes out. Sometimes that desire to poke and to prod and to kind of see how people respond, that still comes out. And it happened to me this week. It was after the softball game and some of us went to go get a drink afterwards and we had a friend who was on one of the teams and his wife, they were kind of playing on going home and he asked his wife, “Hey, is it okay if I go out?” And they had kind of the normal married people interaction, right, where you kind of change plans and the one of them is like, “Ah, man, we had this other plan, but yeah, sure, you can go.” And it was like a little tense. You know what I’m talking about, right? Where it’s just a normal, totally average married person interaction with your spouse. Well, the next day the wife says to me, “Eric, I have to apologize to you.” And I said, “For what?” And she goes, “Well, I was kind of rude to my husband “and I feel like I was also rude to you “during that conversation.” And just without even thinking about it, I said, “No, you didn’t seem any more grumpy “than you usually are.” And it’s like I said the words and as I was saying them, I just wanted to grab them and put them back in my mouth. You know what I’m saying? It just like, I just poked for no reason. So sometimes this immaturity even still can come out. But this desire to feel strong emotions, to interact as something that’s driven me for a long time. And this passage, these two passages that we’re looking at are two examples of Jesus kind of having some disagreements, some arguments with a group of leaders, religious leaders called the Pharisees. And in fact, we even see that he gets angry. He has this anger response to what they have done. And so sometimes that is appropriate. Sometimes it is we enter into these conflicts that we have that we see here. And early here in Mark, we see several examples of this. The gospel of Mark is filled with these quick stories that just kind of come one right after the other. And early in Mark, Mark is telling us these stories to show us that Jesus kind of put himself up and against much of the religious tradition of his day. And that’s why we jump into here Mark chapter two, verse 18. And this is what it says. Now, John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. So John the Baptist is Jesus’s cousin. And so it was part of a reformation movement in Israel at the time and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, that is Jesus. Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not? Now here we have a pretty, this is a pretty low tension kind of question. There are just some people who come up to Jesus and they say, hey, we notice something. John’s disciples as they’re trying to reform Judaism, they fast regularly. And the Pharisees who were a group of religious leaders who were trying to take the scripture seriously, the Old Testament seriously, they also fast, but Jesus’s disciples don’t. And this is a great example of the kind of situation that Jesus got put into. And we actually see it again here in just a few verses that we’ll look at. That Jesus came up against this group called the Pharisees. And you probably have heard that term before, even said the term, maybe you say, oh, that’s pretty Pharisaical, you might have said before. Well, the Pharisees were a group of Jewish religious leaders that were really concerned with taking God’s word seriously. And they were also really concerned with helping every day, normal, every day people follow God’s command. You see, they were responding to this issue they were having, which was the Roman Empire was kind of like, had overthrown the kings of Israel and they kind of put up these puppet kings. And so now Israel was subject to the Roman Empire and the Roman Emperor. And many of the Jews of this time believed that this was because they had disobeyed God, that God had overthrown their power in order to teach them a lesson, in order to punish them for their own wavering of the law. And so groups like the Pharisees showed up and they said, hey, if we just take God’s law seriously, if we just obey his commands, God will bless us again and we’ll be able to overthrow the Roman Empire, we’ll be able to be reestablished as God’s kingdom here on earth. So the Pharisees would look at the 613 laws found in the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, and they said, what can we do to make sure we don’t break these laws? What can we set up that we will never have to disobey God? And And so they built up what we sometimes call a fence around the law or what we’d also call the oral tradition. They passed down from teacher to teacher all these extra rules about fasting and Sabbath, ritual purity, et cetera. And a couple of months ago, we looked at a passage where Jesus interacted with some Pharisees and I wanted to make sure that I made the point that the Pharisees are actually kind of the good guys. I know that sometimes we see them as this like force that’s that’s working against Jesus all the time, but really if we just unpack that for a second, the Pharisees were concerned with following God’s law. That’s a good thing. They were concerned with normal everyday people being able to follow God in a tangible way. That’s a good thing. The Pharisees were almost the, they were kind of the good guys at this time. But they came up against Jesus ’cause Jesus presented a new challenge to them about the law and about these traditions that they passed down. So in the Old Testament, fasting was something that occasionally happened for all of the people of Israel, but mostly fasting is something that individuals did in response to a death, in response to a tragedy, in response to something bad that happened, an individual would go into a time of fasting. But the Pharisees believed that fasting was something that everybody needed to do and they would say, you have to fast in these particular ways, at these particular times, with this particular emphasis in your fast, and that is how you can fast well. They also gave all sorts of rules about the Sabbath. They would say, God tells us we’re not supposed to work on the Sabbath, so if something’s more than like 20 pounds, don’t pick it up, ’cause technically that’s work. God says not to work on the Sabbath, so if you have to walk more than like a mile, don’t do it, because that’s work. You see how they set up these extra rules around the rules? Their law says, rest on the Sabbath. The Pharisees would say, in order to rest, don’t pick up heavy things, don’t walk too far, don’t do this, that, or the other thing. They created a fence, a safety net around the law. They took the laws of God and they wanted to protect them from from people breaking them, so they created all sorts of traditions around these things. Unfortunately, what inevitably happens with these kinds of reform movements or revival movements is they take these traditions that are handed down and they become this thing that we call legalism. Are you familiar with this term, legalism? Sometimes we say that’s legalistic when we are responding to something that somebody says. And And so legalism is this idea that the rules are an end to themselves, that the rules are actually there to show us who’s right and who’s wrong, who’s in our group and who’s not in our group. The rules become something to compare ourselves to others. And unfortunately, the laws of God are warped by these Pharisees, and I’m sure not every Pharisee was like this, but there were several that this had happened and these are the individuals and the groups that bump up into Jesus, because this is Jesus’s response to them. Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot fast “while the bridegroom is with them, can they? “As long as they have the bridegroom with them, “they cannot fast. “The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away “from them, and then they will fast on that day.” Jesus’s response to this question of fasting, he says, “You can’t fast if you’re celebrating, and I’m here. “God is here. “God has come to rescue you. “This is a time of celebration and not a time of fasting.” Jesus takes himself and he places himself up against these traditions that the Pharisees have passed down. The Pharisees fear of God, that he would not bless them unless they didn’t break the rules, is confronted by Jesus’s grace and the hope that he brings. You can’t fast if you’re celebrating, and this is a time of celebration because I am here. God has come to rescue you. And he says this again here in verse 21, or he continues on, I should say, “No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth “onto an old cloak. “Otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, “the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. “And no one puts new wine into old wine skins. “Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, “and the wine is lost, and so are the skins. “But one puts new wine into fresh wine skins.” You see Jesus in it show up, and when he says this, lots of times this passage is used to talk about, you see, we need to do new things and try new things. I’m not quite sure that’s what this passage is saying. I think what Jesus is saying here is a new thing has happened. God has come to earth in the person of Jesus, and now Jesus, God himself, stands in the midst of Israel. And he says, “I am the new wine. “I am the new wine skin. “I am the new patch. “And what you have cannot be in the same place “as what I have. “What I have is greater than what you have, “because I am God.” This is what Jesus is saying. He’s placing himself up against these traditions of the Pharisees. He’s placing himself up against these traditions passed down from one teacher to the next, and he is saying, “I am better. “I am better than the rules that you follow. “I am better than the laws that you are unable to follow. “I am better than these things.” You see, as we read through the Old Testament, as we read it over and over again, over our lifetime, we notice something. That as we read these rules, these 613 rules, they’re not really set up in a kind of like formal, normal way we would expect. Instead, it’s a group of rules that don’t really seem to have anything to do with each other. It’ll be a whole section of rules about Sabbath, about how you should deal with your workers, about how you should deal with your slaves, about what happens when you accidentally kill somebody, or what happens if there’s an accident and somebody dies. What do you do when this or that specific instance happened, and they’re all kind of woven together right next to each other with really no logical sequencing. And then we get a story about how the people of Israel break those laws. And all through the first five books of the Bible, this is what happens. A set of laws, a story of how Israel breaks them. A set of laws, a story of how Israel breaks them. And we continue reading through the Old Testament and we get to all these heroes of the faith that oftentimes we learn about in Sunday school on the flannel board and all that kind of stuff. And we think these people are examples to us, for us to follow. And we realize that every single one of them is bad. They’re horrible. Abraham Abraham misused and abused his servant, or his wife’s servant. We have Joshua and the judges doing horrible things. Samson was unfaithful. Gideon was afraid. And even David, the man that we kind of like lift up as like the quintessential hero of the Old Testament, still committed adultery with a man’s wife, and then had that man killed to cover up for it. Nobody Nobody in the Old Testament is a hero. And as we read through the Bible, we think, oh man, Moses came and he did some good things, but he also did a lot of bad things. We need a better Moses. We read through, we get to Joshua. We go, oh, Joshua did some good things. He also did a lot of bad things. We need a better Joshua. We get to David, we go, oh, David’s done some good things, but he’s also done a lot of bad things. We need a better David. We keep reading through the Old Testament and we realize, oh, the whole point of everything we’re reading here, is is that something better needs to happen. Someone better needs to rescue us, that none of these heroes make the cut. And Jesus is placing himself in that place. When right before he’s crucified, he tells the Sanhedrin the court, he says, I am the son of man from the Old Testament. The one who’s gonna be lifted up and sit on God’s throne, he he claims that he is the Messiah, that he is God in flesh. He’s saying, I’m better. I’m the better Moses. I’m the better Joshua. I’m the better David. I’m the better Abraham. I’m the better Adam. I’m the one that you’ve needed this whole time. And we realize that these laws, that the Pharisees were so concerned with not breaking, they’re there to show us, that that we need Jesus because we can’t keep them. That we are unable to keep all of God’s expectations. We are unable to keep all of God’s commands. We can’t follow the rules enough to be a good person. We can’t follow the rules enough to earn whatever salvation that God has promised in the Old Testament, the New Testament. We can’t earn it. We can’t earn it, that we need to be rescued. It needs to be given to us. The Pharisees thought that they could by their own power add more rules to the rules and therefore somehow keep them. But the whole point is that we can’t. The laws are there to help us get over ourselves. The law is there to help us see that we need Jesus to welcome us into eternal life. That we need Jesus to point us in the right direction. We can’t earn our way into eternal life or life with God. Jesus needs to rescue us. And then the commands are used by Jesus to help us live well, not for our sake, but for others. So legalism weaponizes tradition and rules. It It weaponizes it against other people. It places us in God’s place that we get to decide what’s right and wrong. And Jesus invites us to be centered around Him and what He’s done to have humility, to realize our need and to increase in love, which is actually what Jesus says here at the end of this passage in Mark chapter three. This is when He’s in the synagogue and they kind of bring this man who has a withered hand. He kind of has this limp hand. And And they’re trying to see what Jesus does because the Pharisees had a rule that says, if somebody is mortally wounded on the Sabbath, you are allowed to administer help only so much that the person doesn’t die. After they are stabilized, you cannot help them until after the Sabbath is over. That was a tradition that they passed down. If somebody was hurt but not mortally wounded, you could not help them bandage the wound or help them reset whatever it was. You would have to wait till the Sabbath was over. So they bring this man who has a limp hand ’cause they kind of want to see if Jesus is gonna heal him on the Sabbath. And so He, Jesus said to the man who had the withered hand come forward. And then He, Jesus said to them, the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?” But they were silent. He He looked around at them with anger. He was grieved at their hardness of heart. And He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched out and his hand was restored. Jesus had anger at this group of Pharisees that brought this man to Him. Because while they seemed like they were following the rules, they they were far more concerned with their own traditions than they were with the intent of the law. Why is the law there? And if we read through the Old Testament about the Sabbath, it says a lot of things about how to take care of your workers, your animals, your fields on the Sabbath. The command for us is very simple. Do not work on the Sabbath, rest on the Sabbath. And And then the scriptures outline exactly what that means for everybody else. You cannot expect your workers to work on the Sabbath. You cannot have your slaves work on the Sabbath. You have to unyoke your animals. They cannot work on the Sabbath. And every seven years, you have to leave a field fallow. You have to leave it alone and not work it on the seventh year to give the land itself a Sabbath. The The whole point of the Sabbath was for the good of everyone. It was for rest, for healing, for rejuvenation. That’s the intent of the law. But the Pharisees were so concerned with the letter of the law and the traditions they passed down that they missed the point. Of course, it’s right to do good on the Sabbath. That’s why the Sabbath exists. And Danny walked through that very well last week. You can go back and listen to that sermon that he gave because he talks about this very thing, that it is good. It’s good for us to rest and it’s good for those around us to rest. That we can actually love more when we’re rested. So we have to ask the question, “Why are the laws here?” Therefore, our good. What’s the intent for us to be fulfilled and for our neighbors to be fulfilled? The laws are for good. They show us, they point us to Jesus. They create humility within us, knowing that we have to rely upon Jesus to rescue us. That we have to lean on Him and His Holy Spirit. And then He gives the law back to us and we get to say, “What’s the intent? Why is He telling us this about how we work? How we fast? How we practice our sexuality?” All of these kinds of things. The law then is given back to us for our own benefit. That fasting helps us turn away from our addictions and turn to God. That Sabbath helps us remove our addiction to work and to trust in God. Legalism is not the answer. This hard-edged conviction about the particulars of the rules. And the question is, what is the intent? Of course, it’s good to work on the Sabbath. When that is for the good of others. That’s the right idea when it comes to the Sabbath, or for fasting, or for anything else. Because the laws are actually there to help us increase in love. How we spend our money. How we practice our businesses. How we operate in our families. All of these commands and rules and guidelines that God gives us are for our good and for the good of our families and friends and neighbors. This conflict Jesus has with the Pharisees, reveals Jesus’ heart. That he has anger about using and weaponizing rules and traditions to make a comparison or to exclude. That he wants us to do good. He wants us to have an increase in love. Two questions that we’re asking as we study through Mark. Are what is God saying to you? And what is God inviting you to do in response to what you hear from him? So first question, what is God saying to you? Maybe there’s some legalism lurking in your life. So maybe you can ask yourself these questions. Do your convictions lead you to look down on others? Do you use your convictions to manipulate or coerce others to do what you want? Do Do you find yourself comparing yourself to others? Then you might be acting like these Pharisees in this story. Weaponizing and misusing even our own convictions. Or is God’s word pointing you to Jesus? Are you aware of your own need for Jesus? Do you lean on Jesus’s work and not on your own understanding? Are you willing to follow Jesus wherever he goes? And what is God inviting you to do about it? It might be to repent. Repent of whatever legalism might be lurking in your heart. It might be to act on what you know to be good. Having the hard conversation with someone that you love. Guiding somebody that you know is hurting toward a healthier life. But not weaponizing those convictions. Rather, are your convictions leading you to uplift and encourage others? Are you using your convictions to help the people around you flourish and have a full life? And do your convictions lead you to see others in a positive light, uplifting? What is God saying to you? And what are you going to do about it? Amen.