Sermon title: Jesus Overruled Jewish Tradition
Immanuel Baptist Church – April 8, 2018
Somewhere around 1500 years before Christ,
God sent Moses to set the Jewish people free
from centuries of slavery
in ancient Egypt.
God sent Moses to Egypt’s ruler Pharaoh
with the message, ‘Let my people go.’
And then, after a series of ten plagues on Egypt
convinced Pharaoh to let them go,
Moses led the descendants of Israel
across the Red Sea and into the wilderness,
on their way to the Promised Land—
the land God promised
to turn into the land of Israel.
But first, God gave the people his laws:
more than 600 laws covering worship and everyday life.
We find those laws spelled out in the books of Moses
from Exodus where the 10 Commandments were given
through Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
But by the time our Lord Jesus carried on public ministry in Israel
some 1500 years later,
the Jews had added layers of tradition
on top of those laws.
The Talmud contains thousands of pages,
written by Jewish rabbis.
And the various sects of Judaism in Jesus’ day
had their own interpretations.
But Jesus had divine authority as the Son of God.
And he overruled much of that tradition
by healing on the Sabbath,
by eating with ‘sinners,’
and by teaching contrary
to the teachings of the scribes and Pharisees.
In some cases, he did this to show where the Jewish rabbis
had deviated from the spirit of God’s laws,
such as by nit-picking
rather than being merciful.
And in some cases, Jesus broke their traditions
to lay the groundwork for the New Covenant
that he would later institute.
But in all of these areas he infuriated the religious leaders.
This morning’s responsive reading,
which begins at Luke 5:27,
picks up where we left off before Palm Sunday,
as we continue going through the Gospels chronologically
looking at everything Jesus said and did,
in the order in which those events occurred.
And in Luke, Chapter 5, we’ll see an example
of how the Jewish religious teachers were angered
when Jesus broke from their traditions.
It starts off talking about
“a tax collector by the name of Levi.”
We know him better by the name “Matthew”—
the name he is called later in Luke and in the parallel passage
in the Gospel of Matthew.
Beginning at Luke 5:27, we read,
27 After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth.
"Follow me," Jesus said to him,
28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.
Matthew Levi may have already known Jesus
from past contacts that we’re not told about,
or this may be his first encounter.
We don’t know.
But we do know that he wholeheartedly embraced
this call to follow Jesus.
It was just like when Jesus called Peter and Andrew
from their fishing boats.
They left everything and followed Jesus.
And so did Matthew Levi.
Verse 29 tells us,
29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus
at his house,
and a large crowd of tax collectors and others
were eating with them.
30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law
who belonged to their sect
complained to his disciples,
"Why do you eat and drink
with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"
The Jews looked down on tax collectors as ‘sinners’
because they typically extorted more than the tax actually due,
and because they served the Gentile Roman occupation forces
who ruled the Promised Land at that time.
The Pharisees’ question—
actually their objection, their complaint—
was directed to the disciples,
but Jesus himself jumped in to answer. Verse 31 says,
31 Jesus answered them,
"It is not the healthy who need a doctor,
but the sick.
32 I have not come to call the righteous,
but sinners to repentance."
The Pharisees’ traditions taught them
to have nothing to do with sinners—
who they should have been trying to help.
They didn’t want to risk becoming ceremonially unclean,
or dirtying themselves,
by close contact with sinners.
Jesus put them to shame
by explaining that he came to help sinners,
like a doctor, to heal them spiritually,
and to call them to repentance.
But, instead of thanking Jesus
for this lesson in love and compassion,
the Pharisees immediately raised another complaint.
Verse 33 says,
33 They said to him,
"John's disciples often fast and pray,
and so do the disciples of the Pharisees,
but yours go on eating and drinking."
34 Jesus answered,
"Can you make the guests of the bridegroom
fast while he is with them?
35 But the time will come
when the bridegroom will be taken from them;
in those days they will fast."
Fasting was not required by the Law of Moses,
although the Pharisees and John the Baptist’s disciples
followed the practice.
Jesus illustrated why his own disciples did NOT fast,
by comparing himself to a bridegroom,
and the disciples to his wedding guests.
People don’t fast at a wedding feast.
But sad times were coming,
when Jesus would be taken from them,
and he said his disciples would fast then.
Jesus next gave a parable
that pointed forward to his replacing
the Old Testament’s old covenant
with a new and different covenant.
Beginning in Verse 36,
36 He told them this parable:
"No one tears a patch from a new garment
and sews it on an old one.
If he does, he will have torn the new garment,
and the patch from the new will not match the old.
Jesus was going to institute a whole new Christian arrangement
to replace the Jewish arrangement
as God’s way of dealing with mankind.
He wasn’t going to just patch-up Judaism
with Christian patches.
Rather, he was going to introduce
a whole new arrangement—like a new garment.
Then he went on in Verse 37
to make the same point using another illustration.
Back in those days wine was not put into corked glass bottles.
It was put into goatskins.
And, as the new wine fermented, it would expand the skin bottle.
So, Jesus said, at Verse 37,
37 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins.
If he does, the new wine will burst the skins,
the wine will run out
and the wineskins will be ruined.
38 No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins.
39 And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, 'The old is better.' "
The new covenant Jesus was about to institute
required all new trappings,
just as new wine required new wineskins.
People are reluctant to change.
They are inclined to say the old way,
that they are accustomed to, is better.
It would be hard for them to leave Judaism for the Gospel.
But Jesus wasn’t going to try to
pour Christianity into a Jewish container.
It would have to be all new.
Jesus’ authority to do that—
to turn Judaism upside down
and replace the Old Covenant with a New Covenant—
that authority all hinged on who Jesus is.
And he addressed that question of authority
on another occasion—
one that we read about only in the Gospel of John. [ OPEN ]
It’s found in John, Chapter 5.
John’s Gospel doesn’t talk about
Jesus calling Matthew Levi from his tax booth
and the banquet Matthew Levi put on
for his tax-collector friends and other ‘sinners.’
And the other Gospels
don’t talk about these events
that we read about in John, Chapter 5.
But, taken together,
these accounts give us a complete picture
of the challenge Jesus made to Jewish tradition.
Beginning at John 5:1, we read,
1 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem
for a feast of the Jews.
2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate
a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda
and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades.
3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie--the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.
Footnotes in most Bibles explain
that later manuscripts
—not part of the original Gospel of John—
add words to verse 3 about
‘waiting for the moving of the water’
and they add what the King James Version has as Vs. 4
about an angel stirring the waters,
resulting in healing for the first one in.
Apparently a later copyist
added those words, trying to explain
why sick people were lying there.
But John did not actually write those words.
They may have been written originally in the margin
as a marginal note,
and then a later copyist mistakenly
put them into the main text.
But the Apostle John’s actual words
continue in Verse 5, where he says,
5 One who was there
had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.
6 When Jesus saw him lying there
and learned that he had been in this condition
for a long time, he asked him,
"Do you want to get well?"
7 "Sir," the invalid replied,
"I have no one to help me into the pool
when the water is stirred.
While I am trying to get in,
someone else goes down ahead of me."
8 Then Jesus said to him,
"Get up! Pick up your mat and walk."
This passage shows Jesus’ authority to heal the sick.
It didn’t depend on whether the sick person had faith or not.
In fact, we’ll see in a moment
that this man didn’t even know who Jesus was.
Still, Jesus could command such an invalid to
"Get up! Pick up your mat and walk."
Verse 9 continues,
9 At once the man was cured;
he picked up his mat and walked.
The day on which this took place was a Sabbath,
10 and so the Jews said to the man
who had been healed,
"It is the Sabbath;
the law forbids you to carry your mat."
This response showed that the Pharisees
cared more about their traditions
than about the welfare
of the people they ministered to.
The Law God gave to Israel through Moses
included the Ten Commandments,
one of which said,
“Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God.
On it you shall not do any work.”
God didn’t say a person could not carry a mat.
It was the Pharisees who said that.
The Jewish religious leaders had added their own traditions,
spelling out exactly
what Jews could or couldn’t do on the Sabbath.
And they treated their traditions
as if they were God’s law.
If you broke their traditions,
they accused you of breaking God’s Law.
So, the Pharisees were accusing the invalid Jesus healed
of breaking the Sabbath.
Verse 11 continues,
11 But he replied, "The man who made me well
said to me, 'Pick up your mat and walk.' "
12 So they asked him, "Who is this fellow
who told you to pick it up and walk?"
13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was,
for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd
that was there.
14 Later Jesus found him at the temple
and said to him, "See, you are well again.
Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you."
15 The man went away and told the Jews
that it was Jesus who had made him well.
16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath,
the Jews persecuted him.
Our Lord Jesus DID keep the Law
that God had given to the Jews through Moses.
In fact, Jesus was the only man who kept that Law perfectly.
But he broke the traditions
that the Jewish religious leaders had added on top of the Law.
So, Jesus wasn’t going to take their accusations lying down.
He went on to assert his authority
to override their traditions.
In Verse 17, we read,
17 Jesus said to them,
"My Father is always at his work to this very day,
and I, too, am working."
18 For this reason
the Jews tried all the harder to kill him;
not only was he breaking the Sabbath,
but he was even calling God his own Father,
making himself equal with God.
The religious leaders got the point.
They understood that Jesus was claiming divine authority—
not just as a representative of God,
but as the Son of God,
equal with the father.
They were furious,
and they became all the more determined to kill Jesus.
But that did not deter Christ
from elaborating on his divine authority.
He gave them a mini-sermon
that only infuriated them further,
but that teaches us some important theology
that Jesus revealed here for the first time.
So, we’ll read that sermon-within-a-sermon
since it speaks for itself as to who Jesus is.
Continuing at Verse 19,
19 Jesus gave them this answer:
"I tell you the truth,
the Son can do nothing by himself;
he can do only what he sees his Father doing,
because whatever the Father does the Son also does.
20 For the Father loves the Son
and shows him all he does.
Yes, to your amazement he will show him
even greater things than these.
21 For just as the Father raises the dead
and gives them life,
even so the Son gives life
to whom he is pleased to give it.
22 Moreover, the Father judges no one,
but has entrusted all judgment to the Son,
23 that all may honor the Son
just as they honor the Father.
He who does not honor the Son
does not honor the Father, who sent him.
24 "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word
and believes him who sent me
has eternal life and will not be condemned;
he has crossed over from death to life.
25 I tell you the truth,
a time is coming and has now come
when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.
26 For as the Father has life in himself,
so he has granted the Son to have life in himself.
27 And he has given him authority to judge
because he is the Son of Man.
28 "Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice
29 and come out--those who have done good
will rise to live, and those who have done evil
will rise to be condemned.
30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just,
for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.
31 "If I testify about myself,
my testimony is not valid.
32 There is another who testifies in my favor,
and I know that his testimony about me is valid.
33 "You have sent to John [that’s John the Baptist]
and he has testified to the truth.
34 Not that I accept human testimony;
but I mention it that you may be saved.
35 John was a lamp that burned and gave light,
and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.
36 "I have testimony weightier than that of John.
For the very work
that the Father has given me to finish,
and which I am doing,
testifies that the Father has sent me.
37 And the Father who sent me
has himself testified concerning me.
You have never heard his voice nor seen his form,
38 nor does his word dwell in you,
for you do not believe the one he sent.
And now Jesus switches gears
in his mini-sermon
to show that the Jewish religious leaders
were unqualified to lead God’s people.
They claimed authority to interpret Old Testament Scripture
by their traditions.
They claimed authority to teach God’s people what Scripture meant.
But Jesus went on to say to them in Verse 39,
39 You diligently study the Scriptures
because you think that by them
you possess eternal life.
These are the Scriptures that testify about me,
40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
41 "I do not accept praise from men,
42 but I know you. I know that you do not have
the love of God in your hearts.
43 I have come in my Father's name,
and you do not accept me;
but if someone else comes in his own name,
you will accept him.
44 How can you believe
if you accept praise from one another,
yet make no effort to obtain the praise
that comes from the only God?
And now Jesus concludes
by really turning up the heat on the Pharisees.
They claimed to be the only ones
authorized to explain the Law of Moses to the people.
They rested their authority on Moses.
So, Jesus really hit a nerve, when he said in Verse 45,
45 "But do not think
I will accuse you before the Father.
Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set.
46 If you believed Moses,
you would believe me, for he wrote about me.
47 But since you do not believe what he wrote,
how are you going to believe what I say?"
The Gospel of John ends this episode here,
with Jesus telling the Pharisees that they didn’t believe Moses.
For them, that was the last straw.
Steam must have been coming out of their ears.
They had already decided to kill Jesus,
and from that point on,
they were just looking for an opportunity to do that.
The passages that we’ve looked at this morning
help us understand the transition
from Old Testament Judaism
to New Testament Christianity.
They help us understand the foundations
of the Christianity we believe and practice today.
God had indeed given his Law to the Jews through Moses.
And so that Jewish nation had preserved the Scriptures
and preserved knowledge of the true God
over the centuries
when the rest of the world fell into paganism.
But, by the time God sent his Son,
to finish his work of salvation,
Judaism had been corrupted.
The religious leaders had buried God’s Law
under piles and piles of traditions.
When Christ came, he kept the Law of Moses perfectly,
but he broke the traditions of the Pharisees.
And he set up a new covenant
that we read about in the New Testament.
It was completely new—
not Judaism patched-up with patches from a new garment,
or new wine poured into old wineskins.
As Christians, we are not under that Law of Moses.
It was given only to the Jewish nation.
And we are certainly not obligated to obey
the Jewish traditions
that the Pharisees added on top of the Law.
Jesus healed a man who had not walked for 38 years.
He told him to pick up his mat and walk,
and the invalid was healed immediately.
The Pharisees missed the whole point.
Instead of seeing this as proof of Jesus’ divine authority—
as proof of Jesus’ divinity—
all they could do was nit-pick
and complain that the man carried his mat on the Sabbath.
Jesus ate with corrupt tax collectors and sinners—
not to join them in their sin,
but to call them to repent, so that they could be saved.
I’ve seen situations in churches today,
where a sinner comes for the first time,
and instead of sharing the Gospel with him,
the church people who greeted him,
offered him a white shirt and a necktie.
Coming to church without wearing a white shirt and a tie
violated their traditions.
So, we can also learn from these passages
that we read this morning
to be more like Jesus
and less like the Pharisees.
The New Covenant that Jesus introduced
centers on mercy and love
and teaches us to reach out to sinners
with God’s love.