Servant King – Week 3 – Jesus’ Authority vs Man’s Traditions

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January 22, 2017

Servant King – Week 3 – Jesus’ Authority vs Man’s Traditions

Servant King – Week 3 – Jesus’ Authority vs Man’s Traditions


Traditions from Fiddler on the roofOne of my favorite musicals of all time is Fiddler on the Roof. In that musical the opening of the entire production starts with a song called “Tradition”.

Because of our traditions we’ve kept our balance for many many years… We have traditions for everything. How to sleep, how to eat, how to work, how to wear clothes. For instance we always keep our heads covered, and always were a little prayer shawl. This shows our constant devotion to God. You may ask, how did this tradition get started? I’ll tell you… I don’t know. But it’s a tradition, and because of our traditions, everyone of us knows who he is, and what God expects him to do.
Traditions, without our traditions our lives would be as shaky as a fiddler on the roof.

Well today we are going to see Jesus go head to head with the religious traditions of his day. But before we look at that, I want to prep us for how this applies to us. You see we may not have the same kinds of traditions that were in Jesus’ day but we still have many things in our lives that might fall under the same categories. Security, patterns, ways of thinking, presuppositions, opinions, preferences. In fact some of the things that have caused people to leave this church, boil down to traditions. There is actually a thing in the church world called “worship wars”. And it encompasses everything from music, to preaching, to decor, to practice. But, ultimately most of it comes down to tradition.

So here is what I want us to challenge our selves with today. Are we willing to set aside anything to follow Jesus? Are we willing to let go of our preferences in order to follow Jesus on the mission he is calling us to? You see as a we become his servants, He will call us to step out of our way of doing things and instead step into His call to follow. It will be uncomfortable, in fact some might even condemn you for doing it that way. But ultimately, what does God say? Remember God has given us his word to be the authority in our lives. It becomes the standard by which we follow the call of God in our lives.

Will you pray with me right now? God would you speak through your word? Would you help us to put aside anything that would hinder your call in our lives to follow you completely? Would you help us to surrender to you today?

Remember up to now we have seen Jesus call some disciples, He has demonstrated His power and authority over every aspect of life, but He has left us with a choice to obey, or disobey. Now Jesus begins the hard work of stripping away the things that keep us from following him completely.

Mark 2:13-17
13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.

15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

What do we see here that Jesus establishes as His mission?

We could spend a long time on these few verses. But let’s just hit some highlights here. Jesus is heading out of Caperneum at this time and He comes along to a tax collectors booth. Now keep in mind that Jesus has set up his home base of ministry in Galilee, specifically here in Caperneum. The crowds would have been following Him all around. So undoubtedly this tax collector would have at least be familiar with Jesus and what He has been doing. Many commentaries speculate that Levi’s tax booth would have been located along the very busy road called the Via Maris, “The Way to the Sea” and that he would probably be charged with collecting taxes on imports and exports, goods for domestic trade, and virtually anything that moved on that road. they even charged tariffs in packages, letters and any thing else they could find to tax. Thier assessments were often arbitrary and capricious. Josephus who was a Jewish historian and was also the Governor of Galilee records that Herod collected 200 talents (roughly 5 million dollars) from Galilee and Perea each year. One of the main pieces of commerce in the area was called the fish tax. Put your self in Peter’s place for a moment. Peter was a fisherman, every time he went out and caught fish as he would bring His haul back he would have to go see Levi, and pay a tax. I am sure that Peter knew Levi very well and I am sure they were not friends.

So Jesus looks over at this tax collector (this publican, this swindler, low life, traitor) and says “Follow Me” and Levi gets up and leaves everything and does just that. Of all the disciples Levi (Matthew) gives up the most to follow Christ. Why would he do that? For all the wealth and success Matthew had in his life, he lacked something. You see as a tax collector, Matthew had lost of money, a big house, all the trappings of a good life. But he was a Jew cut off from his heritage. Tax collectors where consider the lowest of society, They were lower than the gentiles. They would not even be able to enter into the synagogue to pray. Matthew was not always this way. He would have been raised to be a good Jewish boy. He would have memorize the First 5 books of the Old Testament. He was highly intelligent, and would have wished to be picked by some rabbi to “follow him” but instead he was rejected. We are not sure what path Matthew’s life took to lead him to chose to become a tax collector, but somehow he ended up as enemy number 1 in his society. His dreams for becoming a good Jew, a well respected man, were gone.

Then Jesus (this amazing Rabbi) comes along and says follow me. Matthew give it all up for a second chance. There was no turning back. Next thing we know Jesus is at Matthew’s house for a giant party. And Jesus is the guest of honor.

Notice this is the first time we see Jesus eating in this Gospel, and who is he doing it with? The lost. We talked about it at New years but one of the rhythms we want to adopt this year is eating with those who need Jesus. This is why, it is common for Jesus to eat and hang out with those who need Him. Now here is where tradition is put on it’s head. The Pharisees see him doing this!

The word pharisee means (separated one) the tradition of the pharisees was to shun people like this “sinner” and his friends. Their “hollier than thou” attitude came out. They are not worthy to be
around us.

But here is a question that has puzzled me, “Why were they there?” no good respecting Jew would ever go to a tax collectors house for a party. I can’t answer the question, other than they went to try and attack Jesus. You see they were so offended by Jesus rejecting their traditions and rules that they went out of their way to try and attack and discredit Him. They were so threatened by the Good News that they tried to make him look bad. They start going around and talking to His disciples, stirring up problems. “Why is he doing that? I can’t believe he would do such a thing!”

They start making such a scene that Jesus overhears it and He puts them in their place. It’s a humorous scene to say the least, but before we cast judgment on the pharisees, what about us? What if someone walk in here today that clearly looked like they didn’t belong. I seen this happen, unfortunately I have seen it happen here. I watched as a young couple attended last year sometime and when they showed up they looked different, They had tattoos and piercings all over. They sat by themselves, I didn’t see anyone approach them. They never came back.

You see Jesus challenges us to step out of our comfort zone, to befriend those who are different than us, to put aside our prejudice and invite everyone to be part of the Kingdom.

Mark 2:18-22
18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”
19 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. 20 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.
21 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. 22 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”

Mark makes another abrupt change of scene but still keeps the topics of food and traditions in place. As there is a question from “some people” about why Jesus is not following the same traditions as John’s followers or the Pharisees. It is a bit strange that John’s disciples and the Pharisees are lumped together here since the Pharisees and John did not really get along. It’s speculated that since John was beheaded that some of his followers returned to a more traditional path that they came from. Almost like they were jumping from one group to another. Not unlike what we see in the church world today, people jumping from one church to another looking for something to satisfy their preferences. But Jesus’ call to each of us is to be followers of Him. To serve and grow where he has us until he moves us.

Jesus responds to their question is actually 3 small parables, with the same meaning. The first one makes the most sense to us because we see the direct application. Jesus manysays “I am doing something new, and that means you can’t stay in your tradition and experience the fullness of what I have for you.” Now mind you he does not condemn the tradition he just says it is just not the time for that tradition now. The Gospel message was being to change the way things worked. All were welcomed, it was to be a celebration.

You see fasting had become a ritual without meaning, The purpose of fasting is to heighten awareness of God’s presence and direction. So the person would pray and be more sensitive to the Spirits leading. But the truth was Jesus was God in flesh, His presence was there. There was no need to ask for direction from the Spirit. Jesus was showing them the way. Then Jesus talks about cloth and wine. Each of these parable reinforce the meaning Jesus told them. See how many times he uses the words old and new? He is drawing a stark contrast to the fact that The gospel is a new thing, it makes everything new, including us. He basically says stop trying to apply your old way of doing a life, to the new life I am calling you to.

How often do we need to do this today? We try and go back to the good old days, or worse yet we revert back to old sinful patterns, instead of letting the truth of the Gospel propel us into a new life. There was a great book written many years ago called “Who moved my cheese” it was a modern parable about “change” and it related that many of us hate change. But if we embrace change we can begin to enjoy what God has for each of us.

Lets not resist change. Lets move on and change to the next verses. 🙂

Mark 2:23-28
23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
25 He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”
27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

Next Jesus goes head to head with the Pharisees again, over their most valued tradition. Sabbath! And notice it’s once again wrapped up in an argument about food. But it is not really about the food. It is about ritual observance of the law, over the true heart and purpose of what God has given. Now I have to confess, if there is one commandment that I believe we break in todays society more than any other I think this is it. We do not observe a sabbath. But Jesus was not even breaking the sabbath.

This is where legalism is so dangerous. Legalism is the adding to what God has said in order to make sure you don’t break God’s laws. I grew up in a very legalistic church. I grew up with all kinds of really strange and silly rules. I remember things like women had to where hats to church on Sunday. Men and boys could not where shorts except when playing certain approved athletics. Women and girls never wore pants ever (coulots) Button down shirt and tie at church always. (I remember my pastor cutting His lawn in a shirt and tie.) You couldn’t play cards, couldn’t go to any movies, any alcohol was strictly forbidden. You couldn’t go swimming with any one of the opposite sex. Dancing was a sin. Secular music was of the devil.

So why all the rules? I was told it was to have a good testimony. I was told if I didn’t follow all the rules that God would be angry with me and punish me. Let me say this up front. That is not the Gospel! That in fact is the farthest thing from the Gospel that could exist.

What Jesus reveals to them that they had lost the meaning of the Sabbath. Sabbath was given to be a blessing to them, but instead they had turned it into a ritual with so many restrictions that it became a burden on everyone. Then if anyone crossed one of the restrictions they felt God would be displeased with them. Finally Jesus rounds out His rebuke of their thinking, by telling them that He has authority over even the Sabbath. This no doubt made them angry, because (1) he was claiming to be God and (2) He was claiming authority over them and their way of teaching the people.

For more from this series you can CLICK HERE.

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