Mark Part 2 covers Chapter 2 and explains how we’ve totally missed the point on the Lord’s teaching about the Sabbath.
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We are ready for the second chapter of Mark. We began the study of Mark last week, last time—it wasn’t a week ago—and we, surprisingly, made it through chapter 1, which I didn’t know whether or not we could do that when I first started, but it looks like we were able to make it.
Tonight our goal will be to get through chapter 2. And you’re already saying, Gee, it should be a lot easier because there are only about half as many verses. But we managed to get, traveling around the Bible, pretty good, and so it doesn’t matter how many verses are in the chapter, it matters how many detours we take on our way. Like any other good trip, we’re looking for the journey, not the destination. And so we’ll begin here now with Mark 2.
You remember, Mark is writing from a compilation that he’s made of Peter’s sermons. He’s been traveling around with Peter and listening to Peter’s sermons and Peter’s teachings. He has been taking notes and recording those events, now he is compiling his notes into what’s called the Gospel According to Mark. And so many, many scholars, I believe rightly, consider the Gospel of Mark to be Peter’s account.
You remember from our study last time that Mark’s is called by many the Snapshot Gospel because you get little pictures here and there of things. There’s no flowing narrative as there is in the Gospel According to Luke, there is no tie-in to the Old Testament as there is in the Gospel According to Matthew, and there’s no mysticism as is contained in the Gospel According to John.
Mark is straightforward. He did this, then He did this, then He did this, then He did this-type of Gospel. He doesn’t waste any extra words on things, he gives you the facts, and then he moves on to the next situation.
We’re going to see that trend all the way through, and Mark 2 is no exception. So let’s look at Mark 2: 1. Jesus now is up in the North in Galilee in the area near His hometown.
And chapter 2 opens:
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them.
And so, Capernaum is actually Peter’s hometown on the other side of the Sea of Galilee from Nazareth. And so the region, called the Region of the Galilee, today that’s called the Golan Heights. The Golan Heights come straight down to the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, and so all these places here that we’re going to talk about are in that area that would today be the lower of the Golan Heights.
Okay, verse 3 now:
Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him into see Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and after digging through it lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
I don’t know if he’s talking about putting a hole in the man’s roof, or whether he’s got more than that in mind. But I always picture this when I’m speaking, if somebody started digging down through the top here, over our heads, and the dust started coming down and landing on the tables. And the ceiling tiles, maybe a couple of them fell down. You would notice, and it would take some nerve, wouldn’t it? For somebody to get up on the roof and cut through, and get somebody.
And so it did take a lot of faith for that to happen, and the Lord took note of it. Some in the group objected, however, to His comment, “Your sins are forgiven.”
And verse 8 says:
Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
You see, according to the Jewish doctrine of the Messiah, not even He could forgive sins. Only God could do this. The Jews, you know, their view of the Messiah was that He was a man. He was a descendant of King David’s, and so He was considered to be a man. Certainly a very Godly man, and one who was sent by God to perform specific things that the Bible had spoken of, but their view was that He was a man, and man cannot forgive sins, only God can do this. Now to understand their view here, you know you go back to Deuteronomy 6, and you remember something that the Jews called the “shema”. Are you familiar with that term, the “shema?”
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your mind and with all your strength.
That’s what they say; that’s their prayer. It’s a big deal for them. And they say this a lot, they sing it. And so it’s a prayer, it’s also a hymn, it’s something that they open services with. It’s something that they are taught to say every day, and so they had ingrained into their thinking that verse:
The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
And so that ruled out everybody else for them. There was no concept of a Trinity. There was no Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Messiah was called the son of David, a descendant of King David through the tribe of Judah. He was not considered to be God, come in the flesh. That was not an idea with which they were either familiar or comfortable. I mean, they rejected that idea. In fact, that’s the thing that got Jesus into so much trouble with them, is when he started acting like he was God. And you’ll see this right here, all right, at the very beginning of His ministry, you’ll see this.
And you see it all the way through His life, finally at the end of His life, when they brought Him before Pilate, what was their claim? This man has violated our law! He claims to be God!
And Pilate of course said, Well what’s that to me? That’s not a violation of Roman law, that’s a violation of your law. You take care of Him.
And then they said, Well you know what else? He claims to be the king!
And that’s what got Him. Because now they had a crime that was a crime under Roman law and that’s really what got Him. Actually, it was the fact that He claimed to be king. And so when the next guy comes along who claims to be the Messiah, they’ll be happy with him, right up until the point where he claims to be God. And I can just hear them now, as he does this, 2 Thessalonians 2:4 says:
He’ll stand in the temple proclaiming Himself to be God.
And when that happens, I can just hear them saying, Oh no, not again! Because that’s when they will depart, the believing Jews at that point. I don’t mean the believing in the Messiah, I mean the observant, religious Jews, will say once again, Nope, this cannot be. And they will not accept Him at that point. They will have accepted Him up until then, but they will not accept Him at that point. And that’s when Jesus says they should flee into the mountains of Judea because at that moment the Great Tribulation will begin. And then everything goes downhill real fast after that, in the worst set of circumstances ever to be witnessed on the face of the Earth.
Now Jesus, in a sense, predicted just this thing when He said, “I have come in My Father’s name and you have not received Me. Another will come in his own name and you will receive him.” Talking about the Antichrist. And that’s exactly what will happen. They will believe, at the beginning of things, that he is the Messiah and he’ll do such remarkable things for them that they will be convinced of that, and will be fooled by that as will most of the other inhabitants of Earth. Right up to the point where he says, Okay it’s time for me to reveal who I really am, I’m God. And that’s when the trouble starts.
Okay now we get on to verse 6—or was it verse 8? In verse 8:
Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit what this was this that they were thinking in their hearts
I wish I had that. I would like to be able to do that! That would save so much time and anguish if I just knew that.
He said, “Why are you thinking these things?”
Here’s a good question. Verse 9:
Which is easier: to say to this paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’?
And now He’s got them thinking here because it’s really an easy thing to say, your sins are forgiven, because nobody can tell. You won’t look any different; you won’t perhaps even act any differently. But if He was to say to him, Forget about the fact you’re a paralytic, and that you had to be lowered through the roof by these friends of yours, I want you to get up and pick up your mat and go home under your own steam.
You know, walking. So now He’s got their attention.
And verse 10 says:
But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” He said to the paralytic, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
Well, that’s right, they hadn’t. And so in this one event, He challenged their entire view of who God is. Because they were right, only God can forgive sins, but Jesus had just proved to them that He could do this, and the way He proved it was to have the man get up and take his mat and walk. And so what He’s saying to them now, you know between the lines, He’s saying to them, Take notice of this. Because I have answered your question. I am God. And therefore I can forgive sins on Earth. And the proof is, this paralytic just got up and walked home.
Now, this is at the beginning of His Ministry. And so right from the get-go, they got a problem because He is now challenging their understanding of the shema. He is real. The Lord your God the Lord is one. Well, before we get done here, in the three-and-a-half years of His ministry, He is going to be even clearer than that.
He said, “I am one with the Father.” And He’s going to say that on a number of different occasions to the point where they are saying, He can’t be God because He’s not doing the things that we believe God would do. Therefore He has to be committing blasphemy, a crime punishable, under our laws, by death. And therefore we’re going to have to find a way to put Him to death, because we can’t have the people following Him this way. It’s going to cause us huge problems.
And so, you remember what Caiaphas says in John’s Gospel, it’s better that one man should die for the nation than, you know we bring the whole thing down upon us. All right, so right from the beginning, you’ve got this issue going. And He has challenged them now, the fact that He has read their minds is a big enough deal, but then He’s answered their unspoken question in an unmistakable way.
Now we’re not told who repaired the man’s roof. I assume that they worked that out among themselves later. But it certainly was a dramatic thing, wasn’t it? To have that man lowered down through the roof because he was totally paralyzed, and then a few minutes later roll up his mat, pick it up and walk out in full view of everyone. That had to be a really dramatic scene for those people who were there, and I am sure that word spread far and wide about that event.
Okay verse 13 now:
Once again Jesus went out beside the lake.
This is the Sea of Galilee.
A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. And 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.
Levi’s name is also Matthew, and so Levi, of course, means he is of the tribe of Levi, but his name was also Matthew. He was a tax collector, a person not liked by his countrymen. Because in the first place, they felt that the Romans were taxing them illegally as well as excessively. I really don’t know of anybody who doesn’t believe any taxation is excessive, but they had a case.
And the second thing is, many of the tax collectors charged a fee for collecting the taxes, this is how they made their money. And so they collected the money that was supposed to go to Rome, but then they added a surcharge onto that, a carrying charge, for the privilege. And some of their fees were thought to be excessive, and so tax collectors were down on the bottom of the scale of admired people. Sort of like used car salesmen and politicians and attorneys are in our society today. They’ve sort of gotten themselves down, I don’t mean anybody here but I mean outside of this room, some are considered to be that way. And tax collectors were the used car salesmen of the day, let’s say, back in the days. So this is the calling of Levi, or calling of Matthew, if you will.
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. 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?”
Okay, you’ve heard tax collectors and sinners a number of times here, always used together. You can see how they’re considered. I don’t know how your translation is, but in mine, the word “sinners” is always in quotes, and so I’ve always viewed that as Mark’s way of saying, when he’s talking about sinners, well who isn’t?
I mean, if He didn’t eat with sinners, who would He be eating with anyway? But of course, in that day you know, the Pharisees thought, Well, of course, He would be eating with us!
Because you see their view was that they were keeping the law, and by keeping the law, they felt they were not sinners. And so there are only two responses—effects is a better word—there are only two effects available to us when we keep the law. The effect of keeping the law can be either fear or arrogance. Fear is a logical response to it because, if you’re a law keeper and you believe your salvation is dependent on keeping the law, you always have this fear in the back of your mind that you’ve broken one somewhere along the way, and aren’t aware of it. And it’s going to make everything else a waste for you.
The other reaction to this is arrogance. I’m keeping the law therefore I am righteous. I am better than anyone else because I can just see by looking, that those people are not keeping the law. And so, I am one of God’s people, and they aren’t.
Do you remember the parable (I don’t know if I can find it real fast), the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector? Here it is. It’s in Luke 18:9. Jesus is telling the story, and He’s comparing two people here.
The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. Luke 18:9 says:
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:
This is the arrogance response, right? They were confident of their own righteousness, and they looked down on everybody else. And so to challenge them, Jesus said in verse 10:
Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
Now, this again, these are hypothetical situations, and so what He’s choosing here are people at opposite ends on the scale, as they would see it. The tax collector would be on the low end of the scale, and they, the righteous person, the Pharisee, would be on the high end of the scale. They’re at opposite ends of the scale. And the two of them go up, stood up to pray.
The Pharisee stood and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
That’s some prayer, huh? Look at me, Lord, ain’t I great.
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. And he would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalt themselves will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
And so the idea here is that these Pharisees had this arrogance about them. They were confident that by their own actions, they were made righteous, and their attitude toward others was one of superiority. So we go back into Mark 2, and the Pharisees are saying, Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?
In verse 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.”
And here’s another great challenge to them, because in effect He’s saying, You have chosen to make your own way into the Kingdom, so go right ahead. I won’t bother you. I will concentrate on those who can’t make their own way. And those are the ones I came for. If you can make it on your own, you don’t need Me. Basically is what He is saying: I will concentrate on those that do need Me.
They should have known better, because if you turn back with me to Hosea 6 (it’s a book to the right of Daniel), Hosea 6:6. In Matthew 9, Jesus quoted this verse to them and challenged them to go home and study it. Mark left that out of his Gospel, but Hosea 6:6 says:
For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.
Now, this is right in the middle of the Old Testament. He is saying, I desire mercy, not sacrifice—an acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings. Even though the law required these things, it’s not what God really wanted. He wanted an attitude of mercy from them, and He wanted the sacrifices and the burnt offerings to be an acknowledgment of God.
For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.
It’s not a unique place in the Bible, and I can show you several of them. A couple of books further to the right is Micah, and let’s go to Micah 6. And again, verse 6.
Micah 6:6 (it’s 3 or 4 books to the right, after Jonah), which says:
With what shall I come before the Lord
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
and ten thousand rivers of oil?
Or shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has shown you, O man, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
Act justly. Do the right thing. Love mercy. That means be happy when someone else is treated mercifully, and extend mercy toward others.
Now the Pharisees were not good at this, okay? They were okay with acting justly, but loving mercy was not part of the deal. Because you see, the only two responses to keeping the law are fear and arrogance, and theirs was arrogance. Arrogance doesn’t go well with mercy, does it? The two emotions are not compatible.
And then, to walk humbly with your God. In other words, more like the tax collector in the parable, than like the Pharisee in the parable, right? The tax collector was a humble man. He knew he was a sinner; he didn’t even dare look at God when he came in to pray. He bowed his head and pleaded for mercy, and the Lord said, Okay. You go home justified because you know the way it is.
So all through the Old Testament, you see this. The sacrifices and offerings were not acceptable to God unless they were accompanied by an attitude of humility, and sincerity. In other words, no matter how many offerings they presented, unless they were accompanied by the right attitude, they were not acceptable to God.
In, I believe it’s in Isaiah, He said, Your attitude is such that when you bring a lamb to the offering, it’s like you’re bringing me a pig.
And you know how the Jewish people felt about pigs. And so the idea was, It’s not the offering you bring Me, it’s the attitude you have while you’re doing it.
Now you know how true that is today? It’s not what you do for God, it’s the attitude you have while you’re doing it that matters. You can be an absolutely just and upright person, and with the wrong attitude you can’t get anywhere. But on the only hand, you can have the right attitude and not be doing a very good job of living your life, and God will accept that, because He judges us on the motives of our hearts, not on our external behavior. Our external behavior—you know we judge each other on the base of our external behavior right? We look at a person, and we make judgments about them based on how he looks, how he acts, and things like that. Not the Lord, He looks inside, and He wants to see the motive of the person’s heart. That’s what’s important to Him.
He knows He doesn’t need any of our help, and so by helping Him, we’re not earning Him any points, or any points with Him. What earns points with Him is what’s the attitude of our heart when we’re helping. If we’re saying, Boy, it’s a good thing I showed up here tonight. How would they have ever gotten along without me? That doesn’t work.
But, if we show up saying, Lord, I am so grateful for what You’ve done for me. That while I know I’ll probably mess everything up that I do tonight, I’m doing it for You because of what You have done for me.
And at that point, the Lord says, You got the right idea. And, if you mess it up, I’ll fix it because I like your attitude.
And so it kind of reminds me of the price list on the wall of the mechanic. His labor price, you know. He says, my labor is 30 dollars an hour. This is an old sign! He says his labor is 30 dollars an hour. If you watch, it’s 45 dollars an hour. If you help, it’s 60 dollars! That’s the way it should be with the Lord, right?
All right, so let’s look at one more because a lot of people, they’re surprised to see things like this in the Old Testament because they hear such focus on behavior, behavior, behavior, keeping the law, doing this, doing that. There were 613 Commandments to keep; there were offerings every day that had to be made. There was a whole huge list of things, and it was one of the most complex and complicated religions ever devised. We think of the Old Testament that way, and we think of that as being its focus, and sometimes people are surprised to see these little passages about the grace of God, that have always been at the heart of His teachings of mankind.
Look at Psalm 51. In Psalm 51, David has just sinned with Bathsheba, and he’s coming in to the Lord to confess and ask for forgiveness, and here’s what he says. Psalm 51. It’s all through the Psalm, but I’ll just pick out a few passages.
Let’s start with verse 1:
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
This sounds like a New Testament thing, doesn’t it? But this is David 1,000 years before the Lord came, having committed two sins, both of which were punishable by death. He committed adultery with another man’s wife, and then he had the husband killed. Those are right up there at the top of most people’s list of things not to do, right? And he had done them both.
And does he come in and say, How many lambs is it going to take Lord to straighten me up here? How many, it’s almost like Micah, How many rivers of oil do I have to have flowing through the altar here to satisfy Your needs?
But he doesn’t say that, he says, Have mercy on me, according to Your unfailing love. According to Your great compassion, blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
Okay, and then he goes over, we’ll skip over to verse 10. And he says:
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Some of us sing that in our churches, don’t we? Are you old enough to remember that praise song?
And he says:
Do not cast me away your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
But restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
You’d almost think like he was in one of our churches somewhere, confessing a sin.
Now down to verse 16. He says:
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, You will not despise.
He understood it. He understood that what God wants from us is confession. Lord, I admit it, I’m a sinner, and I’m not here because I think I can earn my way back into Your favor with any kind of behavior. I’m here begging you for mercy. And I’m here asking You to have compassion on me, out of Your great love. If you like these other things, I’ll do them, but I know that’s not what You want. You want to look into my heart, and you want to see my humility. You want to see my brokenness. That’s what is going to please You, and so look within me and see this, and then I know that I will be restored because I am, sincerely, sorry.
If you were to paraphrase his discussion, his conversation with God, it would sound something like that, wouldn’t it? See, this has always been the case with God. Right from the beginning, when God came looking for Adam, He couldn’t find him. He finally caught up with him—I don’t suppose He had any trouble finding him!— but He caught up with him.
He says, “Where have you been?”
And Adam says, “I was hiding because I was naked.”
I love God’s response. “Who told you were naked? How did you know this?” And then it says, “What have you done?”
What was He looking for there? Confession. Do you realize how much different the world would be had Adam confessed? I believe that’s all God wanted, confession. What did He get from Adam? “It was that woman you gave me.”
You know the only thing you can say for Adam there is that that’s the first time God had ever heard that excuse. But it wasn’t the last, was it? And so He thought He’d give him one more chance. He went to the woman. And she said, “The devil made me do it!”
No help there either, huh? And so the creation was judged. Adam and Eve fell from grace, not because of their behavior, but because of their unwillingness to humble themselves before God and confess and seek His mercy. That should be our lesson for the night, shouldn’t it? It doesn’t matter what you do, it doesn’t matter how effective you think you are in working for the Lord, it doesn’t matter how much you give, and it doesn’t matter about anything. The Lord doesn’t want or need any of that. The only thing He really wants from you is to admit that you’re a sinner and confess. And He only wants that so that He can forgive you, because that’s what He really wants to do. He really wanted to forgive Adam and Eve; He didn’t want to judge the whole creation. He wanted to forgive them. He doesn’t want to judge you, He wants to forgive you. And the sooner you confess, the sooner He can do that and make everything right again.
So Paul didn’t make that up, it started in Genesis. It is the central theme of God’s word, from beginning to end. But man has too much pride, doesn’t he? And he’d rather perform a whole slew of religious acts than to have to humble himself and say, I’m sorry I did that, please forgive me. He does not ever want to do that but, man, the trouble we cause ourselves because we don’t.
I think it has physical as well as spiritual ramifications. I think our unwillingness to confess creates physical problems for us. It affects our health—it affects our mental health as well as our physical health—it affects our state of mind, everything about it. The guilt we carry around because we are too proud to humble ourselves and confess is an essential cause of our problems in trying to get along here.
I know we’re all going to get sick and die anyway, but what I’m talking about is in the meantime. How much worse do we make it for ourselves by justifying our behavior, by pretending we didn’t do anything, by denying we know what we did? How much worse do we make it for ourselves than if we had just gone to Him and confessed and gotten it over with?
All right, so you see we’re able to take these little snapshots and turn them into feature-length films, aren’t we? So we don’t have to worry that Mark hurried through this because we can stretch it out again. But there’s a couple more here in Mark we need to talk about tonight in order to reach our goal, and so let’s go back to Mark 2. And now we’re in verse 18, yes.
In verse 18:
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?”
It doesn’t say why they were fasting, or whether it was a fast day or anything like that, it just says that they were. The Pharisees as a group tended to fast—I think typically a couple days a week they would fast—and when they did (you can read about this and other parts of the Gospels), they always made it obvious that they were doing this. Because fasting in those days, it didn’t always mean, or didn’t just mean, depriving yourself of food. Fasting also meant you didn’t bathe or put oil on your skin to protect you from the sun. You didn’t comb your hair, you didn’t get ready for the day, you just got up and went out, and you looked sad and on the verge of starvation all day long.
And then people would come up to you and say, “Oh, look at you, are you fasting?”
“Oh, gee, you are a religious man.”
“Yes, I am, thank you.”
And that was how that went in many cases. Now they weren’t all like that, but some are like that. And so people noticed that all of John’s disciples were fasting, and they noticed the Pharisees were fasting, but the Lord was not fasting.
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.
It’s like going to a wedding. You don’t go to a wedding and then not eat! I mean eating is one of the reasons for being there, right? And so you don’t go to a wedding and not eat. That’s basically what He’s saying here. I’m the bridegroom, they’re with me, it’s time for celebration.
He says verse 20:
But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.
Yes they did. Because on that day none of them had an appetite.
2:21 now, this is another big teaching here:
“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”
I don’t know how much you know about the process, but they took new wine, wine they just crushed out of the grape, and they put it into a new wineskin where the leather hadn’t been all stretched out yet because the wine was going to ferment, and when it fermented it was going to expand. And the wineskin had to be able to expand with it, and so they took a new skin that hadn’t been dried and stretched out to its fullest, or else literally, the expanding wine could break the wineskin. And so He’s giving us a teaching here though because He’s saying you don’t mix old and new.
In the ultimate sense here, He’s talking about two Covenants. The whole Book of Hebrews, by the way, is about the fact that the Old and New don’t mix, you don’t put them together. People today try to put the two together, don’t they? They try to mix the law and grace, they try to have part of the Old and part of the New.
In a minute, we’re going to talk about the Sabbath. That’s a big issue today with some people, the Sabbath. And I’ll show you what the Bible says about the Sabbath, and you’ll probably hear something you’ve never heard before. Because we don’t talk about the Sabbath in the context of what it really means, we talk about it in the context of what day of the week it is. And so I won’t spoil our story ahead of time, but that’s where we’re going.
And so what He’s saying here is the Old and New, they don’t mix. You don’t mix Old and New. And so the fasting, in many people’s view, in the way they did it, the legalistic aspect of it twice every week—I know of groups where they require their members to fast, and they’re supposed to take the money that they didn’t spend on food and give it to the church that day. And that’s one of the fundraisers that some groups use, one of the ways they make money is they require their members to fast, and then they come around and collect the money that they didn’t spend on their food, and they give it to somebody else. And that’s okay if they want to do things that way, but it’s not Biblical, and it doesn’t fit.
Now there is a Biblical mandate for fasting, the Lord says in the Gospel of Matthew, in the Sermon on the Mount, He says when you fast (not if you fast) when you’re called to do that, then you do it. But if you don’t do it on a legalistic basis, it’s Tuesday today’s fast day, so I’m going to fast, that doesn’t do you any good. All that does is it teaches you to hate Tuesdays, all right? Anything else that happens is purely coincidental. No, He says, This is something new.
Okay now, this leads us then into this next passage, verse 23:
One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain.
Now, this is the Sabbath.
The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
What were they doing? They were harvesting the grain. And harvesting is unlawful on the Sabbath. By the time of the Lord, the Sabbath restrictions had gotten to the point where it was impossible not to break the Sabbath law. It was literally impossible.
For instance, I’ll give you one of the most extreme examples. If you were walking along, and you know, it’s dusty and dirty in the summer in a dry climate, and so you’re walking along, and you get some dust or something in your mouth that you don’t want there, and so you spit it out. If your saliva landed on a rock, you were okay. But if it landed in the dust, you were making mortar, and you had broken the Sabbath. This was one of the restrictions. And there were many others, but this is just one of them.
It was obvious these disciples walking along, reached down, they stripped the head off, and they were probably going to go like this with their hands and get the chaff off it, and then they were going to eat the wheat. Just like you would if you saw some cherries on a tree, you’d pick the cherries, and you’d eat the cherries, same idea.
He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 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.”
Now David, of course, was not of the tribe of Levi. He was not a priest, and he was not authorized to do this. If you go back to 1 Samuel 21:1-6, which we’re not going to bother to tonight, you can do this on your own. 1 Samuel 21:1-6, that event. And what you’ll find out is that it was the day-old bread, the showbread—there was a loaf for each of the twelve tribes baked with frankincense, and it was put in the temple fresh every morning. At night it was taken out, and a new set of twelve loaves were brought in, and they were on this table in the holy place, right outside the Holy of Holies, and they were there every day. That was something they did in the tabernacle first, and in the temple. It was commanded by God that they do this; it was every day. At night they took it out, it had been sitting there all day, so now it’s day old bread, and the priest ate it.
David went to the high priest, asked him for some bread. He said, “We haven’t eaten in a long time. We’re hungry. Do you have anything for us to eat?”
The priest offered David the bread. It was the day-old bread that they were going to give to the priest. He offered it to David, David took some of it, and he and his companions ate it. So that was the story.
Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
Okay, now we’re in a problem here. Because now He’s saying He is Lord of the Sabbath, which is another title that really belongs to God. Now you know all the Ten Commandments, and you know one of them is to keep the Sabbath holy, right? Do you also know that in the Old Covenant, it was illegal to break the Sabbath? It was a capital offense. Now what we mean by that is it was punishable by death.
Look back quickly with me to Numbers 15:32. It’s a real quick passage, and it’ll take longer to find it than it will to read it. But if you’re quick, we can get there. 15:32. And it goes down to verse 36.
While the Israelites were in the desert, a man was found gathering wood on the Sabbath. Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and the whole assembly, and they kept him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him. Then the Lord said to Moses, “The man must die. The whole assembly must stone him outside the camp.” So the assembly took him outside the camp and stoned him to death, as the Lord commanded Moses.
This is the only time we see this, but it’s there. And so at least on one occasion, a man was caught gathering wood on the Sabbath, a violation of the Commandment to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy, he was taken outside the camp. And there he was executed for his crime. Imagine what would happen if that was the case today. All right, so there’s part one of the idea that I want you to grasp tonight.
Here’s part two.
Of the Ten Commandments, there is one that’s not repeated in the New Testament. Of the Ten Commandments, there is one that is not repeated. All the other nine Commandments are repeated somehow, someway in the New Testament, but there is one that’s not. Any idea which one? You read ahead! It was the Sabbath. It is not repeated in the New Testament. There’s no Commandment in the New Testament to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.
What does the New Testament say about the Sabbath? Let’s look at Colossians 2:16. Paul writing here to the church in Colossians says:
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.
Don’t let anyone judge you about this, he says.
These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, is found in Christ.
Okay. So here he’s saying that the Sabbath was a shadow, or type, that was going to be fulfilled in the New Testament, and that’s why it’s not repeated in the New Testament. Paul, in Romans 14, I believe it is, Romans 14:5 said this about it:
One man considers one day more sacred than another; and another considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special does so to the Lord. He who eats meat eats to the Lord, and he gives thanks to God; and he abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.
Okay, so he’s saying one man regards one day of the week more holy than the others, I think he’s referring to the Sabbath. He says another man thinks all seven days are the same. And he’s saying there’s nothing wrong with that. Each of us should be convinced in our own heart as to what is right. It’s okay to consider one day more holy than another if we want to, and it’s okay to consider all days alike if we want to. All right?
So with those two verses, we’ve done something here that would conflict with a lot of people’s beliefs, wouldn’t it? Because what we’ve said is—I get probably, at least in the top ten of types of questions that I get on the website, is about the Sabbath. Is it Saturday or is it Sunday? Is it Saturday or is it Sunday? Some people are so vehemently opposed to the Sunday Sabbath. And they’ll show you all kinds of reasons why only people who go to church on Saturday can be saved. Other people are just as convinced that only Sunday works, and they have all the reasons why Sunday works.
When the Bible says it doesn’t matter, either day is okay. In fact, it’s okay if no days are called the Sabbath. Whatever you feel convinced of in your own mind is appropriate where that’s concerned.
Okay, so the people who are determined that there should be a day, one day set aside, a Sabbath day. And most of them, by the way, believe it should be Saturday. They go to the Old Testament, and they read me Numbers 15, the passage I read you about the person being killed for violating the Sabbath, and they say all the other Commandments are repeated in the New. Why would God not want us to keep the Commandment for the Sabbath, isn’t it one of the Ten?
And so then we go in and find out that the Sabbath is not repeated in the New, in fact, the verses I just showed you say it’s a matter for us to choose from the heart. It’s not a “have to,” in other words, it’s not something required of us, it’s something we do out of choice.
So what was the point, then, if as Paul said in Romans 15, “All things that were written in the past were written for our learning.” What is the point of the Sabbath?
We’ll go to Hebrews 4, and we’ll find out. Hebrews 4, and we’re going to look at verse 9. Hebrews 4:9 and we’re going to find out just what the issue is here. In Hebrews 4 in my Bible, the whole chapter is subtitled “A Sabbath rest for the people of God.” The writer to the Hebrews is going through the idea of the Sabbath in the Old Testament and how God set up a Sabbath day when He rested from all of His work, and how then, later on, He gave the Commandment to keep the Sabbath.
Then he says, later on, Joshua, when he went into the land, he also did this. And by the way, Hebrews 4 is one of the places in the Bible where the word for disobedience is also the word for unbelief. Where God uses a word that means unbelief everywhere and calls it disobedience as if to say that, If you don’t believe in Me, you’re actually disobeying Me.
And His point is, I’ve made Myself so clear to you, that there’s no justification for not believing in Me. I’ve done so many things, in so many different ways over so many thousands of years to prove Myself to you. There’s no longer any justification for you not believing Me. Those of you who don’t believe Me are actually being disobedient. Ignorance is no excuse.
And then in 1 Romans He says, Just look up in the sky. Look at the mountains. Look around you. This couldn’t have happened by itself; you should know that.
And so He sees unbelief as being disobedient. Let’s go down to verse 9. Hebrews 4:9 He says:
There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.
All right, what does He mean by that? When did God rest from His work? On the seventh day. And why did He rest on the seventh day? Because the work of creation was finished. That’s the lesson we’re supposed to learn. When the work is finished, we rest. Continuing to work after the work is finished is an indication that we don’t believe the work was finished. Okay? And so, in the Genesis account, God worked for six days in the creation, and then it was finished. And so on the seventh day, He rested. The work of creation was done.
How does that teach us anything from the New Covenant perspective? Think of the work of salvation, which is what the New Testament is all about. When the work of salvation is finished, what do you do? You rest. You stop working. And anyone who continues working after the work is done is demonstrating that they don’t believe the work is done. And, by not believing the work is done, they are guilty of a crime that is punishable by death. What crime is that? Unbelief. Unbelief in what? Unbelief in the completed work at the cross.
Anyone who continues to work for his own salvation, to either get it or to keep it, after he has confessed his belief in what Jesus did at the cross, is demonstrating that he does not believe that the Lord finished the job, and therefore he has to finish it. Therefore he does not believe in salvation by faith, therefore he is guilty of a crime punishable by death because he’s not really a believer.
Now you get it? This is a statement that is difficult for a lot of people to accept, but I’m firmly convinced that the whole Sabbath argument is a tempest in a teapot! Arguing whether it’s Saturday or Sunday is not the point. The point is, was the work finished or not?
When we accepted the Lord as our savior, if we really in our heart accepted the Lord as our savior, then we believe the work is finished, and we enter into a Sabbath rest that lasts the rest of our life. Just as God rested when He finished His work, we rest when we finish ours.
God rested on the seventh day, right? What did He do on the eighth day? Did He start creating again? No, He never did any more creation, because on the sixth day it was finished. The seventh day He rested. It doesn’t say anything about going back to work Monday morning, does it?
The idea here is that when God rested from the work of creation, He rested. It was done! When we rest from the work of our salvation, we rest because it’s done. That rest lasts us the rest of our life. From that point on, it’s our faith in the fact that the work is done that saves us, right? It’s not the other things we do to add to it, or to keep going on it, or to finish what was only begun. It’s the rest of the job—there is no rest of the job because the job was finished.
Anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.
And so, the lesson in that Commandment to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy, is fulfilled in our remembrance that when the work of salvation was finished, we rested.
This is why in John 6:28:
When they asked him, “What is the work that God requires of us?”
Jesus came back with one simple sentence:
“The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
That’s all the work you do. Everything from that point forward is by faith. And you rest in the completed work of Jesus. And by resting, you demonstrate to God in the motive of your heart, your faith, and you are saved. You know, if we went two steps further with this, we could actually say that the people who continue to work for their salvation aren’t saved because they don’t believe that Jesus did the work.
For example, I know groups whose theology goes something like this: That the doctrine of grace, what that really means, is that after you’ve done everything you can, if there’s any difference, God will make it up.
That’s what they believe the doctrine of salvation by grace means. After you’ve done everything you can to get yourself saved, if you fall a bit short, God will look and say, Yeah, he did everything he could, I’ll make up the difference.
Isn’t this crazy? Doesn’t that sound different from what we’ve come to believe here? So this I believe, is the lesson. And I also believe this is why the Lord actually went out of His way, to work on the Sabbath when He would be seen doing so. Have you ever had that suspicion about Him? That He went out of His way, it’s almost like He looked around and, Yeah they’re watching, and it’s the Sabbath, you’re healed!
It’s like He almost was taunting them, it almost seems like! Now I know He doesn’t have these kinds of motives, but I believe that He made a point about this for the reason that He wanted to show that the work was now done.
When He got finished at the cross, I also believe that’s why when He got finished, what He said was, “It is finished.” I believe that that’s the reason why that phrase was chosen because now, it’s a matter of faith.
Okay, I’m going to stop the study here, we’re about at the end of our time, let’s call chapter 2 complete. The work is finished! And so we’re going to stop.