Signs, Signs, everywhere a sign.

Signs” was a pop music hit released in 1971 by the group, The Five Man Electrical Band. The song questioned the right of anyone to put up signs and make rules that interfere with nature.  Over 50 years later, It seems we still have signs everywhere to prohibit people from going places or doing things. Signs and rules are good when they keep us from being hurt or hurting someone else. But sometimes rules get in the way.

In Luke 6:1-11, we will discover that Jesus didn’t let rules stop Him from meeting needs and fixing hurts. There are two stories that happened on two separate Sabbath days.

Jesus in the Field.

Jesus’ disciples were hungry – a physical need. God had a rule that farmers had to keep some of their crops in the field for people to eat if they were hungry. It was called ‘gleaning.’ However, since this was the Sabbath, religious leaders made extra rules that made this illegal. God said to rest on the Sabbath, but there were 39 manmade rules that controlled work on the Sabbath. Four of those prohibited reaping, threshing, winnowing, and preparing food. Jesus and His disciples were considered guilty of doing all four and, thus, broke the Sabbath.

But Jesus went back to an event in David’s life from 1 Samuel 21. As the next anointed king of Israel, the current king tried to kill him. So he ran with some men and stopped at the Tabernacle to get supplies. The only food was the Show Bread that represented the presence of God. When David asked for it because they were hungry, the priest gave it to him. Human hunger was a higher priority than any ceremonial policy or rule.

Here’s the lesson: 

Rules should help us meet needs.

How do you know when you should break/bend the rules? I think Jesus gives us the answer. When confronted about breaking the Sabbath rules, Jesus had two superior rules:

  1. The authority of the Bible. If David could do it, so could He. What does the Bible say?
  2. The authority of the Jesus. Jesus appealed to His own authority, as the Lord of the Sabbath. Jesus claimed to have authority over any Sabbath rules, since as God, He made the original Sabbath rule. People can make all the rules they want, but Jesus has authority over all man-made rules. What does Jesus say?

Beware of the limits placed on you that keep you from meeting people’s needs. Rather than a barrier, rules should make meeting people’s needs easier.

Jesus in the Synagogue.

On the Sabbath, Jesus meets a man with a paralyzed hand. This is the last confrontation Jesus had with the Pharisees. They had already objected to Jesus forgiving sins (5:17-26), associating with sinners (5:29-32), challenging traditions involving fasting (5:33-39), and Sabbath work (6:1-5). This story sums up the two approaches to rules. To Jesus rules were to promote loving God and other people. To the Pharisees rules were to promote them over others. We become more like Pharisees when we use rules to judge and condemn others. We are more like Jesus when we use rules to reach out to others in love.  A man had a withered hand. The Greek word is used of a dried up plant. Luke, the doctor, notices that it is his right hand. Jesus knows he is surrounded by Pharisees looking to condemn the healing. So he asks a simple question: Should we do good on the Sabbath? Refusing to do good means doing evil. There is no middle ground. In other words, “Your Sabbath may leave people hungry and hurting, but my kind of Sabbath is different. Jesus doesn’t do anything. He simply tells the man to put out his hand and it is healed. But the Pharisees were more interested in maintaining their rules and traditions than helping a man.

Here’s a story about tradition…

A young girl was watching her mother bake a ham for a family gathering and noticed her mom cutting off the ends before placing it in the oven. “Mom, why do you cut the ends off before baking the ham?” she asked.“Hmmm… I think it helps soak up the juices while it’s baking. I’m not sure, though. That’s just the way your grandma always did it, so I’ve just always cut them off. Why don’t you call grandma and ask her?”So, the little girl phoned her grandma and asked “Grandma, mom is making a ham and cut off the ends before placing it in the oven. She said that it’s probably to help soak up the juices but wasn’t sure. She said you’d know because she learned how to cook from you.”“That’s true. I do cut off the ends of the ham before baking. But I’m not sure why either. I learned how to cook from my mom. You should ask her.”So, the inquisitive little girl called her great grandmother and asked “Great grandma, mom and grandma said they learned how to cook a ham from watching you. Do you cut off the ends of the ham to help it soak up the juices?”The great grandmother chuckled. “Oh, no sweetie. I just never had a pan big enough to hold a whole ham, so I always had to cut off the ends to make it fit.”

Here’s the lesson: 

Rules should help us fix hurts.

Look for opportunities to do good to other people no matter what people will say about the kind of people you are associating with or the way things have always been done in the church.

So what should we do?

  1. Open your eyes. Look around you and see needs unmet and hurts unfixed.
  2. Check your inner rules. What’s keeping you from moving forward? What
  3. Pray. Ask God what you can do. You can’t do it all but you can do something and something is better than nothing.
  4. Do Something. Take one step forward and let it happen. You’ll be surprised what God does for one person who at least attempts to meet needs and fix hurts.

I love this story about Billy Graham taking down the ropes…

Billy Graham grew up in the segregated south with sign declaring “Whites Only” and “No Colored Served Here.” Division by color of skin was the abnormal accepted thing and black people who showed up at a ‘white’ church would be met at the door and redirected to a church for ‘their kind.’ Billy Graham became a national figure in 1949 with the Los Angeles Crusade and held many city-wide crusades with thousands attending. In the south, whites and blacks were seated in different sections. That was the rule. But the Holy Spirit was working on Billy’s heart. The defining moment came in 1953 – before the Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus, before Montgomery Bus Boycott, before the civil rights march on Washington, before Martin Luther Jr. said, “I have a dream.” Billy Graham had a crusade in Chattanooga, a Tennessee city with deep racial division. The stadium where the crusade was to be held had been divided into white and black sections, as was the rules. Ropes marked the division. When Billy Graham came to the stadium prior to the first night, he saw the ropes. This time, he said, “NO!” With holy passion he mounted the steps of the stadium and began to pull down the ropes and the signs. Local crusade organizers tried to stop him. He bluntly told them, “Leave the ropes down or you can have the ropes without me.” The ropes stayed down. The gospel was preached. Whites and blacks came forward to receive Christ because one man said “No” to the rules. What ropes do you need to take down to meet the needs and fix the hurts of people?