On a Sabbath, while he was going through the grain fields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands. But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?” And Jesus answered them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those with him?” And he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”
One of the most powerful examples of how Jesus cultivated disciples is Luke 6. Here we find an entire section of Scripture revealing how Jesus called and developed disciples within a culture of non-discipleship. This text is the background with what Jesus was dealing with in terms of Israel’s Pharasitical rule. There are several things that are noteworthy:
First, Jesus was starting his discipleship ministry from scratch. The religious environment of Pharisees was the furthest from a healthy disciple-making culture. In fact there was nothing healthy about starting a discipleship ministry in the legalistic religion of the Pharisees. Jesus was not only starting from scratch but he would be operating against the grain of the prevailing “programing and structures” that were in place already. He was not going to get any help from the Pharisees and there was little in place that created a favorable environment to help develop disciples.
Secondly, Jesus pointed out that existing programs and traditions were actually hindrances to making disciples. Jesus and his men were “doing work” on the Sabbath according to the Pharisees and they were quick to challenge Jesus and his disciples. The obvious problem here is the Pharisees were protecting their rules, regulations and traditions they had established. They were vigilant to point out the mistakes and errors of others according to their beliefs. Jesus uses the illustration of David going into the temple and grabbing the “consecrated bread” and eating it to demonstrate their perspective was not about honoring the Lord but simply controlling others to meet their expectations, not what truly honored God. The point here is that their personal convictions, tradition, and legalistic methods were intended to keep people from breaking God’s law not about honoring him.
Thirdly, Christ is the Lord even over the Sabbath. The obvious point is that even holy days, like the Sabbath were all about honoring God not about failing God. The Pharisees were more worried about failing than living with a faith that truly honored God and lived in the freedom of following Him. When we read in Romans 14:1-9 we run into the dilemma of God inserting the Gentiles into the body of Christ through the gospel. The unique ethnicity of the Jews was decimated by this group of Gentiles that had no respect for the traditions of the Jews. Holy days, festivals and Sabbaths were not important to them and were not necessary to “keep them” in order to be pleasing to God. The focus is about following Christ not about keeping laws. Jesus was going to create a whole new paradigm, a new perspective that would transcend tradition, programs and legalistic methodologies for relationship with the Son of Man.
When it comes to disciple-making we often want our existing programs, traditions and practices to be good enough. The problem is that often we become more concerned about making sure people keep our policies than fulfilling the missional purpose of God in Christ. This does not mean we have to dump all our programs and ministry structures but we need to be willing to examine our own prejudices about what success looks like if we are going to keep in step with what God is doing. Secondly we are often driven by fear of change than faith in being transformed in a genuine relationship with Christ. Thirdly, like the Pharisees, we can often be paralyzed by the fear of failure than taking the risk of following God’s intended purpose. We love the security and comfort of things being stable and not changing. But our commitment to protecting our own insecurities in an every changing world cannot take precedent over following the Lord of the Sabbath.
In His grace, Pastor Brad