Andrew Fountain - Luke: Why Jesus' commands are not legalism

Why Jesus’ commands are not legalism—Luke 6

  • How does this fit in with grace?
  • How come Jesus does not spend his time telling people he loves them just the way they are and there is nothing they can do to make him love them more or less.
  • Where is the grace?
  • On the surface this looks like Jesus is giving us a whole lot of commandments
  • When we look closely at them, there is something very different about them

1. These commands are all upside down

  • Go through the verses

v.17-19 healing everyone who wanted to be healed

  • It is absolutely essential that we have this context (more in a moment)
  1. And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon,
  2. who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured.
  3. And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.

v.20-26 —Upside-down Blessings and Woes

  • This is not to be taken in absolute terms or it would be ridiculous
    • “Christians should never laugh and always be hungry”
  • It is about our life goals
    • If our goal is to be rich, full and happy, then it will all turn to dust in our hands
    • If we are willing to give those things up for the kingdom, then we will get 10 times more
    • Jesus said in Luke 18, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”
  1. And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:
    Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
  2. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.
    Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.
  3. Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!
  4. Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven;
    for so their fathers did to the prophets.
  5. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
  6. Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.
    Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
  7. Woe to you, when all people speak well of you,
    for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

v.27-38 —Upside-down Behaviour

  1. But I say to you who hear,
    Love your enemies,
    do good to those who hate you,
  2. bless those who curse you,
    pray for those who abuse you.
  3. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also,
    and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either.
  4. Give to everyone who begs from you,
    and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.
  5. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
  6. If you love those who love you,
    what benefit is that to you?
    For even sinners love those who love them.
  7. And if you do good to those who do good to you,
    what benefit is that to you?
    For even sinners do the same.
  8. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive,
    what credit is that to you?
    Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount.
  9. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return,
    and your reward will be great,
    and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.
  10. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
  11. Judge not, and you will not be judged;
    condemn not, and you will not be condemned;
    forgive, and you will be forgiven;
  12. give, and it will be given to you.
    Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap.
    For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.
  • This is the meat of the passage
  • Jesus leaves us in no doubt of what he means
  • You couldn’t say afterwards “you know I am not really sure of what he is getting at. Maybe...”
  • Twice (35, 36) he says this is God-like behaviour
  • The climax is in v.38 which really sums it up.

v.39-49 —Living like you Talk

  1. He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?
  2. A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.
  3. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
  4. How can you say to your brother,
    ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’
    when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye?
    You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye,
    and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.
  5. For no good tree bears bad fruit,
    nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit,
  6. for each tree is known by its own fruit.
    For figs are not gathered from thornbushes,
    nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush.
  7. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good,
    and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil,
    for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
  8. Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?
  9. Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like:
  10. he is like a man building a house,
    who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock.
    And when a flood arose,
    the stream broke against that house and could not shake it,
    because it had been well built.
  11. But the one who hears and does not do them
    is like a man who built a house
    on the ground without a foundation.
    When the stream broke against it,
    immediately it fell,
    and the ruin of that house was great.”
  • The first part is about teachers, good and bad
    • Blind teachers are not good, in fact they are dangerous!!
    • Hypocritical teachers are not good
  • Then he says, the only thing that counts in the end is what fruit you product
    • You have to have a new heart to product good fruit
  • He ends with the famous parable
    • (I was planning to demonstrate this live with a sandbox, some model houses and a big bucket of water)
    • Often this is taught in Sunday School as “build your life on Jesus and you will be ok in the end”
    • But what Jesus actually said was “Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them...”
    • It is about actually following these commands.
    • If you follow these commands, you will live. If you don’t you will die.

Is Jesus being legalistic?

  • These are a very odd set of commands
  • When we look closely at them, they are not like the law at all
  • None of them make sense (at least not human-sense)

2. You would have to be pretty convinced Jesus was right to do them

  • This lifestyle is a formula for failure unless Jesus is to be trusted
  • You would end up with nothing left and nothing to show for your generosity
    • I had a friend who invested all his money in a “get rich quick” scheme out of Nigeria
    • He told me with a twinkle in his eye that he would soon be able to pay off all his debts
    • He had his eyes on all the things he could do once this investment paid off—new car, new clothes, maybe even a house...
    • He lost everything, and it took months before he could even pay his rent
    • Following Jesus involves a risk
  • If Jesus could not be trusted...
    • you would not have any time or energy to spend on yourself and so would be miserable and neglected.
  • It all hangs on believing what Jesus says about God’s blessings making is worthwhile
    • v.23 “Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven;”
    • v.35 “and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High”
    • v.38 “give, and it will be given to you.
      Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap.
      For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
  • So it all comes down to one word: Faith
    • and the Faith is in Jesus —in other words, “Can he be trusted”
  • So what looks on the face of it like lots of laws, is actually faith.

3. The Gospel according to Jesus

  • How can we sum up Jesus’ preaching in a couple of words?
    • ??
  • The words would be, “Follow Me!”
  • He says it so many times:
    • Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. —spoken to the fishermen, Peter & John, mending their nets
    • Leave your tax collecting and follow me —Matthew, sitting...
    • Take up your cross and follow me —spoken a number of times
    • Leave all you have and follow me —rich young ruler
  • Following Jesus was not primarily about walking around after him
    • If we are talking about diets, and I say “I follow Dr. Bernstien”
      • we don’t mean I stalk the poor doctor, following him around every day
    • Twelve of them did literally follow him,
    • but was he was primarily interested in was them following his teaching and example
  • Jesus himself did all these things
    • Read 27-29a Did Jesus to those things?
    • Read 35 We are actually told to do this to follow God’s example
    • The same for 36
    • In fact Jesus gave us an amazing example by coming from heaven to save those who hated him
    • He did all of the things on this list to an extreme
  • But, and this is very important, Jesus didn’t only say “follow me”, he also uses a couple of other phrases
    • “Come to me” and “abide in me”
    • “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest”
    • “Abide in me and you will produce fruit”
  • The whole problem with these commandments is that they take faith
    • They would actually be easier to obey if they didn’t
    • If God said “Don’t put your fingers into the electical outlet or you will die”
      • Once you had seen a couple of people try and and been electrocuted, you would have no trouble obeying.
    • But you can’t work up faith, no matter how hard you try
    • That is why Jesus says, “Come to me, rest in me, abide in me”
    • He gives us the faith
  • So the Gospel of Jesus is “Come to me and I will give you a heart of faith, so you can follow me”
    • Actually that makes it sound too much like a sequence
    • It all happens at once
      • like the man with the withered hand who was told to stretch it out
        • which came first, the healing or the faith to move it?
      • like the lame man who got up and walked
        • It was as he tried to put faith in Jesus, the gift of faith and healing came
      • So as we stretch ourselves to follow these words of Jesus
        • the faith and strength to do it flows into us

4. Back to the original question—how does this relate to grace?

  • Jesus brings us grace
  • What is the response to grace?
    • it is faith
  • That is why it is so important that he had just done all these miracles
    • display of grace and power
    • This teaching is immediately following an amazing display of grace
      • It is the response required
  • But what does faith look like, —it is not an abstract pose, looking up to the sky piously
    • It looks like following him
  • Grace is Jesus coming to us, this morning... Imagine we are lame: he says “Get up and walk”
    • So the response to Grace is faith or unbelief
  • Jesus is coming to all of us and saying “Love your enemies, be generous, be forgiving”
    • Your response is not a matter of law, but a matter of faith
    • As you start to try to follow him, he gives you the strength, just as he did with the lame man
  • You have heard it said, and it is very true:
    • “There is nothing you can do to make God love you less
      And there is nothing you can do to make him love you more.”
  • But it is still possible to please God with some things we do
    • And the only real way to please him is through faith in him
  • e.g. Story of the Centurion with the sick servant
  • Heb 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
  • Paul says “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.” 2 Cor 5:9
  • Actually, its true with people as well, isn’t it!
    • If I say, “Chuck is such an amazing person, I would trust him with my life. Any advice he gives me is like gold dust”
      • How does Chuck feel?
    • If I say, “He can’t be trusted. And I would never follow any advice he gave me”
  • So with God, the highest honour we can give him is to trust him with our lives.

5. Putting it into practice

  • I admit, I found this list very challenging
    • It made me want to be more like God
  • v.35 summed it all up for me
    • The idea of doing this to be more like my heavenly Father I found very motivating
    • I’m his son! I want to be like my father
    • It is not so much about “doing” certain things, but “being” like God
  • The problem is that it goes against the most fundamental part of human nature
    • Putting ourselves first
  • I can guarantee that several times an hour when you are with others you will be able to put this into practice
    • generosity is the opposite to selfishness
  • Do you want to live like this?
    • That really is the question, because if you want to, he will give you the faith to.
  • I was going to call people forward for prayer this morning, but you know
    • You don’t need anyone to pray for you
    • You already have everything you need
    • All you have to do is to ask
  • And if you are not a follower of Jesus, it is the same.
    • Just ask to be a follower of Jesus and it will be given
    • See the problem is not in the asking, it is in the question whether we “really want it”
    • Several people wanted to follow Jesus, but had a few other things to do
      • or they were scared of what people might think
  • First of all settle it in your heart, that these words of Jesus really are the words of life
    • He is altogether trustworthy and you can stake your life on what he says
    • no matter how improbable it might seem
    • Then just follow him, trusting him for the strength to do so.