Handling Traditions in the Church P4

Who or What is Sovereign in your Church?  

Read Matthew 12: 1-21 and 15: 1-20, as Jesus deals with this Himself! 

The tradition of the Sabbath had a great start and purpose that got skewed; it was supposed to be a symbol of God’s sovereignty and Lordship (Ex. 20:8). It was also meant to be a reminder of the redemption to come for the people under the Law, the redemption that we now have in the work of Christ (Duet. 5:12). The Law had strict guidelines pertaining to the Sabbath—how it was to be observed, and not to be violated. These laws were intended to lead the people to understand and know God as well as to keep the peace and not allow people to corrupt or ignore it. Unfortunately, the religious leaders corrupted it by adding so many countless, additional ordinances that the people were too tied down to the extra laws to ever look up and embrace God’s Lordship. These extra laws became restrictions and, ironically, violated God’s law and intent. Think about it; how often do we do this today? 

Jesus reminded them of this and used Scripture to prove His point just as we are to do. It is ironic that the rules of the Pharisees were very precise, and if someone proved a point using Scripture, they had no recourse but to acquiesce to that point. Jesus obviously won the argument, yet they still plotted! Keep in mind: when you win the day by logic and reason through Scripture, even with kindness and tact, the war may not be over. It takes prayer and patience. Allow the Lord to work and make sure the parties causing the disruptions are being cared for too. 

Jesus’ argument, although sound and righteous, would have been appealing to the Rabbi or true follower of God. However, it may not have swayed a pretentious leader steeped in his pride and traditions. This is the same reason the Gospel influences so few today, or why a wise pastor’s counsel is met with hostility. Jesus’ message is blocked by the inclinations of people and their refusal to surrender to His Lordship. Jesus’ message will only persuade those who are impacted by the Spirit, and where His Will replaces theirs. 

Jesus withdrew from the Synagogue, and a great many people followed Him! Since first century Judaism was so diverse, taking a lot of people away probably did not devastate the Synagogue, as others would join in with those who held the same views as they did. This also happens with some churches today. The Scriptural quote in this passage in Matthew is from Isaiah 42:1-2, and is sometimes called the “Servant Song.” It referred to the nation of Israel when it was written. There are four Servant Songs (Isa. 42:1-9; 49:1-7; 50:4-11; 52:13-53:12). Israel was God’s servant, yet she failed Him, disobeying by chasing after false gods and immoral practices. God called the people to be restored, while others took the punishment in behalf of the others, so not all would be destroyed (Isa. 44:1-4; 21; 42:18-19; 49:3-7; 52:13-53:12). Our goal in handling any conflict is restoration and learning so people can grow in faith and be better servants. Jesus came as the servant replacement. He is our substitute, and takes God’s wrath in our place (Rom. 1:18‑3:20; 2 Cor. 5:21). He is the ultimate Servant!

Handling Traditions in the Church P3

Synagogues or Today’s Church: Nothing has Changed 

The leaders of the Synagogues, as church leaders do today, would invite visiting speakers. Jesus was perhaps a visiting speaker in that service when He saw the man in distress. He took that opportunity to serve, as well as to confront their bad traditions and their hypocrisy.  Not all Pharisees were bad; many were pious and used their sect to motivate people to a deeper understanding and application of their faith. 

Synagogues would also host informal dialogues with visiting rabbis; this could be another thing that Jesus was doing. Most Jewish groups in that time did not permit any ministry on the Sabbath. The Sabbath was considered so sacred that the Pentateuch forbade any deviance from its practice. Thus, seeing Jesus gleaning or not washing his hands would have caused quite a concern. They saw Him as dishonoring the faith and Law. However, Jesus was not dishonoring it; He was fulfilling it! The majority group, the Pharisees, did not even allow praying for the sick. Other Pharisees did. The minority groups were also in accord, as the Essenes had even stricter rules, not allowing even an animal to be rescued. However, the Hillelites did allow for some ministry and prayer. This group grew to be the majority after Jesus’ time, up to the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. Thus, some of the leaders would use Jesus to help persuade people to their views, while others sought to destroy Him. 

Does this look familiar, as with power plays in your church today? You see, our Lord faced this personally and so will we. Synagogues were also the place each of these various leadership sects would go to debate. Asking counter questions was a classic, rabbinic way to engage in a debate, and is still the norm today. Now, we sit down and discuss, bring people to the Word, and in prayer, seek an equitable solution that honors hard workers and glorifies our Lord. 

How much more was another standard, rabbinic method of analogy. This was to show inconsistency, pretence, and hypocrisy. They did not interpret the Law with any form of logic or consistency, and Jesus pointed this out to them with their own words and law; He used Scripture! Our Lord continues, stretch out your hand; this implies that there is a connection between our faith and Jesus’ healing power. The healing was given, but it also had to be received! The initiative needed to be taken (Eph. 5:14). Just as Grace is given, we still have to act on our faith to receive it. 

By doing what He did, Jesus infuriated the Pharisees and the Herodians so much that they literally planned to kill Him! When your heart is so hard that you block out the Will and desires that God has for you, you start on a path of chaos and destruction that you will not even realize because you will be clouded by your own delusions and pride. We must beware of this so it does not happen to us or to those under our leadership. People who hang on to bad traditions tend to do this; I know I have at times. They had their religion so mixed up and skewed that they saw an act of kindness as a crime.  Those who had political power used it to put people down. To plot against someone would indicate this group of Pharisees did not have the power to carry out their wishes and had to go behind closed doors. Otherwise, they would have brought Jesus into the courts and charged Him directly.