When Jesus Christ launched his ministry he stood completely apart from other religious teachers and leaders of the day. As one born into a Jewish family who attended the Synagogue for teaching and worship regularly and went to the temple every year, he would have heard Jewish Rabbi’s teach on all kinds of religious topics. But it didn’t take long after he began his ministry for Jesus to begin confronting things taught by the spiritual authorities of the day. We know that even though Jesus was tempted in every way and yet without sin which means that he never did violate what the Law actually taught. From the standpoint of the Jewish leaders, it seemed that Jesus broke several of their laws, but the problem was a misinterpretation on the part of the religious leaders and not that Jesus messed up in his life.
The most common charge made by the religious leaders was that Jesus violated the Sabbath Day. When he healed someone on the Sabbath they accused him of working and thus violating the Sabbath. When the disciples plucked heads of grain and rubbed them in their hands on the Sabbath to eat the grain they were accused along with Jesus of violating the Sabbath. But the inspired writers noted the fact that Jesus answered their charges with two specific answers. He told them first of all that the Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath and that he was Lord of the Sabbath. He often confronted them for being carried away with rituals and forgetting the heart they needed to have. He spent his time most often with the tax collectors and sinners instead of with the religious leaders in the Synagogue or Temple. Oh, don’t get me wrong, he was a regular at the synagogue worship. But he didn’t build his life around being there with the other worshipers. He recognized that his real mission was out in the world among the people instead of hanging around with the other teachers, preachers and leaders. I wonder what the average Jewish rabbi would have said when the lawyer asked Jesus what was the first and great commandment. Do you suppose it might have been something to do with observing the Sabbath? Jesus pointed quickly to two commands. First he said, is the law, “Hear O Israel. The Lord our God is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul mind and strength” and the second was closely related, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” When the lawyer agreed with Jesus on what was most important Jesus said to him “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
When the religious leaders became so frustrated with Jesus and his teaching that they sent soldiers to arrest him, they were completely frustrated when the soldiers returned empty handed. They wanted to know why they hadn’t arrested Jesus. They said, “We have never heard anyone speak like this man.” What was so different about the teachings of Jesus? First of all his teaching was with authority. Unlike the religious teachers of the time who raised issues but offered few answers Jesus spoke as one who not only knew the law, but knew God and shared in His divine nature. He also spoke with a huge heart of compassion for the people. This may have been the most distinguishing mark of his teaching. He looked at people who were hurting and couldn’t wait another day to help them out of their pain and problems. He saw people overwhelmed by sin and wanted to see their life changed instead of wanting to stay away from them so that he might not also be contaminated. The religious leaders thought their charge that he was the friend of the tax collectors and sinners was a devastating charge. Jesus saw it as a compliment and claimed it as a definition of his life.
The third thing about his interpretation of the Scriptures was that he saw that some things were much more important than others. When asked about what was the greatest command, he didn’t try telling them they were all equal commands. To the Pharisees and scribes he said, “You pay tithes of mint, anise and cumin but have omitted the weightier matters, justice, mercy and faith. These you should have done without leaving the other undone.” If you get the details right but miss the most important matters you are still far away from God. Notice the fact that these religious leaders who were masters of the details and had missed the big things and became more and more arrogant in their beliefs every generation. By the time Jesus arrived on the scene they were wanting the best seats in the house, wanting the most distinguishing garments and to pray the longest and loudest prayers so they would be recognized as religious by the crowd.
Jesus serves as our pattern, not just in how he lived and walked among the people. He is our standard on how to read, study and understand the Scriptures. Too often we have used Paul more as a standard for Bible interpretation than Jesus, whom he was patterning after. It is always better to go back to the original pattern since every step back from that original is a little dimmer and a little more difficult to see what matters. When we get caught up in the minutia it results in harsh rules and check list to be followed rather than a heart of compassion inviting all to come to Him for life. I want to be a Jesus follower that stays close to him all the time so that one who follows me may get closer to him to the degree they soon go past me to Jesus himself. Like John the Baptist, I want to be less, while he becomes more.