We’re going to see from Luke’s gospel something of what it means to make Jesus your life.
Lots of people will assume that you go to church to learn how to be a good person. Some people will think you go to impress God or get some brownie points for heaven. You might even think that yourself.
In Luke 5:33-6:11 we hear Jesus speaking to people who thought he wasn’t religious enough. They thought he spent too much time with people who were bad, and even that he was willing to break God’s laws.
It’s an important question, really: How can this Jesus be a man of God if he’s not very religious and seems to behave as if he’s above the law? In answering that, you begin to discover Jesus, to know him, to place your joy and life in his living hands.
Make Jesus your joy (5:33-39)
We’re in a little section of Luke’s gospel looking at what happened to various people when he began his ministry.
- First he called Peter at the lakeside
- Then there were two healings and blessing
- Then he called Levi
- After which there were two Sabbath arguments
- And next time we’ll see Jesus calling the 12 apostles.
It’s about Jesus calling people to himself. Some are greatly blessed; others just argue and turn away.
Verses 33-39 of Luke properly belong with the calling of Levi, the tax collector.
- (As it’s essentially opposition to Jesus, we’re putting it with the two Sabbath arguments.)
- Levi had been the social outcast, a Jewish traitor working for the occupying Roman forces and getting rich off his own countrymen.
- But he walked away from all that to follow Jesus.
- To celebrate, he invited all his scally mates to a feast in Jesus’ honour.
- The religious elite (the Pharisees) were appalled that Jesus would actually eat with those people.
- Feasting? Really? Read Luke 5:33.
Now fasting was a sincere feature of worship at key times in the Old Testament. Very often it was a sign of sorrow and repentance: “Lord, I cannot feast knowing I have sinned so greatly against you.”
But Levi had moved past that and into rejoicing! Read Luke 5:34.
To be with Jesus is to feast, to rejoice.
You can’t be closer to God or enjoy him more than to be with Jesus. Levi had invited the Son of God into his home for a feast in his honour – it’s a time to enjoy Jesus!
Jesus knew a time of separation and sorrow would come: Read Luke 5:45.
- Jesus knew that your peace with God isn’t about what you eat and drink, and what laws you keep or not.
- You are a sinner before God. You can no more make yourself fit for heaven than lift yourself up by your hair.
- But as he told the Pharisees in v32 he came to save sinners. And he knew it would mean he would die for them.
- Jesus came to die for you. To take the punishment due for your sin.
- He knew his death would be separation, and that his people would then fast in sorrow.
- But then he rose, and lives, and is present among us by the Holy Spirit.
Today, the risen Lord Jesus Christ invites you, a sinner, to come to him in repentance: He is ready to forgive, because he has taken the punishment for sin for everyone who will come.
So come! Jesus invites you to forgiveness – and feast! At his return to earth, there will be the feast of all feasts! A wedding feast, even! He is the groom, and his church the bride. When we eat at the Lord’s Table we foreshadow that feast to come – which is why you participate with Jesus at the table.
The old is better?
Still, some people listening to Jesus didn’t want to know.
Something new and amazing was coming in Jesus, but they preferred the old way:
- Read Luke 5:36. Don’t assume that old Jewish customs are appropriate for people whose lives are built around Jesus: They were the shadow; Jesus is the substance.
- Read Luke 5:37-39. Same point again. The new (i.e. Jesus) is better, but some prefer the old (religion).
But how? How can you make Jesus your joy?
- For a start, keep in touch. Relationships live or die by communication. Keep in touch with Jesus – always.
- The marriage picture is very helpful!
- Find out what brings Jesus joy and do more of that.
- Learn to love what he loves – his church, truth, faithfulness, witness, love.
- Anticipate meeting him. Think about him. Prepare yourself to meet him. If your heaven isn’t primarily about him, you’ve got the wrong heaven.
Enjoy the blessings of this world, but don’t rely on them for ultimate joy: Even family, or health, holidays, or Christmas.
Make Jesus your joy every day. It’s a joy you cannot lose to war, poverty, grief, illness or death. And he calls you to that joy!
Make Jesus your nourishment (6:1-5)
The opening verses of chapter 6 have two Sabbath arguments. The first is in v1-5. Read Luke 6:1-2.
- Now the law did permit you to take grain like that in someone’s field, so long as it was just a little.
- But the Pharisees were saying that because they were doing it on a Sabbath, they were breaking the law by reaping and threshing (in their hands…)
What was the Sabbath?
- It’s a gift. A joyous, amazing gift.
- Israel had been 24×7 slaves in Egypt. When God rescued them in the Exodus he gave them a day of rest.
- It must have been amazing! A day off?! Every week?!
- It was given to enjoy the other amazing blessing they’d been given: The presence of God among them.
- A day of rest, with God, with your family and community.
It was an important sign of the Old Covenant too. As Israel observed weekly Sabbaths they acknowledged God’s goodness, living in thankfulness and contentment. That’s why breaking the Sabbath was so wicked – it was a rejection of God’s covenant love and kindness.
But it’s easy to get to a point where you’re so obsessed with keeping the law that you forget the grace behind it, or the goodness of God who gave it. The Pharisees became strict legalists, with lots of additional rules, do’s and don’ts, about the Sabbath.
But the truth is that only Jesus can save you. A correct understanding about Sabbath do’s and don’ts won’t.
It’s about Jesus
So Jesus reply to the Pharisees pointed them to think about who he is. He doesn’t start a discussion about Sabbaths, but about himself: Read Luke 6:3-5.
- David and his men had taken food he shouldn’t.
- But which was more important? Rigid observance of the priestly law or feeding a hungry David and his men?
- Jesus reframes the current situation around himself.
- He is greater than David, and Lord of the Sabbath.
- He is the law-giver, more than capable of interpreting the full law appropriately: To do good.
It’s inconceivable that someone should be with the Son and yet go hungry. He provides nourishment. To be with Jesus is to feast, to be nourished and spiritually fed.
It’s inconceivable that you should be with him and yet be hungry.
So how can you make Jesus your nourishment?
- Well… keep in touch! You can’t dine online. Proximity matters!
- Also, experience him. Lean on his strength in good times and bad.
- Accept your own weakness; enjoy his strength.
- Be with his people, the church.
- That’s especially true of the Lord’s Table, where you participate in Christ as he hosts his meal.
Whatever you do, don’t fast from him. Don’t take a break. Equally, don’t think you can ever have too much of him. You will need eternity to begin to grasp a smidgen of his worth!
Go to him, be with him; be nourished by the bread of life.
Accept no substitutes, no additives.
Make him your joy; make him your nourishment. And:
Make Jesus your life (6:6-11)
We get another Sabbath argument! Read Luke 6:6-7.
Their lives were all about rules and regulations. They were about boundaries, not feasts. Religious people will often rather stand outside checking tickets than be inside and enjoy the show.
Jesus set up a confrontation: Read Luke 6:8-11.
Notice the comparisons hanging in the air:
- Will he work on the Sabbath or not?
- Will he heal or leave the man deformed?
- Or, as Jesus put it: Will he do good or evil?
Because doing nothing when you should so obviously do good is evil. The less that you give, you’re a taker (as Black Sabbath once sang!).
So if Jesus is your joy and nourishment, it’s only natural that he will be your life. He will shape you as you become more and more like him.
- Again, a Christian is not someone who wants to be like Jesus so that you might make it to heaven.
- A Christian is someone forgiven by God because of Jesus, who is then united to Jesus in joy and nourishment. It’s utterly normal and logical for a Christian to become more like Jesus.
- And, in fact, every Christian is predestined to be conformed to the likeness of the Son of God.
Jesus is the feast to enjoy in all walks of life.
How does that work out in practice?
We can look at Sundays (Sabbaths) as a worked out example:
The Principle is clear: In thinking about how to live for Jesus (e.g. in relation to Sabbaths), it’s not: “What can or can’t I do?” but rather, “How can I enjoy Jesus, doing good in his name?”
“Can I go shopping on a Sunday?”
- Will it be a good way to enjoy Jesus? Probably not.
- Could it be a good deed done for a lonely neighbour?
- Have we run out of milk in church? Do good in his name.
“Must I go to church twice on a Sunday?”
- There’s no law or commandment, obviously.
- The great feast we look forward to is a wedding.
- Jesus, the groom, will host the wedding feast and beautify his bride – not brides. We are one.
- Church feeds on Christ and anticipates the wedding feast to come. It’s a gift from Christ to you. You decide.
“Should I feel guilty if I’m too ill or housebound?”
- Obviously not.
- The Lord knows where you are and why.
- How can you enjoy Jesus and do good in his name where you are?
- Phoning, texting, emailing, encouraging.
- At the very least, praying. More than usual probably!
“Is it ok to work on a Sunday?”
- Well, I am!
- It’s worth being honest and asking if something is required or optional. What does your conscience say?
- It’s good to do good. But could you be covering up greed and kidding yourself about godliness? Sometimes.
- Many jobs are absolutely necessary. But not all.
- How can I enjoy Jesus, doing good in his name?
“What about watching TV, doing sports, having a nap?”
- Rest is good. The Lord himself modelled it.
- You need downtime. It’s not time wasted if it means your batteries get recharged. It’s more foolish to burn yourself out and become useless!
Enjoy Jesus and do good in his name
Have visitors round, share a meal, develop friendships. And that doesn’t have to be only church people. Do good. In all these things, you’re not looking for the minimum standard or pass marks.
The idea is to make Jesus your life – be like him, do good, be active. And, when necessary, rest! But never from him, only in him.
Rules won’t bring you life or happiness. Make Jesus your joy.
You don’t need to do everything in your own strength. Make Jesus your nourishment.
Instead of stressing about boundaries of grace, centre on Jesus and build your life around him.
He is the feast, the prize, the goal, the life.
Apart from him, you can do nothing, you will be nothing.
Luke 5:27-28: After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the tax office, and he said to him, “Follow me.” So, leaving everything behind, he got up and began to follow him. To the feast!