When you think about Jesus, what comes to mind? A baby in a manger. A crown of thorns and a cross. An empty tomb. A white robe with a purple sash. Sitting in a fishing boat. Calming a storm. Turning water into wine. Healing the lame and blind. Teaching (and feeding) crowds. Overturning tables.
What about character qualities? Love. Compassion. Holiness. Truth. Miracle-worker. Servant. Friend of sinners.
It’s that last one that got Him into loads of trouble. You see, there was a group of people who believed that if everyone would follow the rules, then God would be happy with Israel again and therefore deliver them from the Romans. Not exactly bad in the motive-department. It just put them at odds with the Messiah who did the unexpected … and led them to plot His death. (How’s that for breaking their own rules?)
Jesus broke the rules. He ate with sinners. He healed (worked) on the Sabbath. He didn’t make His disciples fast twice a week (and neither did He). He let His disciples pluck heads of grain while they walked through a field. He interrupted the stoning of the adulteress caught in her sin. He touched a leper. He let four men rip the roof off a house in order to lower their paralytic friend. He called some of the religious people snakes and went home with tax collectors.
How is it that Jesus, who never sinned, still broke the rules? And why?
The first question is easier to answer. Because the “rules” were actually extreme additions to or mutations of the actual laws given by God. God required a fast once a year, but they fasted twice a week. God’s command to rest on the Sabbath morphed into impossible regulations that even dictated how far one could walk without sinning. (Some even held the end of a rope when they left home so they wouldn’t accidentally go too far!) Dictates about Temple sacrifcie turned into an open-air market for those coming without the required number of doves or lambs.
God’s law exists to protect us (from unhealthy lifestyle choices) and to show us how frequently we fail to measure up … and therefore how desperately we need grace. Jesus broke man’s rules but kept God’s law with perfect motives. In fact, He summarized all of the law into just two commandments: Love God and love others.
The second question cuts to the heart of the matter. Jesus cared more about people than the rules. Jesus waded into the messy lives of real people and showed them a better way. He lifted them out of the quicksand and set them on a new path. A leper. A fallen woman. A man with a shriveled hand. A paralyzed man. Spending time with friends. Jesus cared more about relationships than a list of religious rules.
What about you? Is it ever okay to break the rules? Why? Is your faith walk more about rules or relationships?