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Matthew 12:1-2

“At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”

Those pesky Pharisees were at it again. Over the course of a few hundred years, they had taken God’s Law and turned it into the “Legalism Encyclopedia”. There were over 2,000 things that had become “taboo” on the Sabbath, including:

Carrying food from one house to another…No boiling an egg by putting it on a hot cloth…No moving furniture (dragging it across a dirt floor = plowing = work)…No wearing ornaments (carrying weight = work).

The religious leaders of the day had invented legalism and were using it like a whip on the backs of the Jewish people. Legalism takes you back to Egypt, but grace sets you free. Legalism gives Christianity a bad reputation but grace makes it irresistible. Legalism makes you into a nasty Pharisee, but grace makes you into a disciple. I ought to know…I have been a Pharisee, myself.

Jesus knew the Old Testament like the back of His hand because He essentially wrote it (John 1:1). In verses 3-5 of today’s passage, He used the Old Testament to remind the Pharisees of just how ignorant they had become and as usual, their reaction was to continue to plot how they might kill him. Attacking legalism is risky business. How does legalism show up today in your life and in mine?

Do you pay attention to how people spend their Sunday’s? You might be a legalist.

Do you compare your level of obedience with others? You might be a legalist.

Do you analyze if people at church are dressed “properly”? You might be a legalist.

Do you carry a great weight of guilt over past failures? You might be a legalist.

Do you focus more on performance than heart? You might be a legalist.

It’s easy to become a Pharisee because pride is at the heart of every sin. Remember that Jesus came to set us FREE from legalism so that we could experience His GRACE! We all need to do the same for each other.

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