This morning we cover John 1:21-40.
Love Is Shown Through The Law
People make laws because of love. A couple of years ago I visited a mom with several small children. There was a baby in her lap. And there was a toddler running around the living room. We were having a nice conversation and then, out of nowhere, she looked past me to her toddler and said, “Don’t you dare do that!” If I was shocked by what she said, the child was even more shocked. The mom saw what I had not. The toddler was staring at the kitty with that look in his eye. He was about to stretch his hands out and grab the kitty’s fur and yank on it. He was about to yank on the kitty’s fur. He was caught and he knew it. So he started to cry. But what the mom did, she did out of love. She gave a clear command to her son so neither he nor their cat would be hurt. And that example teaches us an important lesson. This morning we learn that love is shown through the law. The mom was showing love for her son through that command. But this morning we learn that love shown through laws and commands can go the other direction. Jesus commands us to love him as a way of showing love to him. And so, in Mark’s gospel we read these words: “23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”” (Mark 2:23–24 NIV)
Love is shown through the law. But the first important lesson to learn is that this love has a hierarchy. There is an order, a progression to the laws that God gives. God is first. People are second. And things are third. And here we see this specifically in the third commandment. In the Old Testament the Lord commanded the people to set aside a day to worship him to gain rest for their souls. That day was Saturday. And now, even though in the New Testament we are free to worship on any day and every day, nevertheless, the command still stands that we worship him. And as we worship him this hierarchy is still in place. He comes first. And we come second. And in our lives we see what this looks like. We might want to stay up late on Saturday night because we have so little time to ourselves. But the time to worship is more important than time to ourselves.
Our Lord is more important than us. And our Lord is more important than those around us. If your wife, husband, brother or sister doesn’t want to get up and go to church and bible study on Sunday morning, that’s no reason for you to say to yourself, “Yes! Now I can sleep in.” No, the third commandment still stands. Jesus comes before everyone and everything in our lives.
This is what we do out of love for our Lord. What’s the problem though? The problem is that again and again we hate to do what is right and we are unable to show this love to our Lord by following the third commandment. We get up on Sunday morning and groan when we’re in the shower, yearning to go back to bed. And we show that our bed is more important that our Lord. We come to church and in the sermon or the Creed our thoughts drift away to lunch. And so we make our lunch more important than our Lord. And at night we kneel beside our beds to pray more due to the pressure of habit than the pleasure of being able to speak to our Lord.
The Lord gave us this commandment so that through it we could show our love to him. But the sad truth is that again and again we show our lack of love through it. We show that things and people are our priority, not our Lord. So look what our Gracious Lord does. So that we can serve him he first serves us. And we see that so clearly in these words spoken on the edge of the grain fields. Of all the people speaking on that Sabbath morning Jesus was the only one who was keeping the Sabbath. For he was the only one who could sinlessly obey his Father’s will. And he was the only one who could share his Father’s word. It was that word that he kept and shared that forgave those disciples there. And it is his word still today that forgives us too. For every time we felt the pressure of prayer, in our place Jesus only had the pleasure of praying to his Father. For every time our thoughts drifted away from worshipping our Creator, Jesus was ever-focused. For every time we yearned to go back to bed to get more rest on Sunday morning, Jesus’ body lay in that cold grave, proving that our sins are forgiven. And all this forgiveness comes to us through his word.
And so, before we can follow God’s law with love in our hearts, Jesus has to cleanse our hearts of sin so that we can follow him. Then the hierarchy he sets up, we follow. With joy in knowing that our sins are forgiven we put our Savior first day after day. So love is shown through the law. And this love has a hierarchy. But, as these words continue, we see that this love also has a heart. “25 He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” 27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”” (Mark 2:25–28 NIV)
Love has a hierarchy. But love also has a heart. Look at the illustration that Jesus uses. David was on the run from Saul. They couldn’t stop at Wendy’s and get a drive through burger. They go to the priest and ask for bread. And the only bread that is available is the “show-bread.” That was bread that only priests were allowed to eat. But both the priest and David approved of him and his men eating the bread. They approve because this love that is shown through the law is a love that has a heart. When it comes to the third commandment we set Jesus and worshipping him first in our lives. But there will be those times and days that we show true love to our Lord by showing true love to others first.
So here in this example David has his men eat the show-bread so that his men don’t die. But you know what that looks like in your own lives, don’t you? When I was a child and was sick on Sunday morning, here is what did not happen. My mom did not say, “I know you’re puking a whole lot, Stevie. So here’s a bucket for you and some 7-up. I have to go to church.” No, instead, she did not go to church so that she could spend time with me. She showed true love to her Lord by showing true love toward me.
And so, my dear friends in Christ, we carve out time, energy and place in our lives to put our Lord first. But there will be times when we put our Lord first by putting others first. Love shown in the law has both a hierarchy and a heart. And let your lives show this. But with this is also a warning. Don’t let the exception become the rule. If you have four children and you move into the winter season, your children might be sick most of the Sundays. This means that husband and wife take turns watching the children so that the exception doesn’t become the rule, so that we don’t end up worshipping our children instead of our Savior.
Love—true love is shown in the law. As forgiven people who have a Savior who has kept these ten commandments in our place, let us show true love for him by following these commandments. Let the love you have for your Lord have a hierarchy. And let it have a heart. Amen.