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Continuing on in my reading of Luke, yesterday, I picked up Luke chapter 6, and here’s what I read in the first eleven verses.
1 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. 2 Some of the Pharisees asked, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
3 Jesus answered them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry?4 He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”5Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
6 On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. 7The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. 8 But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Get up and stand in front of everyone.” So he got up and stood there.
9 Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?”
10 He looked around at them all, and then said to the man,“Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was completely restored. 11 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.
In this passage of Luke, Jesus is tying to get the message through that He is not who they think He is. He is not just some great teacher. He is more. And if they have not yet figured that out: it’s time to start.
Jewish law, and even more so Jewish tradition, in regard to what constituted “doing work” on the Sabbath, had become so carefully defined, that the whole meaning, the whole purpose of having a Sabbath, was in danger of becoming lost amidst the intricate demands of keeping the traditions.
Why did God institute the Sabbath? Was it just so they’d have a day full of “no, no” rules, so He could show how strict and holy He was? Of course not! God made the Sabbath for man. God wanted man to call that day a delight! God designed man, and He recognized that man needed a day of rest and recreation. And what better thing for man to do on that day of rest than to commune with and rejoice in the One who had made him.
But what we see in this passage is a group of very disgruntled guys: the Pharisees. And it appears that they really had a bone to pick with Jesus. Luke tells us that they were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus. And then, after the little incident of the healing, did they rejoice for the miracle they had witnessed? Were they glad for the man’s sake? No: instead, they realized they REALLY had a problem on their hands, (“This guy is NOT going to play by our rules”) and they began to discuss “what they might do to Jesus.” And the other gospels spell it out a little more plainly: “how they might kill Jesus”.
Wow! What could incite that kind of a response?
The Pharisees were “the powers that be” in Jesus’ society. And Jesus was rocking the boat. Rattling their cages. Dangerously toying with unsettling their power base, knocking them out of their position of authority with Rome, and with the people. And apparently: this could not be tolerated. Something had to be done.
Ooooooooooh, those evil, evil Pharisees.
I’m sure glad I’m not like THEM! How about you???
So…I got to thinking….
Have you ever gone to church on Sunday morning and gotten so mad at something that was going on that you felt like taking your shoe off and hurling it up at the stage, like that Iraqi reporter threw his at George Bush?
I thought not.
Me neither!!! Of course not!!! 😀
(I have GOT to look into taking kickboxing classes.)
OK, maybe I overstated my case a bit, so let me ratchet it down a notch or two.
Have you ever driven home from church and spent a certain amount of time criticizing…
the song choices
the Sunday School class
the Sunday School teacher
the style of dress of someone on the church staff
the style of dress of someone in the audience
the logistics of the setup
the whatevah (insert your pet issue here)
Is there someone/something that just gets under your craw, and you’re almost looking for that person or thing to goof up again?
The Pharisees were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus. They were watching him closely to see if he WOULD heal on the Sabbath, something they considered to be a violation of the law.
If we cut to the heart of the matter in the Sabbath, what does God want from us?
He wants us to set aside a day each week where we remember Him, and where we delight in Him, and where we give our weary bodies a bit of a rest, so that we can come back to the work week fully recharged and revitalized and, well, re-created. What Jesus did in no way violated that law. In fact, He fulfilled the principal behind the Sabbath.
And if we cut to the heart of the matter with the Pharisees, what was their issue?
They were missing the GOOD that was being done. Because they were so bound up in maintaining their own positions of power, in having things done the way they liked, the way they understood that things should be, keeping all the manmade rules, in the way that made them comfortable. So much so, that the attitude of their heart turned…well…ultimately, murderous.
Now I’m not saying you’re planning on killing anybody at church next Sunday. But…
What I want you to think about is this: the enemy whispers insidious lies and accusations against our brothers and sisters every day of the week, but I think he pulls a double shift on the Sabbath.
He’s been doing this type of thing for a long time.
Let’s be careful, my brothers and sisters.
Yes, this is a story about Jesus being greater than the Law. That He is, in fact, the Lord of the Sabbath. Yes, members of His Kingdom should do good and bring freedom and healing, every day of the week.
But it’s also a cautionary tale about the critical spirit that LOOKS to catch a brother or sister in a mistake. Those kinds of thoughts, at their core, are murderous.
The challenge to each of us is to look for the good that is being done. (the healing, for example, in Jesus’ case) Look for the good. Support the good. Rejoice IN the good.
I’m not saying we can never engage in criticism: some things NEED to be criticized. But can we do it in such a way that it is constructive? That GOOD is the outcome? So that the enemy is defeated in his purposes to divide, kill, and destroy the very ones that Jesus came to redeem.
P.S. Please tell me I’m not the only one who has ever gotten mad at church…