Saturday, March 8, 2014

Doing Good, Regardless (Luke 6:8-11)

But He knew what they were thinking, and He said to the man with the withered hand, "Get up and come forward!" And he got up and came forward. And Jesus said to them, "I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to destroy it?" After looking around at them all, He said to him, "Stretch out your hand!" And he did so; and his hand was restored. But they themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus. (Luke 6:8-11 NASB)

In case you missed the previous post, these events took place on the Sabbath. Jesus was teaching in the synagogue and a man with a withered hand entered. The scribes and the Pharisees were ecstatic. By this time, they had realized that Jesus was very likely to heal this man, even though it was the Sabbath. Doing work on the Sabbath was forbidden, and they saw healing as work. They did not care about the suffering of the man with the withered hand. They cared about following rules and making sure everyone else did, too. 

Jesus, of course, knew what they were thinking. Being God as well as man, He knew where this was leading (the Cross), but He did not hold back. In fact, from the moment He left heaven, He was enroute to the Cross. All the teaching, all the healing, all the casting out of demons, all the miracles were just a preface for the real work, which would be done at Calvary. It's easy to think that Jesus was mostly a healer or mostly a miracle worker, but that is simply not true. Jesus was a God-payment for the sin of mankind. My sin. Your sin. That's why He came. 

Because He understood that this earth was not His home, and that He was heading home to Heaven only after the Cross and resurrection, He did not mince words or hold back, and we see that boldness in this passage. He looked at the man with the withered hand and invited him forward. With the man at His side, where everyone in the room could see his withered hand, Jesus asked a wonderfully difficult question. "Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath or to do harm, to save a life or to destroy it?" He knew that the scribes and Pharisees could not say it was right to do harm, but saying it was right to do good would validate His decision to heal the man, and they would not do that either. 

Jesus had put them in an impossible position with their question, and they knew it. There was nothing they could say. Jesus, of course, instructed the man to stretch out His hand, and when he did, it was healed. The scribes and Pharisees were furious. Scripture describes them as "filled with rage".  The Greek word for rage used here is "anoia" and indicates a kind of madness expressed as rage, a folly born from lack of understanding. That's exactly what happened. They did not understand the truth Jesus was demonstrating and, rather than make the effort to understand and allow change in their heart, they used their lack of understanding for folly that produced a mad rage. This is not a quick anger, but a slow burning rage that leads to action. Evil action. Right there in the synagogue, as that man with the withered hand stretched out his arm, these particular scribes and Pharisees began to plot. Can't you hear them? "Something has to be done!" led to "We have to do something!" which led to "He has got to go!" The plot was underway. 

What is really amazing here is that, in Luke 5 (one chapter back), Jesus healed the paralytic and everyone, including the scribes and Pharisees present that day, were "seized with astonishment and began glorifying God" (Luke 5:26). How quickly things changed!

The scribes and Pharisees were not stupid or ignorant. They were some of the best scholars in Israel. Their preconceived ideas about God, however, got in their way and prevented them from recognizing truth. The hardness of heart and the anger they quickly embraced kept them from the One who came to set them free. Those "preconceived ideas" about Christianity are still keeping people from the freedom Christ offers today. What preconceived ideas are limiting your relationship with Jesus? What about your loved ones?

Pray today that we and our loved ones will lay aside our notions about God and our preconceived prejudice and be open to the truth and freedom that only Christ can bring. 

I'm writing a Lenten series in the evenings. Be sure to check back tonight for that!