Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Luke Chapter Six

Reading:  Luke 6.1-49

Since I will be speaking on several of the other parts of this chapter in the current sermon series, "Things I wish Jesus Never Said," I decided to focus on the ongoing conflict between Jesus and the religious authorities.

Scripture:  The 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.  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.
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?"
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. But they were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.  Luke 6.7-11

Observations:  Does anyone think Jesus' use of sarcasm seems out of character?  It's one thing for him to reach out to the "tax collectors and sinners" with such mercy and grace, but does he really need to be so confounding to the "spiritual" folks?  Obviously, he does.  Jesus not only came to teach us what God is like, he also came to show us what God is NOT like. By knocking down the false props of bad religion Jesus is showing his followers how NOT to believe and behave.  

I can't help but mention v. 31.  It's probably the first verse I ever learned in Sunday School and it still speaks volumes to me today. This will go a long way to keep us from falling into the ways of bad religion: "Do to others as you would have them do to you."   

Apply:  Before we become too critical of the Pharisees, let's remember that they were the God fearing, church-going respectable crowd. What began as a desire to humbly please God subtly turned into prideful arrogance. Jesus said elsewhere that the attitude of the Pharisees spreads like yeast. We all are prone to spreading that kind of arrogance around. One writer has said that we should share Jesus as if we are merely one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.

Prayer:  Forgive me, Lord, for turning your forgiveness and mercy in my life into a cause for pride and arrogance.  May I never forget that any change for the better in me is because of your wonderful grace.

1 comment:

Gladys said...

The ongoing conflict ... I have been curious myself here . . . for who should know the rules of the Sabbath but Jesus, so why IS there a conflict? I will try to show the view from the other side to make the Pharisees a little more human as I imagine it might have been, though not necessarily right.

In Judaism, the Sabbath actually, holds more importance than the holidays of Passover or Yom Kippur, for it was made a Commandment, one of The TEN!! It was the 7th day of the week, in which God rested from His work, and was given to the Israelites that they also should rest on the 7th day. Scripture tells about the Sabbath: "You shall surely observe My Sabbath; for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you. Therefore, you are to observe the Sabbath, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is a Sabbath of complete rest, holy to the LORD; whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall surely be put to death." Ex. 31:31-14

Cut off? DEATH?? You're kidding, right? No. Numbers tells of a situation: "Now while the sons of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering wood on the Sabbath day. Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation; and they put him in custody because it had not been declared what should be done to him. Then the LORD said to Moses, "The man shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp." So all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death with stones, just as the LORD had commanded Moses." Numbers 15:32-26

Can you hear one of the Pharisees in Jesus' day explaining this: "Look, I am terrified of violating the Sabbath with anything being done other than complete rest as was indicated -- I'm not that anxious to be stoned! Think about it, that man carrying wood was not even given a chance to repent!! You read what God commanded us in regard to the Sabbath! How can you even think of violating it? You see, that incident put such fear into the children of Israel, that it had to be decided on what constitutes "work." We have to be on the same page as God, otherwise, you or I might be next. "Work" takes us back to the beginning of when God created everything in the first six days, then on the seventh day, He rested from, you guessed it, His work. Well, what was God's work that required rest? Was it not the act of creating? So, over the course of time, it was decided what acts of creation can be constituted as work."

Today, we can say that the carrying of wood was work according to our scientific definition, but not from the Jewish standpoint as defined above. So then, anything done to create anything was forbidden, even creating a "healed hand." They would naturally think, "Why could Jesus not wait one more day to heal his hand as this was NOT a life threatening situation?" It was this specific thing, the creating, a/k/a/ work, that made them full of rage as they had seen the Sabbath as having been violated. And stoning, obviously, was still around!

Today, we can look back with having had the teachings of Jesus, and have a whole different viewpoint. The definition of work had certainly been debated, and though God rested from His work of creation, it did not mean that the creating of a healthier person, or body part, would have been included in that work and, unfortunately, the Jews didn't go far enough then to see that aspect. The Jews' reaction then, was not only in being rule-oriented, but was from fear as well.

Rules are good, wonderful and necessary for lots of reasons. One could ask about rules being broken then, which are not to be confused with sanctioning of sin, but are in the meeting of an indidividual need, a true need, and which should not be put on the back burner to meet tomorrow or next week if it can be taken care of today, even if today is the Sabbath.

Father, I ask that You put in me, more of a heart that would see the true needs in others, and eyes to see, and how I can meet these needs in my own particular circumstances. Thank You, Father.