On a certain Sabbath Jesus went into the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees watched him closely to see if he would cure on the Sabbath so that they might discover a reason to accuse him. But he realized their intentions and said to the man with the withered hand, “Come up and stand before us.” And he rose and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” Looking around at them all, he then said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was restored. But they became enraged and discussed together what they might do to Jesus. (Luke 6:6-11)
The scribes and Pharisees wanted to catch Jesus in the act of breaking the Sabbath ritual so they might accuse him of breaking God’s law. But Jesus shows the Pharisees that by wrapping themselves up in the letter of the law they were blinded as to why the law was written.
He wanted them to see the person. He was saying, “Look, while you come up with your three steps to deciding whether you can heal on the Sabbath or not, here is a real, live human being who is hurting and in need of your help, and all you can do is sit there and debate about him like he was a log blocking the road. He’s a person!” He cares about the pregnant teenager. He cares about the prisoner. He cares about the homeless. He cares about the drug addict. He cares about the person.
He cares about you and me, our hurts, our worries, our struggles. And He wants to see each and every one of us healed and delivered from whatever has us in bondage. Whether it is a struggle with pride, with pornography, or materialism and greed, or tirades of anger, or lying, or stealing, or overeating.
When someone else struggles with their marriage, or their job, or their kids, we tend to sit back and say, “Well, if they had just done this or that, they would not have had the issue.” Oh, how we love the blinders of being judgmental.
You know what? Those are the questions and comments of Pharisees. They had all the answers, but none of the love. And sometimes we get caught in that trap. We measure our Christianity by how many times we go to Church, or how many Church projects we accomplish, or how well we can quote scripture. Nothing wrong with any of those but they are not what Jesus meant by doing good.
We are not doing good when we think we are doing good. When we start focusing on the law, we miss the people that the law was supposed to help. Jesus says later that the entire law can be summarized with one word: love. Love God, and love others. If we do that, we are fulfilling the entire law. Look at people through the loving eyes of Christ.
We don’t progress through life on a gentle slope that will end with us somehow adding Jesus to our lives. The gentle slope we begin life on is most often tilted in the other direction –we show that our hostility is growing with each and every wrong thought we entertain and each and every wrong deed we perform.
Are we like Jesus who always seek to do good even to those who persecuted Him? That is the challenge that confronts us, we who profess to follow the greatest man who ever walked this earth.
Prayer of The Day
Lord, you can see my heart, as you read the hearts of the Pharisees. I also have a tendency to be critical and not always constructive. Make my heart be more like yours, desiring good, being generous despite the criticisms that might come my way.
(In preparing this commentary, I came across the following reflection, written by Amy Carmichael and titled “Calvary Love.”)
“IF I belittle those who I am called to serve, talk of their weak points in contrast perhaps with what I think of as my strong points; if I adopt a superior attitude, forgetting [that God made us different and He has given me all that I have], then I know nothing of Calvary love.
IF I take offense easily, if I am content to continue in cool unfriendliness, though friendship be possible, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
IF I feel bitterly towards those who condemn me, as it seems to me, unjustly, forgetting that if they knew me as I know myself, they would condemn me much more, then I know nothing of Calvary love.