Pushing The Question
Gracious words flow from Jesus’ mouth, and we get it, but we also need to get it when He does not shrink back from a good fight when truth and the needy are at stake. At the beginning of His ministry at His hometown synagogue, the audience loved His gracious words, but when He confronted their nationalistic pride and their hatred of aliens, they became a mob and tried to kill Him (Lk. 4:22, 25-28). And it wasn’t only the idolatry of nationalism and racial bigotry that moved Jesus to fight. Jesus purposely went out of His way to heal on the Sabbath so that the Pharisees would have to face the question: Was it right or wrong to heal on the Sabbath?
“Now it happened that when Jesus came to the home of a certain leader of the Pharisees to eat bread on the Sabbath that they were watching Him closely. And look! There was a man who suffered with edema (excess fluid causing him to swell) right in front of Him. So Jesus asked them, ‘Is it lawful on the Sabbath to heal or not to heal?’ Now they remained silent. So He took hold of the man, healed him, and sent him away. Then He said to them, ‘Which one of you having a son or an ox falling into a well will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath.’ And they were not able to refute Him on these matters.” Luke 14:1-6
When confronted with suffering, Jesus’ kindness and love didn’t hesitate. He acted immediately and He purposely went out of His way to break the rigid Pharisaic Sabbath regulations. Their rules caused them to turn away from doing the good that was at the heart of God’s Sabbath commandment. Their rules generated hypocrisy because they themselves would do good for their own son or ox on the Sabbath, yet they were trying to kill Jesus for healing and doing exorcisms on the Sabbath.
Our text today indicates that the majority of the Pharisees are silenced by Jesus’ argument, but they refused to turn away from their legalism (Lk. 14:6). We ourselves need to face the challenge of this Story. Will we join the Pharisees who care more about their religiosity than they do about a fellow human being in need? Or will we join Jesus and have a heart that reaches out to help those who are ill? Jesus doesn’t shrink back from fighting against arrogant, hateful religious legalism.
LORD, help me to keep fighting this kind of religious rigidity and thanks for the opportunities to pray when I’m with someone who is sick. Help me not to miss the opportunities to pray right then knowing that Your heart is to relieve their suffering. Again, I praise You that in Your ultimate Kingdom, when we have our resurrection bodies, suffering will be ended forever
Note: If you want to track how Luke builds these confrontations with the Pharisees over the question of whether or not to heal on the Sabbath, go back and check out these references. In Capernaum on the Sabbath Jesus set a man free from demon possession and even the demons knew that He was the Holy One of God who would judge them in the end (Lk. 4:31-37). On the Sabbath Jesus did not rebuke His disciples for taking some grain in their hand and eating it, but some Pharisees attacked Him for breaking their Sabbath rules (Lk. 6:1-5). On the Sabbath with the Pharisees and legal experts watching Him closely, Jesus placed a man with a withered hand in their midst and asked, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to destroy it?” Then He healed the man (Lk. 6:6-11). Again on the Sabbath Jesus straightened the back of a Jewish woman who had been bent over for eighteen years and the synagogue ruler became furious because his religious rules had not been followed (Lk. 13:10-17). Jesus blasted this hypocrisy by confronting the fact that they loved their animals more than they cared for a suffering daughter of Abraham (Lk. 13:15-16).
In his text Luke then presented Jesus warning the Pharisees that they needed to turn away from their pride. They only had a short time to decide that He was their Messiah and submit to His view of the Sabbath. If they continued to oppose Him, Jerusalem would become a place of desolation (Lk. 13:32-35).
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