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"The meeting-place president, furious because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the congregation, 'Six days have been defined as work days. Come on one of the six if you want to be healed, but not on the seventh, the Sabbath.'" Luke 13:14 (The Message).
Strange, isn't it, how reason, logic and even basic human kindness, leave the brain when a good deed is done that violates a religious scruple! According to this synagogue ruler, Jesus had done work on the Sabbath. First it was the Pharisees and now the synagogue ruler who was infected with the same 'brain-damaged' thinking.
On a previous occasion, when Jesus was attacked for healing on the Sabbath, (when in fact He had only spoken a word, and the man with a withered hand had been healed), He challenged their twisted logic by asking, "Which is right, to do good or to do evil on the Sabbath?" To Jesus, doing evil meant doing nothing, when someone was in need, because it was the Sabbath. He hated it when rules cancelled out mercy.
But there was something far deeper than a religious rule that aroused this man's anger. There was a fundamental flaw in his character which reflects the whole human race. It rears its ugly head more vehemently in those who are driven by religion rather than a restored relationship with God as Father.
Because God's essential nature is love, He is lavishly generous to everyone, even to those who refuse to acknowledge Him. "...The Most High...is kind to the ungrateful and wicked..." Luke 6:35 (NIV). This kind of treatment to undeserving people sticks in the throat of those who hate God because it is so contrary to their own nature.
Jesus told a story about a farmer who went to the market place early in the morning to hire labourers. He negotiated their wages with them to which they agreed. During the day he hired more men and finally engaged the last few stragglers an hour before knock-off time. Those who had worked from early morning were furious with him when he paid the latecomers the same wage as they had received for a day's labour.
The farmer's response was, "Are you envious because I am generous?" The farmer's generosity towards the men who had only worked for one hour brought out the true nature of the other labourers - envy. What is envy? It is not interchangeable with jealousy. It is the attitude that wants to destroy the one who, by acting contrary to their nature, shows them up for who they really are. It murders the one who does not bow to their command. It is the worst form of control. "Do what I tell you or die."
Surprisingly, it was Pilate who accurately diagnosed the true motive of the religious leaders who delivered Jesus to him to be condemned and crucified. "'Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?' asked Pilate, knowing that it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to them." Mark 15:10 (NIV).
Envy is a powerfully destructive force that drives religious people to what is contrary to the image of God. It cancels out sane thinking, defies logic and motivates to murder rather than to submit to the truth.
Jesus chose to remain true to His own nature rather than bow to the scruples of religious people because He had come to put His Father's glory on display. Being true to oneself is a risky business because it incurs a cost when it crosses the demands of religion.
We have to decide what will direct our lives - rigid adherence to rules because that's what controls our lives, or the flexibility that comes with a heart of mercy. Living God's way is not about trying to gain His approval but about living out of who we are, sons of God who have the nature of God and are free to live according to His love, mercy and compassion.
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