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"On another Sabbath He went to the meeting place and taught. There was a man there with a crippled right hand. The religion scholars and Pharisees had their eye on Jesus to see if He would heal the man, hoping to catch Him in a Sabbath infraction. He knew what they were up to and spoke to the man with the crippled hand, 'Get up and stand here before us,'
"Then Jesus addressed them, 'Let me ask you something: What kind of action suits the Sabbath best? Doing good or doing evil? Helping people or leaving them helpless?' He looked around, looked each one in the eye. He said to the man, 'Hold out your hand.' He held it out -- it was as good as new! They were beside themselves with anger, and started plotting how they might get even with Him." Luke 6:6-11 (The Message).
Another nail in His coffin! The religious types were becoming more and more enraged with Jesus. What raised their wrath against Him?
Wherever He went, He bumped into need after need after need -- people who were enslaved by all kinds of things; demons, deformities, diseases and, worst of all, the burdens that their own so-called spiritual leaders put on them which God never intended for them to carry. These things enraged Jesus as much as His compassion angered them.
Here was another stand-off -- on the Sabbath -- another set-up in the synagogue and they waited to see what He would do. He had already cut them down to size by defending His disciples against their accusation of "working" on the Sabbath by rubbing grain in their hands. Now it was His turn. Jesus would never turn away from need, and they knew it.
Jesus didn't need to read their minds. He only needed to look at their faces and read their body language to know what they were thinking. I think He was having fun. 'What should I do?' He shot at them, 'Leave the man in his suffering just because it is a day called "Sabbath" or heal him because the Sabbath is as good a day as any to be kind?'
The hyper-religious ones didn't even answer. They couldn't without exposing their wicked hearts. Then, to crown it all, Jesus did nothing! He spoke! Was it wrong to speak on the Sabbath? They hadn't tied that one up with a rule yet! Jesus didn't even use the word "heal" or any equivalent. What's wrong with, 'Get up and stand here before us,' and 'Hold out your hand'?
The scribes and Pharisees were floored. Without doing a thing, Jesus healed the man just like that! They had no answer for that one but they were angry anyway; angry because He had got the better of them again, making them look like fools in the eyes of the people; angry because He had shown up their selfish indifference to the suffering of others; angry because He had ignored their rules and they were always right, so they thought; probably angry most of all because they could not understand how He did what He did and they were not willing to admit that God was working through Him.
The Pharisees aside, what was Jesus teaching by His actions, to us as well as to those who were with Him? Sabbath is much less about going to church as it is about reaching out to people in need. Sabbath is about resting from our own work to do the work of God. Sabbath is not about a day. It's about a lifestyle, resting in the work of Jesus that frees us from slavery to our own selfish ways so that we look beyond ourselves to lift the burden off other people's shoulders.
Jesus was insisting that righteousness is not about not doing wrong but doing right; not abstaining but taking action for those who had no power to act for themselves. He defined wickedness, not as doing wrong, but as not doing right. The rich men in His stories were charged with greed and indifference, one for hoarding his bounty instead of sharing, and the other for ignoring the poor man at his gate.
What about you? Are you a stickler for laws, or are your eyes and ears open to the poor?
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