Daily Update #150

Phil 1:1-11, Psalm 111; Luke 14:1-6
Thought: Psalm 111: 7-8. “All God does is just and good and all his commandments are trustworthy. They are forever true, to be obeyed faithfully and with integrity.”
Rules.  Do you like rules or do you hate them? Perhaps it depends on the rule?
For many of us, rules give us a sense of security and comfort. We know where we are. We obey the rules and expect a certain outcome.
In today’s Gospel story, we meet the Pharisees, who LOVED rules. They had taken the commandments and added a whole host of detailed rules on the top. They had made a rule for every possible aspect of your daily life.
Perhaps you have wondered why? Well they started off with good intentions. These law makers and leaders had looked at all the laws and rules laid out in the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) and thought that the best way to ensure that they stayed within these decrees would be to make even stricter laws, so that they knew that they would be safe and would stay well within God’s laws. It was rather like giving themselves a margin for error. The trouble was, that they had looked very, very carefully at the letter of the law and not the spirit of the law. In so doing, they had successfully sucked all the joy out of obeying God’s law. Instead they had created an onerous burden for all the Jewish worshippers.
Today’s reading sees Jesus healing a man on the Sabbath. In Monday’s daily update, David gave us some insights into Jesus healing a woman on a Sabbath.  In fact, by the time we get to today’s reading, it seems that Jesus is regularly healing or casting out demons on a Sabbath in front of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law. Their reactions have ranged from indignation to rage and now to silence. They knew the rule and they were intent on proving themselves right.  It was laid out very clearly in Exodus 35. “You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day must be a Sabbath day of complete rest, a holy day dedicated to the Lord”.  So the Pharisees decided to trap Jesus. Inviting him to Sunday lunch, there suddenly appeared a man with dropsy (swollen limbs). I would suspect that he had been especially invited as bait for the Pharisees to see what Jesus would do.  But Jesus surprises them. He first asks them a question: “Is it lawful to heal people on the Sabbath day or not?”
What were they to do.?  If they said that healing is permitted, they conceded His point and they raised problems about their traditions, which had added to the Law of Moses. If they said no, they appeared uncaring. Besides, if they had invited this man to be there, it cast questions on their motives for them to say, “No, healing is not permitted.” So they kept silent.
If they thought things couldn’t get any worse, after Jesus healed the man, he then challenges them further with a rhetorical question: “Which of you doesn’t work on the Sabbath? If your son or your cow falls in a pit, don’t you rush to get him out?”
Jesus exposed their religious hypocrisy for all to see. But perhaps they were still blind. After all, none of us likes to be shown to be a hypocrite. It is easier to work really hard on defending your viewpoint than admitting that you could be wrong and Jesus is right. We see this in the popular belief at the moment, that God wants us as Christians to always be healthy and wealthy, ignoring all Scriptures that mention poverty or persecution.
But how about us? We can read this story and wonder at the blindness of the Pharisees. But what about our own lives? What are our areas where we don’t want Jesus to challenge us? Are there bits of the Bible that we skip over quickly, determining that they are not relevant to us ‘modern day’ Christians, because if we took them seriously, we would have to change our viewpoint and the way we live?
If we don’t want to become like the Pharisees, we all must allow God’s Word to confront our sins, so that we have the opportunity to repent and not let ourselves become hardened or bitter.
As we let the Holy Spirit search our hearts, let us pray with Paul (Philippians 1:9-11) “Lord let our love overflow more and more, so that we can keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. Lord God, we want to understand what really matters, so that we may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. Fill up with the fruit of our salvation – the righteous character of Jesus evident in our lives, so that we will bring you glory”. Amen