I’m quoting passages from the New International Reader’s Version unless otherwise noted in this discussion.
Another time Jesus went into the synagogue. A man with a weak and twisted hand was there.Some Pharisees were trying to find fault with Jesus. They watched him closely. They wanted to see if he would heal the man on the Sabbath day. Jesus spoke to the man with the weak and twisted hand. “Stand up in front of everyone,” he said. Then Jesus asked them, “What does the Law say we should do on the Sabbath day? Should we do good? Or should we do evil? Should we save life? Or should we kill?” But no one answered. Jesus looked around at them in anger. He was very upset because their hearts were stubborn. Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was as good as new.
I love this passage of scripture. It seems every time I come back to it I find a volume of insight for daily living in the way. So I want to explore this passage in more detail in the context of Jesus direction to all of us.
Then he said to all of them, “If anyone wants to follow me, he must say no to himself. He must pick up his cross every day and follow me."
Staying on the path Jesus instructs us to set aside (say no to himself) our self-centered nature, pick up our own cross, and follow him. Pick up that cross every morning when you wake. Follow his example to us. Be in keeping with his will for us and follow Christ!
So it is that I return to the passage I quoted at the beginning.
Here is Jesus in the synagogue. He knew this place well we know because he frequented this place to teach. He was known to be a teacher and these Pharisees were harboring a bit of envy because Jesus in today terminology was taking the ‘air out of the room’. His teachings consistently drew in a great many who would listen to his teaching. This didn’t sit very well with the Pharisees. So they were sitting back wanting to see if they could find fault and catch Jesus breaking the rules and healing on the Sabbath.
Ponder a moment the dynamic in play here. First, the Pharisees were well aware of Jesus, they knew his teachings, AND they were very aware of his ability to heal the sick and afflicted. They KNEW he performed miracles and it was a regular occurrence and were just waiting for him to do it again; on the Sabbath of all things! The next interesting thing to note here is that while they were watching Jesus trying to catch him breaking the rules, he was well aware of their hearts and minds. He knew them before they even said a word.
So Jesus, tells the man with the lame hand to stand up in front of everyone so they could see what he was preparing to do. Then he asks a question to the crowd but this was really directed specifically at the very same Pharisees that were trying to catch him breaking the rules. “What does the Law say we should do on the Sabbath day? Should we do good? Or should we do evil? Should we save life? Or should we kill?”. Not a word.
You want to know what angers our Lord? “Jesus looked around at them in anger. He was very upset because their hearts were stubborn.” These hard hearted Pharisees took great pride in their adherence to the law of Abraham, but Jesus clearly saw that this obedience to the law was not done out of the love of God, nor to God’s glory. The Pharisees used the law as a means to exalt and glorify themselves above others, not God and this angers Jesus.
We need to be careful as we pick up that cross that we are not being prideful of our great and wonderful effort, else we become like the Pharisees. Jesus showed love and compassion for this man and asked him to “Stretch out your hand.”. When the man did Jesus healed him.
These Pharisees later went and plotted to find a means of doing away with Jesus they hearts were so blacken with self-love.
The Holy Spirit guides us. We know what is good and righteous in the eyes of our Lord. It isn’t the rules that purchase our salvation is it faith. If we are to follow Jesus, set aside self-love, and pick up that cross of ours; we need to exhibit that love that Christ does to us, to others when they extend their hands to him. Is it good that you attend your church and don’t do acts that are counter to the teaching of our Lord? Yes, but that isn’t what saves us. What sets us apart and places us on the path God intends for us is the blood shed for the forgiveness of our sin and our faith in that sacrifice for the purchase of our salvation.
It isn't so much about following the rules. It is about following Christ Jesus and the examples he shows us. The rules are ridged and if you focus on just the rules, it can lead to self-pride like the Pharisees in the passage above, or assure you don't measure up to the standard. But following in the footsteps of our Lord and savior is much easier. “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:30 NIV) The Holy Spirit will direct you, and yes the 'rules' do apply but we find victory in Faith in God Grace.
Keep the faith! Embrace the salvation purchased for you with the blood of the lamb of God!