Monday, April 29, 2013

Luke 14:1-6

A literal cow in a literal well
possibly not the Sabbath
One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. There in front of him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him on his way.

Then he asked them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?” And they could make no reply to this.

After a morning of synagogue worship, one of the prominent Pharisees invites Jesus to dinner. This is interesting, because if the Pharisees thought Jesus was from Satan, this would make Jesus ultimately unclean - thereby defiling the Pharisee's house. Even more suspicious is the placement of a man with dropsy right in front of Jesus. Dropsy is what we call today edema - swelling of bodily tissues. It can indicate failure of the liver, kidney, or heart as the body is unable to detoxify and more fluid correctly from the body. In this time period, illness was seen as judgment for sin, and dropsy was believed to be the result of sexual sin. I doubt this man was invited over because he was a close family friend. No, the Pharisees invite the "unclean" Jesus and the "unclean" man in order to set Jesus up.

They keep fighting with Jesus over the Sabbath. Jesus goes around straightening backs, healing the blind, restoring withered hands, allowing his disciples to pick heads of grain on the Sabbath... the list goes on and on, and everything Jesus did is not even recorded. This is proof enough for the Pharisees. "He broke the Sabbath again! See, he is NOT from God!"

Jesus asks the Pharisees and law experts if it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath. Actually this is a trick question. Nowhere in the Old Testament was healing on the Sabbath prohibited. But in order to avoid breaking one of the Old Testament laws, over time the Pharisees had added additional laws to each law to ensure they did not sin. One of their added rules was that you could only be cured on the Sabbath if you would definitely die otherwise. If this was not the case, you should wait until the next day for treatment.

When no one answers Jesus, he grabs the man and heals him. Instantly the swelling disappears, skin tightens, organs begin functioning, and his joints freely move as he rushes home to show his family. You would think people would respond with, "WOW!!" Instead they glare and seethe at Jesus' behavior and lack of cultural sensitivity.

Calling attention to their hypocrisy, Jesus asks them, "If your animal or child fell into a well on the Sabbath, would you not pull it out? I doubt you would say, 'Sorry Joshua Jr., you'll have to try to tread water until tomorrow. Try to stay warm.'" They cannot reply. Of course they would deal with that situation. They used their man-made lists and regulations to pick and choose what was work and what was not. They walked closely along the lines drawn by their leaders rather than following Micah 6:8, "He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

In the presence of the light of the world, most of the religious people chose to walk in darkness. It was a darkness of their own choosing, bound tightly by their religion and cultural upbringing. The chains of their religion kept them from reaching the kingdom of God. Many today bind themselves with the same chains. They keep certain rules or try to be "good people" believing that if one's good deeds outweigh the bad, heaven is waiting. One common thought is that it does not matter what you believe, as long as you believe it passionately. But Jesus taught, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." There are many paths, but most lead to destruction. No matter how well you run a race, if you are on the wrong trail you will not win the prize.

Even those of us who are truly Christians must guard ourselves from religiosity. There are some tenets that we must all believe: "There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all" (Eph. 4:4-6). But often much of what we consider Christianity is likely just part of our culture and upbringing. Guard yourself against placing tradition on the same level as God's Word.

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?" The man answered, "'You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.' And, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'""You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."  Luke 10:25-28

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