Being an Authentic Follower of Jesus:
When the Truth Collides with Religious Beliefs
Jesus has left the large crowds and continues heading toward Jerusalem (9:51). It is a Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, and a prominent leader of the Pharisees invites him to a Sabbath meal in an attempt to find something that they can use against him. By this time, the Pharisees are looking at ways to get rid of Jesus. Yet Jesus will turn their trap on themselves exposing their hypocrisy.
1. The Truth Divides (v. 1-2)
The Pharisees were the most zealous law keepers among the Jews. They were legalists of the worst kind – thinking they had the moral strength to keep the law and thereby earning Gods favor and blessing. Their religious pride led to self righteousness and blinded them to their need to repent and worse yet disdaining Jesus their King. Yet Jesus is constantly exposing their hypocrisy and offering them an opportunity to repent. He is always touching on the issues of the heart. More than anyone in history, he was connected to the human heart. He spoke the truth and it created a division between those who embraced it and those who rejected it. That was his purpose.
John 18:37 For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world--to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice."
John 8:37 you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you.
2. The Truth Serves The Needs of Others (vs. 3-4)
Truth is given to preserve and redeem Gods people. God established the Sabbath for His people to rest from work and worship the One who gives us everything we need for life and godliness. But before God established the Sabbath for his people, he established the Sabbath for himself.
Genesis 2:3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. God’s Sabbath started after creation and continues to this day. There has been no creation since he created man. God has moved his attention from creation to preservation and redemption. God then established the Sabbath to teach His people that they are to work six days and set aside one day a week for rest, for pleasure, and for worship. After the Exodus, the Sabbath was to remind Gods people of their deliverance from their bondage to slavery in Egypt. These two themes of creation and redemption are woven together by Moses in Deut 5.
Deuteronomy 5:14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. 15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.
But the rabbis seemed to think that the Sabbath was an end in itself, an institution to which the pious Jew must subject all his personal interests; in other words, that man was made for the Sabbath: man might suffer hardship, but the institution must in no way be violated. Apart from Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah, there is no subject he came into such pointed conflict with the Pharisees than observing the Sabbath. He set Himself against the rabbinic restrictions as contrary to the spirit of the original law of the Sabbath - the Sabbath was made for man's benefit. If there is a conflict between man's needs and the letter of the Law, man's higher interests and needs must take precedence over the law of the Sabbath. With this in mind, Jesus asks the question, ‘is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?’ In their attempt to trap him, the trap is sprung on them. Their silence exposes their own guilt. Jesus heals the man and sends him on his way so that he can give his full attention to these Pharisees.
3. Religion Bends the Truth for selfish gain (vs. 5-6)
They remain silent because they know Jesus has embarrassed many a Pharisee - exposed their hypocrisy and their love of money, and their love of the praise of others. He will not let the issue go because he is a masterful heart surgeon who diagnoses his patient’s disease before he performs surgery. So he challenges their attitude - selfish convenience. These Pharisees will give basic help to those things they care most about – their own goods and their children, but not lift a finger to help those whose pain is no skin off their back. They have a keen interest in their own welfare. That is their priority. When the law seems to stand between them and something they value – their ox or their children – they have no difficulty relativizing the law. The preservation of their own comfort is clearly a higher commitment than rigorous Sabbath keeping but when it comes meeting the needs of others whose pain no skin off their back the law becomes conveniently rigid to protect them from involvement. Religious people are wickedly evil whose highest love, whose god, is not the Lord but selfish convenience and for whom the law is either rigid or robbery depending on whether it protects or threatens that convenience. May we be a people who use the truth or the law for our own selfish end.