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The World Misses the Point

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Running Into the Rule Minders

The text for this week is Mark 2:23-3:6.  This week begins the “teaching season of the church calendar.  The rest of the year in the cycle will be about the lessons Jesus imparted while on earth.  This lesson is a doozy.  Jesus is going along in the grainfield, and the disciples are with Him.  They are picking some heads of grain.  They are then set upon by some Pharisees, those uber upholders of the Law.  They complain that the disciples are doing something unlawful. 

Later Jesus goes into the synagogue and sees a man with a shriveled hand.  Some of those that were there were watching Jesus closely to see if He would heal this man.  In the end this is exactly what Jesus did.  I will explain His rationale in both cases momentarily.  What is important about these encounters is that we today will also run into rule minders.  Those who will be watching closely to see if we dot every i and cross every t.  They will try and trip you up with their exaggerated sense of God’s word as a simple codex of rules and regulations.  These are people who, if you let them, will turn the Good News of Jesus Christ into yet another law book, worse, they will devolve it into a series of external works we must perform to save our souls.

The Gracious Response

Jesus in the first instance points out to the Pharisees that David, when he and his companions were hungry and in need, went and ate bread reserved for the priests.  David was so bold as to also give some of this bread to his companions.  Jesus makes the crucial point that the Sabbath, like all of God’s Creation is for the good of humanity, not the other way around.  Jesus then goes on to make the stunning claim that He is even Lord of the Sabbath.  One of many bold claims Jesus will make about His relationship to the Father.  The point here is that we are not to let some picayune rules destroy the need for us to take care of each other.  Taking care of each other is the point, or perhaps the law of love as Paul wrote in Rom 13:8-10.

Regarding the healing of the man with the shriveled hand, Jesus dispenses with the objection even before He heals the man.  Jesus asks those watching Him “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.” (Verse 4).  This silence angers Jesus because He knows that they remain silent because they know the answer, and that answer does not fit their narrative.  Too bad for them, as they stand exposed for the hard-hearted rule minders that they are.  They, like most in the world, have missed the point.  The rules are not to be used as a cudgel to harm, denigrate or prevent from helping those in need.  That attitude is all about power and control  All regimes of works righteousness are.

The response of the Pharisees to plot how to kill Jesus further underlines the vacuousness of their position.  We know what we are supposed to do in any given situation, even if those of this world do not.  We are not to be trapped by mindless adherence to a rule or set of rules that seeks to prevent us from following Jesus’s command to love others as God loves us.  So, be bold in both your belief and your obedience, it’s what Jesus did.

Praise Be to God

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