Thursday, May 29, 2008

Take a Look at Life

Mark 1:40-45

Have you ever wondered if there were things about our lives with which God doesn't involve Himself? Have you ever worried that your problem was not the kind God could or would resolve. The incident Mark relates in chapter 3 (verses 1 through 6) makes clear that were important enough to God for Him to intervene no matter what.

Then Jesus went back to the synagogue, where there was a man who had a paralysed hand. Some people were there who wanted to accuse Jesus of doing wrong; so they watched him closely to see whether he would heal the man on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man, "Come up here to the front." Then he asked the people, "What does our Law allow us to do on the Sabbath? To help or to harm? To save a man's life or to destroy it?"
But they did not say a thing. Jesus was angry as he looked round at them., but at the same time he felt sorry for them, because they were so stubborn and wrong. Then he said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out, and it became well again. So the Pharisees left the synagogue and met at once with some members of Herod's party, and they made plans to kill Jesus.

This story seems to have been placed here as an illustration of the statement Jesus had just made in Mark 2:28, that He is "Lord even of the Sabbath." The situation is sadly ironic: a man with a physical disability comes to the place where comfort should be available, a gathering of believers, and because it's a day held sacred to God, is almost denied the healing he so disparately seeks.
A group of people, present at the regular synagogue service, is just waiting to catch Jesus doing something which might compromise His position as a credible religious leader. knowing what's going on, yet never one to play political games, Jesus,turns the tables on His adversaries, and puts them in the uncomfortable position of having to either state their callous indifference to the needs of the disabled man, or admit that the Sabbath cannot be observed as rigidly as they have been pretending. "What does our Law allow us to do on the Sabbath? To help or to harm? To save a man's life or to destroy it?" In other words, which is better,. to preseve life by healing or to destroy life by refusing to heal?
It's interesting to notice that even His adversaries believe Jesus capable of performing miracles. Their question is not "Can He?", but "Will He?" To know the truth is obviously not the same thing as accepting it. These people are opposing someone they're convinced can work miracles, but who threatens the traditions they've grown to revere.
It is a sorry commentary on the direction religious tradition had taken that aid could be given to the sick on the Sabbath only when the person's life was threatened. Since that is not the case here, Jesus is expected to refuse to do what He can to help the disabled man!
Notice Jesus' response to the cold heartedness of His opponents: "He looked around at them in anger, and [was] deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts." None the less, refusing to let their pettiness block God's grace, He heals the man.
It is at this point, early in His ministry, that the Pharisees (a nationalistic Jewish group) and the Herodians (who collaborated with Rome) unite in their decision to seek Jesus' death. It is interesting that Jesus could unite such normally incompatible foes.
We can learn several lessons from this story. First, Jesus never quit attending worship in the appropriate place. In spite of what people might do to Him, think of Him, or say about Him, He never let it interfere with His presence in the synagogue. This is a good reminder to us that we don't attend church because every person there treats us well, but because we want to worship God.
Secondly, while there is always someone to criticize us for almost anything we do (even good deeds), our primary task in life is to keep doing what's right no matter how it is perceived or portrayed by others.
Thirdly, compassion is always more acceptable to God than legalism. We are to obey His standards, but also to be careful that we or other people don't add to them details and amendments which take away the positive purpose God always has in providing us with His directions.
Fourth, to withhold the good we might do to help someone is the same as doing them harm. It is important to be aware of the needs of others around us, and then, as we are able, to try and meet those needs.
Fifth, we are not to justify our own impatience with the stubbornness or hardheartedness of others on the basis of Jesus' righteous anger (as James says in his New Testament letter, "The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God"). Rather we are to make sure that such stubborn insensitivity to human need never becomes a part of our own lives.
Finally, we must never assume that because we have done our best everyone else will automatically stand up and applaud. On the contrary, there are always people who are threatened by excellence (whether in our lives or the lives of others), be jealous of accomplishment, and be intent on putting down anyone whose light shines brighter than their own.
As you live today, live for God. Don't let other people's opinions determine your actions. Let your life be a blessing to everyone you meet, and God will bless and use your life.

Our Saviour's Church

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