LUKE 6:6-11 (NIV) | "On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath.
But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, 'Get up and stand in front of everyone.' So he got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, 'I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?' He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.'
He did so, and his hand was completely restored. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus."
“It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.” - Mark Twain
After several hours of traveling, my family and I were picked up by my father-in-law at the Denver airport to begin the last leg of our trip to Homewood Suites in Colorado Springs. Since we were all out-of-towners, we counted on his phone’s GPS directions to get us to our destination. Ninety minutes later, we pulled into the driveway only to discover that we were at the wrong Homewood Suites. There are two in Colorado Springs, and we went to the one that was 30 minutes farther away than our actual target. None of us were happy.
In hindsight, there were all sorts of signs that we could have noticed that showed we were heading in the wrong direction, but we overlooked them all because we were certain that our GPS was taking us where we wanted to go. And, in fairness to the phone, the GPS was not at fault. The fault was ours in selecting the wrong destination.
It seems to me that the Pharisees of Jesus’ day made a similar mistake. In their admirable efforts to take God and his commandments seriously, they lost sight of what matters most to God: love, doing good, and bringing shalom to the world. They were so certain of their beliefs about what matters to God that they were unable to be corrected — even by God himself.
Out of love, Jesus firmly confronted the Pharisees’ misguided energies. The first 11 verses of Luke 6 show Jesus as being intentionally provocative by “breaking” Sabbath laws in order to bring the Pharisees’ erring beliefs to light. Unfortunately, Luke tells us that the Pharisees and teachers could not — or would not — open themselves up to reconsidering their convictions. The Pharisees got it wrong even after Jesus simplified the issue with the question, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” They just could not get past Jesus breaking the Sabbath laws.
In some ways, I am like the Pharisees. I deeply desire to honor God in my actions and to obey God’s word, but I cannot help but wonder how often I make the same mistake they did. In the past year, I have been challenged in this area in a number of ways, and I have begun to ask some questions of myself. For example, do my judgmental tendencies keep me from relating to non-believers to such an extent that I fail to express God’s love for his lost sheep? Do my concerns for “keeping the law” as I see it prevent me from extending grace and mercy to immigrants, the poor, and others who are often marginalized in our culture?
These, and similar tensions, are still unresolved in my life. However, I believe it is better to stay open to Jesus and his radical revelations of God and God’s grace than to be overly confident in my religious convictions. Because sometimes the GPS is set wrong, and sometimes even the law-abiding Pharisees miss the point. It may be uncomfortable, but I want to go with the One who broke the Sabbath law and saved the poor man’s life.
QUESTIONS FOR APPLICATION
- What do you think made it hard for the Pharisees to let go of their views of the Sabbath? What makes it hard for you to be open to having your beliefs challenged, even by Jesus?
- What religious convictions might God want to challenge you to rethink in this season? What does repentance look like for you?
- How well does your Christian community prioritize loving God and loving your neighbors over the lesser but controversial issues of the day? How might God be inviting you to be a change agent?
This reading is a part of our "Small Feet Big Shoes" devotional series. You can also sign up to receive these meditations by email.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dave Zovak and his wife, Kim, have been with CRM since 2001. They have served in Melbourne, Australia for 10 years and are currently serving in Asia for the last two and a half years with their children Zane and Kyra.