Sunday, February 17, 2013

Lord of the Sabbath 安息日の主

Luke 6:6-11  Miracle:
Jesus and His Disciples were walking in the grain field and rubbing their hands and eating the kernels.  He was teaching about the Sabbath.  He retells the story of David and the Show Bread.  He ended with a statement that would have spoken volumes to the Jews Then Jesus said to them, The Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath.”  Then, comes this story… “on another Sabbath…”  Not the next day—but some time later to have them think about it and the leaders were not pleased.
6 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.
9 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?
      10 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. 11 But they were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.   NIV

They wanted to trick or trap Jesus and cause Him ruin.  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.
Jesus knew what they were thinking… Kind of makes you wonder.  How does He do that?  Can He do that today?  Is God actively involved with His Creation today?  I would say, “YES!” and to prove it, look at a cherry blossom.  Look into the eyes of someone you love.  Take a deep breath and see that you have life.  His word says that He is active in the world He had created.  Don’t you see Him?
As we have seen in our lessons before, Jesus has command.  He has the command of nature: He calms the storm at sea.  He has command over sickness: He heals the sick child.  He has power and authority over demons: He sets a man free from the repressive imprisonment of being a wild man. 
Is the issue here Sabbath control?  Can we do work on the Sabbath or not?  I don’t think that is the central message.  Jesus is teaching about how to show God’s love.  Compassion for the sick man.  Healing the lady who has bleed for 12 years.  Compassion for the daughter who died.  Compassion for her parents.  Compassion for this man with the shriveled right hand.  Compassion for me, too.
Jesus is talking about the Law of Love.   If the teaching is “So is the teacher, so is the disciple” than what we have here is a game plan for how we function with the needs we see around us…not only on the Sabbath, but also on all days. 
Doctor Luke is giving us a unit lesson on “How To Love.”  He is teaching us what the lesson of Love looks like and how to follow it.  When Jesus saw a need—even on the Sabbath…the law of Love DEMANDS He acts. 
Later, Paul teaches us from 1 Corinthians 9:21 about “Christ Law To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. And James, in his letter, in chapter 2:8, about the “royal lawIf you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.  There is a higher way to live.  A higher calling we are directed to live out.  Anything short of that higher road is to be fought against.  His Way of Love NEEDS to be the WAY we live.  It did not matter then and it does not matter now what day it was when a need needed to be cared for.  It was never intended to restrict our ability to show love and to meet the needs of those who are in need.  We are called to grow in our compassion.
The leaders—the religious leaders were not being honest in their seeking truth.  They were watching Jesus very closely to find a way to trip Him up and to discredit Him.  It was a very sinister mode of living and they had become—over the years—pros at it.  Their intense scrutiny was not there to build up people’s Faith but to bring Jesus down.  To find fault in His life. They could not wait to catch Him!
            I remember a time early in my walk of Faith when I worked at a Candy Factory.  All sorts of people worked there.  There were Foreign workers from South American, Old Italian immigrants who worked there when my own mother worked there as a teen and men of some social status.  Among them was a man who we shall call “Teddy”.  He was a man with double standards.  He claimed to be a Christian but his life showed one and all that he did not really believe in Jesus. His life was checked with all sorts of—what I would call—evil action and works. One day, he was watching me enter the boss’s office.  He had been watching me to see if I would fall or discredit my testimony.  Once inside the office, I noticed that the calendar was of a naked woman.  I took one glance at it and turned my eyes away.  He only saw that I looked at it and yelled to all in the shop that I was glaring at the photo.  I had not but he said I had and much laugher and words like “I expected so” came from many of the men.  I was horrified that he was making such a big deal out of this.  It seemed to be his goal in life to try and trip me up.  To find fault in my testimony.  Once when I really hit my finger and needed to go to the hospital, he encouraged me to swear and said that it would make me feel better.  I did not and the pain still continued.  I still have the scar from that accident and it reminds me of the NEED to keep a clean testimony before my peers.
Jesus was open with His life but the leaders were hiding behind their robes and office.  They had much to hide yet Jesus saw right through them and even heard their thoughts!  Once again, He put into words what they were thinking—must have been a little uncomfortable for them—but it did not stop them.  They were hard-hearted people.  Know anyone like that in your circle of relationships?
Have you noticed that our Lord Jesus said things at times that are biting—ironic—sometimes even hurtful?  Does that bother you at all?  I think it is amazing!  He is able to put people in their places without breaking the Law of Love.  His Words are to instruct–to bring a change.  His Words are to bring healing to brokenness.  His Words are to bring change and direction to those who are on the wrong path.  All we need to do is listen.  To listen and obey.  Not try and pick and choose WHICH of His Words we need to follow.  Not how much can I get away with or not do but still do enough to have Him be pleased with me! IS God pleased with mediocre (平凡です) living?
Are we kidding ourselves?  He knows our heart.  He knows what is on our lips before they are even spoken.  I was in prayer and I tried to say something before I would think it.  Have you tried that?  Am I alone in that experiment?  I tried to say something to God before I could verbalize it to Him.  No matter how fast I would say something, I had to think of it first.  He heard it before I even spoke.  He is NEVER surprised!
Here in this passage, Jesus asked them “IS it right (lawful) to do good on the Sabbath.  They were trying to find fault with Jesus and to destroy Him—on the Sabbath and every other day of the week.  They desired to destroy while He sought to meet needs.  Who is violating the Sabbath?  No wonder He called them what He called them in John 8:43-45 (NIV1984)  43 Why is My language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me! 46 Can any of you prove Me guilty of sin?  If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe Me? 47 He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”
Zeal often leads to unrighteousness when it is unbalanced.  The ends are to as to justify questionable means.  Sometimes in seeking to prevent murder or unrighteousness, God's people engage and even justify acts that are just as unacceptable. We must be careful.  A Christian leader once told of certain people were out to get him for "doctrinal defection (flaw or imperfection)."  They were watching his every move and examining his every sentence.  In their attempt to get hard evidence they had broken into his office, searched his desk and even tried to open his computer files.  Apparently trespassing along with breaking and entering was all right in the name of righteousness!  The pursuit of righteousness should never cause us to resort to tactics that reflect unrighteousness.  God has a way. Trust Him!
We are to be People of the Book. My friend lives and works in Sorote, Uganda.  He has been there many years helping to give the poor of that region a way of life, work and self worth along with a clear teaching of the Gospel.  He needed to drive into neighboring Kenya with some local friends.  Because of the danger of armed men, sometimes it would be necessary to travel in small groups.  When a group of Islamic men saw my friend leave, they agreed to drive behind them for a safer passage.  While my friend was a little ahead of them, they witnessed a group of armed men attempt to stop my friend’s Land Rover.  My friend did not stop but drove thru the roadblock and was fired upon resulting in a death and a few of the passengers hurt with gun shot wounds.  When the Islamic men saw what happened, they turned around and sped quickly back to the village telling everyone that “The People of the Book were killed—all of them.”  
Truthfully, only one died and after a short while the group returned to the village and everyone took notice that “The People of The Book” were in fact alive.  The testimony of God’s Grace moved many people to accept the Lord Jesus.  To this day, people remember the story and a church is there. What is why we MUST live to show that we are indeed People of The Book!
IS there enough evidence to convict you in a court of law of your Faith in Jesus?  Is it only hear say or is there undeniable evidence of a changed life?  We are to live a life that is above reproach.  Live a life that is exceptional. 
Jesus sought to do good on the Sabbath, but the Pharisees sought to do harm and destroy Him.  Jesus' reply was in the spirit of Old Testament prophetic rebukes toward them (Is 1:11-17 no pleasure in bulls; 58:1-14 true fasting; Amos 4:1-8 cows of Bashan). God puts a high priority on how people are treated and how needs are met (or how they are not meet!).  How do we treat people we meet?  Going out to lunch today?  Try and use the server’s name.  Thank them by name.  They are not your slaves.  How do you treat your spouse?  This past week was St. Valentine’s Day.  Do anything special for them…with them?  How do you treat your parents?  God is truly interested in how you speak to them and how you act toward them.  He is pleased when you offer prayers on their behalf.  Do you nag your husband?  Is that a way to show real love to him?
Here was a man who had a shriveled right hand.  Do we try and move away from people like that?  Do they make us uncomfortable?  Do we help a blind man on the train?  Do we aid the wheel chaired person get on the elevator? You might not know HOW to help but you could ask: “How can I help you?  Is there anything I can do to make this easier?  Sometimes we are SO into our own thing we do not even see people in need around us.  We need His eyes…His eyes of compassion.
Was this miracle really about the shriveled right hand of the man?  Or even if it is OK to do work on the Sabbath?  Wasn’t it a deeper concern He was addressing?
So Jesus acts by asking the man to stretch out his hand. The very act will show that healing was present.  There was irony in all of this.  Can you sense how hard Jesus had labored here, uttering just one command?  Was work really being done—even on the Sabbath?  It really was not a question of IF He could or even THAT He could heal.  It was on another level; it should have embarrassed the religious leaders.  Would God vindicate the efforts of Jesus?  Sure, why not?  It was not a matter of ‘work’ it was a matter of compassion and meeting a man’s needs!  The text tells of the command's success ever so briefly— He did so, and his hand was completely restored.
A very strange response here.  Rather than wonder and rejoicing of witnessing such a miracle, Doctor Luke uses a special word to describe their response.  It refers to a blinding, irrational RAGE or FURY that is much like a response of insanity!  They went berserk!  They must have spit, screamed, yelled, swore, hit things, threw things.  In fact, they realized more and more that they were losing the war with Jesus.  He would win and they would loose their authority so they needed to kill Him to get Him out of the way.  They put a hit on Him. 
Jesus, in their eyes was a Sabbath breaker!  A sinner!  And right in front of them, they saw with their own eyes—a healing that went against just about everything they had believed in.  God does not help or listen to a sinner.  Jesus’ actions really confused them deeply.  They began to wonder what they could do to Jesus.  He must be stopped.
Today, what do we find?  We sometimes stubbornly responding to God’s leading by rejecting His plan for our life and that would lead to more resistance… which leads to more sin and that leads us to unwelcomed darkness.
The Sabbath teaching here is this: Any Day Is Good To Do Acts Of Compassion.  We should ALWAYS be in the Sabbath mode of doing things that pleases the Lord—like worship with a sincere heart as we minister to each other in doing good to others.  It is Both And—not one or the other.
The narrator, Dr. Luke, leaves us with something to ponder:  When we realize that He alone points us to the Way of God, what is our response to the needs of others?
Practical application:  What acts of Mercy or Compassion are open for us to DO as a Church in our community?
Who would like to be on an Active Committee for action?
Investigate openings for us in Japan.
Are there other groups in Tokorozawa that already are active or will be need to take the lead?