Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Silencing the Pharisees

"And they had nothing to say" (Luke 14:6).

Jesus was invited one Sabbath to dine in the home of a prominent Pharisee. The Pharisees watched Him carefully because in front of Him sat a man suffering from dropsy. We have every reason to believe that this was a setup. Several days earlier, Jesus had severely rebuked a synagogue leader who criticized Him for healing on the Sabbath (Luke 13:10–17). Now the Pharisees were trying to trap Him.

In a shrewd move, Jesus turned the tables on the Pharisees. Instead of immediately healing the sick man, Jesus asked the Pharisees and the experts in the law, “It is lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” (Luke 14:3). Now, the answer to this question is obvious: If someone is seriously ill, you do not withhold assistance on the Sabbath. The Pharisees and legal experts, however, “remained silent” (v. 4).

So Jesus healed the man and quickly sent him on his way. He did not want him to suffer the emotional trauma of being verbally rebuked by the Pharisees.

Jesus then pointed out to the Pharisees that their own legal tradition allowed healing on the Sabbath. He asked them, “If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?” (v. 5). Again they had no reply.

What could they say? Jesus knew and they knew that, according to both the Old Testament and the Jewish oral tradition, if an animal fell into a pit and was in danger, it was not forbidden to rescue it. Obviously, if you can deliver an animal from illness or danger on the Sabbath, you can deliver a human being.

By silencing the Pharisees, Jesus exposed their hypocrisy. They hid behind their rigid code of moralism. They pretended to be righteous, but they were enemies of humanity. The holy law of God was never intended to prevent the relief of all suffering.

Some of our society’s laws and customs actually work against relieving human misery. Jesus changed society by healing, and many of the confrontations He experienced involved healing. Think of ways Christians can work to heal our society and generate significant social change.