Saturday, May 5, 2012

Hungry and Hurting

These were the harsh realities facing two sets of people in Matthew 12: 1-14.

The disciples, trying to keep up with the frenetic pace of Jesus' ministry, did not have time to cook, or stop at the local diner for a snack. So as they walked through a farmer's cornfield, necessity met opportunity and they plucked corn from the stalks and began to eat on the Sabbath.

Jesus goes into the local synagogue on the Sabbath and meets a man with a withered hand. If you have a disabling condition your mobility and range of activities are limited. Once again, need meets opportunity and the man comes to Jesus, the great healer seeking help, in church!

Jesus, despite Sabbath laws, reached out to the man in his pain. "Stretch out your hand," were his powerful words, and the man's hand was immediately healed and restored like the other. 

As the saying goes, "No good deed goes unpunished." Jesus' detractors came after him for allowing his disciples to eat food on the Sabbath and for healing a hurting person on this holy day. 

What is it about religion that causes people to miss the point? Part of the answer is idolatry. The enemies of Jesus made their religion and their rules more central than their relationship to God.

Rules instead of a relationship with God
 Rabbinic teaching developed numerous regulations and definitions of “work” that were supposedly prohibited on the Sabbath. But these legalistic regulations were never God’s intent for the OT law.

Jesus’ opponents believed that the Sabbath could be broken only in extreme cases of life and death. Since the disciples were not going to die from hunger, and since the life of the man with the withered hand was not in danger, they believed feeding the hungry and healing the hurting should wait until after the Sabbath.

Religion that God prefers…
Is a religion that puts mercy on the same plane with righteousness; it’s a religion where words and actions do not contradict each other.

According to James, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

Talk about missing the point! He (Jesus) said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep (no biological egalitarianism here)! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
(Matthew 12:11-12)

Where and how does your faith intersect with hurting and hungry people?