Mar 23 2013 - Luke 5:29-6:11 – They watched him closely
By his words and actions, Jesus had provoked the opposition of the Pharisees. He had claimed to have authority to forgive sins. He associated with tax collectors and sinners and seemed to prefer feasting with them than fasting with pious Jews. He did not seem to show a proper respect for the Sabbath and its stifling restrictions. So, on one Sabbath day, when Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, the Pharisees and teachers of the law "watched him closely" (Luke 6:7). They kept a careful eye on him, not to marvel in all that he was doing but to look for some fault for which they might condemn him. In the synagogue there was a man whose hand was withered and useless. These critics kept a close eye on Jesus to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath day.
And, of course, their expectations were not disappointed. Jesus told the man to stretch out his hand. He did so and his hand was completely restored. But before he healed the man he asked his critics a question, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?” (Luke 6:9).
For all their careful attention, the Pharisees and teachers of the law could see only one thing; here was a man who broke the law by doing work on the Sabbath. They could not see a man remarkably healed from a long-standing affliction. Instead of rejoicing with the man who was healed, they were filled with rage at Jesus’ words and actions (6:11). Instead of seeing Jesus as the author of life, they were intent on putting him to death. For all their close watching, they remained blind.
I remember some time ago being asked to watch a short film clip. It was a clip of a basketball match and, before being shown it we were asked to count how many times the ball was passed. When the clip was over, we were asked whether we noticed anything else. On being shown it again we saw a man in a gorilla outfit walking behind the players. We had not noticed him on first showing because we were focussed entirely on the ball. We are not good at seeing the bigger picture when we are focussed in on the one thing we really want to see.
It’s frustrating sometimes when we try to talk to others about Jesus and they just can’t see what we see in him. But it must be equally frustrating for others if there are times when we are so intent on getting our message across that we do not really ‘see’ the person we are talking to in all their complexity of concerns. Narrow views lead to narrow minds – and Christians are not immune from this affliction.
What do we see in Jesus? One of the things I see in Jesus is someone who saw people as they really were and who dealt with each one according to their particular circumstances and need. He calls us also to widen our vision and to see beyond the narrow confines of our limited understanding. He calls us to see with his eyes and respond with his compassion and concern. He calls us to celebrate with those who have found new life in him, to mourn with those who are feeling broken and sad and to challenge those who would come to quick judgments about others.
Lord Jesus, continue that work you have begun in me – the work of making me like you. Keep me from narrow minded judgments this day. May the new wine of your kingdom – the heady wine of your presence and resurrection life – burst all that remains of the old wineskin and flow out to the refreshing of others.