Missing the Point

We’ve all had conversations with others who’ve missed the point. We’ve been the one missing the point in conversations. Hopefully, we’re willing and open enough to understand that we have something to learn from others. This story from the Bible shows how dangerous missing the point can be.

The story is told in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Jesus walked into the synagogue and noticed a man with a withered hand. Some Bible translations say his hand was shriveled. Others use the word deformed or crippled. Whatever word described it, the man’s right hand was useless. The story in Luke 6:6-11 says Jesus asked the man to stand in front of the crowd.

Jesus wanted the people to see the man and his gnarled hand. Perhaps some in the crowd were moved to compassion. Some wondered what Jesus would do. The Pharisees and scribes hoped “to catch him in a Sabbath violation” as The Message puts it.

In all three Gospel accounts of the story, Jesus questioned the crowd.

“Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath or to do harm?” (In Matthew’s account the religious leaders ask this question to Jesus in order to accuse him. Mark and Luke have Jesus asking this question.)

“If your sheep fell into the ditch on the Sabbath, wouldn’t you lift it out?”

“On the Sabbath should we save someone’s life or destroy it?”

The four words at the end of verse 4 in Mark’s version say it all.

“But they were silent.”

They Would Not Be Moved

No answers. Not a word. Only silence. The religious leaders were unyielding. The sight of the disabled man and the pointed questions did nothing to soften their hearts. They were attached to their beliefs and sense of rightness about the Sabbath law and consumed with the idea of catching Jesus breaking it.

I wonder about the onlookers, though. The other ones in the synagogue. Why didn’t one of them answer Jesus and say, “I would rescue my sheep” or “It’s lawful to save a life any day of the week.” Had they heard the man-made rules about Sabbath for so long they forgot what God said? Were they scared into silence? Afraid of what the religious leaders would do if they spoke up?

Verse 5 says, “And Jesus looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart….” 

Then Jesus told the man to stretch out his hand and it was restored.

Such a work of mercy should have tendered hearts and caused amazement and faith, but they would not be moved. They persisted in unbelief and set out to destroy Jesus. 

Missing the Point

The ones determined to uphold the law missed the whole point of it: to love God and love people.

Their law wasn’t about love at all. Nor mercy or grace. The religious leaders’ law was about their power, position, and prosperity. Their law was arrogant, oppressive, and self-righteous. Their law was murderous. The law of Jesus is love. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34).

Are our hearts hardened? Are we unmoved? Do we value man-made rules and traditions over people? Are we determined to move our agendas forward even when it means hindering others’ journey toward God? Do we hold onto status or position or reputation instead of trusting God? Are we attached to our beliefs rather than Jesus?

Father, show us our hearts. Reveal the deepest places – the ones we try not to see. Make our hearts tender so we are moved by what moves You. May we love you wholeheartedly and may we see those around us the way You see them.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  Ezekiel 36:26

Photo by kaleb tapp on Unsplash

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