We find a lot of angry religious leaders in the New Testament. This installment of Monday School is brought to you by the indignant synagogue ruler in Luke 13.
Jesus was teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath when he noticed a disabled woman. The woman was bent over and unable to straighten herself. Every task she undertook was painful and more difficult because of her back. Bathing. Cooking. Cleaning. Tending the garden. Any normal everyday job took her more time and caused more discomfort.
She suffered this way for eighteen years. Eighteen years of being bent over and straining to look her family and friends in the eyes when she spoke with them. Eighteen years of weakness and pain.
Jesus called out to her, “Woman, you are free of your disability.” When Jesus laid his hands on her she was immediately restored. The ESV says it this way, “She was made straight.”
Then she glorified God. For the first time in eighteen years she stood up straight, raised her hands over her head, and praised God. What a beautiful moment of rejoicing for all who witnessed a woman set free!
But not everyone rejoiced. The leader of the synagogue was indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath. The synagogue ruler proceeded to tell the crowd that healing should not take place on the Sabbath, only the six other days of the week.
This kind of anger among the religious leaders was a theme. Similar stories are recorded over and over in the Gospels. Jesus performed a miracle, set someone free, forgave sin, gave sight, ate with tax collectors and prostitutes, or prevented a stoning……and the religious leaders were furious.
Jesus never broke an Old Testament law. He only went against the man-made rules added to the OT law. The religious leaders decided that healing was work, therefore it broke the law according to their rules.
They Can’t Rejoice
Unfortunately, anger among religious leaders continues. Their man-made rules are broken and all Hades breaks loose. The Twitter storm ensues. The fear based articles are written. The accusations fly.
And the law makers can’t rejoice. They are blinded by their fury, unable to see the work of God.
While those who are set free glorify God, the rulers draw lines in the sand and double down on their efforts to tell people the rules, why they made the rules, and what will happen if we break the rules.
Let It Be So
If all of us could only be more like Nicodemus. He was a religious leader, but knew he didn’t have all the answers. He was curious. He asked questions and listened. He refused to let rules steal the place of God. He let Jesus change him.
Father, let it be so with us. May we embrace our limited understanding and allow that to push us to greater faith in You. Give us eyes to see as You see. Fill our hearts with the same compassion that filled Jesus. Give us a greater understanding of Your Word and a desire to live it.