29-10-23 - STRETCH OUT YOUR HAND - Mark 3:1-6, Mat 12:9-14, Lk 6:6-12
Updated: Oct 29
MESSAGE BY PASTOR ROB INRIG FROM
BETHANY BAPTIST IN RICHMOND, BC.
Personal Quote; Let's pray:
Father God, we are here humbly bowing before you asking you to protect all our brothers and sisters who are suffering from war in their Countries, we are living in difficult times and our heart is heavy with sorrow, sadness and pain in looking around watching children struggling with fear and pain, protected them Father God embrace them make them feel they are not alone. And also for all our loved ones who are struggling with sickness, we ask for a miracle in their lives so they can be testimony of your amazing love for them. We know you have your ways in how your answers will come to us in your time as always, hear our cry oh! God Father of all, give us the strength to keep our faith and hope that everything will be fine under your righteousness, and strength to keep going praying for all of them, we ask you in the name of your loved son Jesus Christ our Lord of Lords and King of Kings. AMEN!
Not a day went by that didn’t remind him, he didn’t fit. A hand, dysfunctional from birth, told him that. His constant reminder that he’d never fit – at least not in the way others did.
Sure, some who were kinder made accommodations for him but no amount of accommodations would change that his life was lived on the fringes. On the outside, looking in. He would NEVER be like them.
Sitting there, pious and holy. They with their altogether lives. Dressed in their altogether looks. So self-impressed; so self-righteous. That was bad enough.
Far worse - hiding in their laws they so happily imposed on others. The Law said that a priest needed to be whole in every way before he could enter the sanctuary of God. And those same priests foisting their version of acceptable onto the common man. And he, far less than common with his disability.
So with that sense that he could come so close and no closer, the man settled into his normal – tucked away in his out-of-sight place in the synagogue. Only this day, as he would soon discover nothing about what was ahead was going to be normal.
That this day would be different wasn’t surprising. These days nothing seemed normal. Capernaum was filled with many Pharisees and scribes who’d come to meet with Jesus. They took up so much room in the synagogue, that the regulars were pushed from their places. Given what happened on the previous Sabbath and the healing of the paralytic, nothing should have surprised him but he never envisioned the part he would play in coming events.
And what a part he would play! It was a day that would change his life forever because he had been changed forever. From that day forward, he would worship as he had never worshipped. His heart freer; his praise louder; his praise bolder.
That same thing could be said for others who were in the synagogue that day. They too would worship as they’d never done before however their hearts were bent on evil, their hearts missing God.
Their belief system meant living by their ‘must do’ list, compiling one qualification upon another. Surely the longer the list – the greater likelihood they had of ‘BEING right’. And so they fixated on rules and behaviours and wearing those rituals as markers of faith. The deeper they got into this, the easier it was to put that list alongside others to see how they measured up. As the writers of the list, their need to look at themselves grew less, while their look at others grew more.
Such an easy thing to drift into, substituting rituals about God for a relationship with God.
Finally, they got it down to a system that could be measured. So strong was this belief that they became the definers of God’s commands, commands, “Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy”. To them obeying the Sabbath was more important than living by what Sabbath was to teach them. It also seemed more important than the rest of God’s laws given in the 1st 5 books of Scripture.
BUT what did “keeping the Sabbath holy” mean? To make that type of living clear, they needed another book – a rather thick one. And so they got busy. Busy.
One writer notes, The Law lays down that the Sabbath Day is to be kept holy, and that on it no work is to be done. But these Jewish legalists had a passion for definition. So they asked: What is work? All kinds of things were classified as work. For instance, to carry a burden on the Sabbath Day is work but for them, a burden had to be defined. So the Scribal Law lays it down that a burden is “food equal in weight to a dried fig, enough wine for mixing in a goblet, milk enough for one swallow, honey enough to put upon a wound, oil enough to anoint a small member, water enough to moisten an eye-salve, paper enough to write a customs house notice upon, ink enough to write two letters of the alphabet, reed enough to make a pen”—and so on.
They spent endless hours arguing whether a man could or could not lift a lamp from one place to another on the Sabbath, whether a tailor committed a sin if he went out with a needle in his robe, whether a woman might wear a brooch or false hair, even ….. if a man might lift his child on the Sabbath Day.
The Talmud, the book where these laws were listed, became 24 chapters on the Sabbath with 156 pages of double columns delineating what you could and could not do. It was the Pharisees' souped-up version of the Law.
• If you walked 5 steps, you had to rest before taking a 6th.
• You couldn’t wear false teeth on the Sabbath because to do so meant you were carrying a burden.
• If you spat on a rock, all was well but if you spat on the ground, you were cultivating the earth.
Do you think it accidental that Jesus chose to heal the blind man sitting by the edge of the road on the Sabbath Jn 9 by spitting on the ground, kneading the clay and anointing the man’s eyes? In so doing, Jesus broke a multitude of Sabbath laws. He could have spoken a word and the blind man would have sighted but blind eyes weren’t the problem, blind hearts were.
So by choosing the Sabbath, Jesus came against the blind religiosity of the Pharisees. He shattered their Sabbath traditions that kept people captive and blind.
So, this morning, if you plucked a grey hair from your head and I hunch, by appearance some of you and obviously me have exceeded one, you were guilty of reaping. Not to mention several of us who, though not guilty of breaking this Sabbath law, are guilty of breaking another commandment by coveting those who have hairs to pluck.
This is the context in which we see Jesus this morning. It is the context that brings Jesus head to head with those who will soon plot to take His life. It was a confrontation Jesus deliberately took on because of the importance of what was at stake.
WHY? Because what the Pharisees taught, perverted God’s message! It perverts who He is. It perverts how He sees us. It perverts the life He wants to give us. It perverts how we can know Him. And that same rigid, keep every law belief, perverts us.
The result was that they had made a god of the Sabbath. Righteousness as they saw it was actions that could be checked off that defined them as God’s people. No matter about their heart – as long as they didn’t cheat or didn’t smoke. No matter about their heart as long as people saw food given to the food bank. No matter about their heart as long as church attendance is faithful and songs robustly sung.
It was a system of belief that said God could be known by doing the right things and living the right principles. Doing all the externals no matter that the internals were diseased and corrupt.
Being a good person was the definition of being a God person.
Like some of you, I grew up in a time that commonly defined Christian faith by the things you did and didn’t do – with emphasis most often on the things not done. You didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, didn’t dance, didn’t chew. Songwriter, John Fischer said it well:
So is this it? This is what it comes down to: real Christians don't dance? Moses parted the water for this? Rahab tucked the spies away in her closet for this? Jael drove a tent peg into the head of Sisera for this? Jesus died and rose again, martyrs were sawn in two, and the Church has prevailed for two thousand years against the gates of hell so that Christians today can live out this ever-important testimony to a waiting, watching world: real Christians don't dance?
Well, it's time to get a few things straight. Why have Christians made such important issues out of non-issues?
Modern Christianity has gravitated to a list of do's and don'ts because this spells out the distinctiveness so clearly.
Which is easier to follow: real Christians don't envy or real Christians don't dance? Which one gets noticed first: real Christians don't lust or real Christians don't smoke? Which is harder to comply with real Christians love their enemies or real Christians go to church on Sundays?
Though those prohibitions aren’t heard as they once were, the concept still speaks to the heart of how we understand what it means to be a Christ follower.
Jesus putting before them, more importantly, before us, that a life with Christ is either a day-by-day encounter with a living, transforming God or a life of precepts and prohibitions. It is a choice between relationships or regulations. Of course, we are to live in a way that pleases Him but we do so, not to gain righteousness but to live out the life of righteousness we have been given.
Our faith lived so others may see Jesus. A life that attracts. A life that is real. A life that aligns what we believe with how we live.
And yet what is often seen? What the Pharisees put on view - antiseptically sterile lives of the religious. Unattractively rigid. Joyless. Strangers to laughter. Religiosity at its worst.
Seeing this and the evil hearts beneath their religious robes, Mark tells us what Matthew and Luke don’t – Jesus is angry:5
No wonder. For them to substitute worship of God for rigid adherence to regulations and rules was one thing but to keep others in bondage was a very different matter.
Jesus was also angry because of their incredible hypocrisy. They would rain down judgment on Jesus if He dared heal on the Sabbath yet they had no difficulty plotting murder on the Sabbath. And how adaptable they were when it came to this. The Pharisees and the Herodians had no use for one another but when it came to getting rid of Jesus, they marched arm in arm.
In their vigilance to be ‘holy’ – doing things for God, they seemed to have no idea how far they’d moved from worship of God. The same thing can be said of us when we focus on things that aren’t to our liking: the worship song we didn’t like, the child a parent didn’t control, the sermon 5 minutes too long, and in this Miss Jesus who we are called to worship.
Because the point is, the Sabbath was given to them to worship. It was God’s gift for restoration and redemption. It was time to replenish what the week had taken. Most of all, it was to re-center their worship on God so they could be re-fueled again with life.
The greatness of God. The beauty from God. The light in God. The centrality of God. The Life that is God. All offered to us in Jesus.
That is where the Sabbath was to take us, not getting immersed then stuck in some form but focusing on the One who gives us all things. And as we reflect on, gaze on, wonder on – then go to the place to which we called – to worship.
Seeing Jesus for who He is. To sit in wonder of Him. To give our praise to Him. Those weren’t actions the Pharisees would ever enter into because religiosity had reduced wonder to rules.
Contrast that with a man who had been held at arm’s length by the religious and the self-righteous. He was a man ready to worship, ready to step forward into an encounter with God.
And so when Jesus said, Get up and come forward!, he was only too ready to respond. Was it possible? Could it be that Jesus would do for him what He’d done for so many? Jesus speakingspoke to one that was hiding in the shadows. Perhaps in the place you now find yourself? Struggling with your doubts no one else can see. Feeling unworthy to be seen. That you have nothing to offer, nothing of worth that anyone should care about. Jesus saying to you what He said to him, Get up and come forward. Get up and come close. I’m not there for them, I’m here for you!
And so in faith, he went, not knowing what awaited but knowing Who awaited. I wonder, do we?
As the event unfolds, don’t miss both the Pharisees and the man who had faith. The Pharisees expected Jesus to heal. They planned on Him doing that. In truth, they wanted Him to do that.
And the man – when he heard Jesus say, Stretch out your hand!, just shoot it out. God, I‘m prepared to let you do whatever You intend. His faith, that Jesus would transform His life.
And therein was the difference. One prepared for God. The others with no expectation of God showing up despite prophecies fulfilled, miracles performed or demons silenced.
I wonder, are we much different than these Pharisees who Sunday after Sunday come with no expectation? Having little belief that Jesus wants to break into our world to do the miraculous, to do the unexpected? And coming like that, receiving exactly what we expect.
The Pharisees’ problem was that they had defined what knowing God should look like and in that definition, they had left out God. It didn’t look like it because they still had the Scriptures to be read, the person who would say them, and who would say “Amen” to what was said. They knew the right songs, and the right time for the collection. And the right time for coffee to be served.
Scripted. Ordered. Understood. Just not God. And then came Jesus, God in flesh who changed everything. Coming in a way and at a time they didn’t expect, not like this. On Sabbath, Jesus raised a paralytic to his feet. On Sabbath, Jesus infuses a withered hand with life. On Sabbath, Jesus put mud on a blind man’s eyes so he would see.
These Sabbath encounters are not by chance but by God’s design. God’s design in the same way, by His design you are here this morning, to worship or to watch. To settle in for what you expect or to open to an encounter He wants for you, perhaps in ways different than you expect.
God breaking into their world as He wants to break into ours. With that in mind, Jesus asks them a question, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or do harm; to save a life or to kill?”
In asking the question, Jesus draws a line that is far more than choosing between right and wrong. His question zeroes in on their hearts and the choices before them right now and the choices they are on course to make.
After the rhetoric is done and the arguments are over, consider carefully what you are about to do. Understand that you are choosing between life and death – what you are preparing to do with me but just as important what you do with me is what you are doing for yourself.
In asking this, ‘Is it lawful?’ question, Jesus once more gives them an opportunity to turn away from the decision they are about to make as well as to understand that knowing and pleasing God isn’t accomplished by keeping rules and observing traditions.
As He began speaking with them, He used what David and his men did in the Temple when on the Sabbath they ate the sanctified bread. With this, them to see that their beliefs were inconsistent with what God said. God permitted David’s actions because their need was greater than the requirements of the Law. That is always God’s heart – to meet man’s deepest need. That’s why He instructed them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”
It was to benefit man not to imprison him. But you exalted the Sabbath as a god. You have chosen and magnified a lesser truth until it’s become a lie that deceives you.
Jesus doesn’t leave until making one more attempt to let them see how far they’ve drifted from God’s heart. His first attempt appealed to their minds, His second attempt to give them a view inside their heart. Matthew gives us this second look for them to see how close to death they really are. He does this with a story of rescuing an endangered sheep. The truth is we love great rescue stories because those stories speak to our hearts. The only ones who aren’t moved by stories like these are those with dead hearts. And it’s hearts like these Jesus is trying to massage back to life.
But despite the warnings and choices put before them, their response is the rage that leads to plans of murder. The Pharisees’ problem was that they came to judge Jesus rather than worship Him. They didn’t want Jesus to be who He said because that meant their lives would change and they weren’t prepared to do that. With that, they only saw the Jesus they were prepared to see.
• So too our relationship with Jesus will be as deep and as real as the Jesus we are willing to see and come close to. The Jesus we open us to allowing Him to do the miraculous. The Jesus in whom we are willing to place our trust. In times when life is good and makes sense and in times when life is hard, when nothing makes sense.
In those times, stretching out our hand to a God who has already stretched out His nail-pierced hand to us.
As we close this chapter, we are given one last picture of Jesus warning the evil spirits not to reveal His identity:12. In this, Jesus demonstrates His authority by closing the mouth of the evil one. In no way will Satan’s voice be validated.
This picture is a fitting reminder that the preceding encounter with the scribes and Pharisees has the recognizable voice of Satan. It is Satan who, despite recognizing Jesus’ power and authority, will not bow to it.
Make no mistake, then as now, it is Satan who perverts our understanding of God. It is Satan who works to make our hearts grow cold. It is Satan who speaks bondage and death.
It’s a voice that promises beauty and delivers disfigurement. It’s a voice that promises freedom and delivers captivity. His voice is salted with enough truth to attract and more than enough toxins that will devour and destroy.
But when Jesus speaks and says, “Stretch out your hand,” know this – “He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.” Then as now, Jesus will have the final.