Always stand for what is right in God’s sight
“Another time he went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, ‘Stand up in front of everyone.” Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.
He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.” – Mark 3:1-6
Recently, during a time of crisis in Florida, a branch of a famous food chain broke tradition and opened its doors on Sunday to serve food to people who were providing community service to law enforcement officers and to the first respondents. The food chain had not opened its doors for Sunday service since 1946. However, in the interest of goodwill, the workers decided to make an exception.
The action of these people is an example of what Jesus is speaking about in the above text. Observing the Sabbath was important and it was right to recognize it, but not at the expense of hurting people. Jesus reiterated for the Pharisees that reaching out to people was more important to God than outward observance of the law. It’s the same today.
The text tells us that on a certain Sabbath, Jesus went into the synagogue and there observed a certain man who had a withered hand. He asked the man to stand up. This might have been his way of getting the Jewish leaders to observe the condition of the man and subsequently show some compassion for him.
However, the Pharisees and other church leaders were not interested in the good that would come from Jesus and would be extended to the man. They were more concerned with their religious tradition.
Is it not interesting that we are so caught up in our religiosity that we forget what the love of God is all about? We ask the question, “does this fit into our entrenched economic codes and customs?” God instead asks the question, “Does this thing do good to men? If so, there is no other question that counts.”
As the man stood there, Jesus asked a simple question, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or do evil, to save life or to kill?” These people, who were always ready with a question, lost their speech. The text tells us, “but they held their speech.”
Does this not tell us something about ourselves in the church today? We are often ready to seize upon those things which prove interesting to us. However, when the poor, the maligned and the aliens are mistreated and abused, we in the church, like the Pharisees, hold our peace.
When it comes to showing love and compassion, we are silent. This is something that we often observe in our Bahamas. The church goes silent when her voice is needed most.
The silence of the church leaders not only angered Jesus, it grieved him. It was so disappointing. These leaders, who claimed to be God’s representatives the people, had no mercy for a son of Abraham.
When we place church and religious traditions above what is good and right, this is an affront to God.
People see God through the good that the Christian church does in his name. Scripture tells us in Matthew 25:40: “The king will reply, ‘I tell you the truth,’ whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
Unfortunately, the Pharisees and the Jewish leaders who were in the synagogue that day were blinded by their traditions and codes. They were so fixed on Jesus breaking the Sabbath, they could not display compassion. They could not see the act of mercy of him who came “to proclaim release to the captives.”
Jesus was kind and compassionate to the man. When he stretched forth, his hand was restored whole as the other. His action angered the Pharisees who collaborated with the Herodians in order to take action against him.
Jesus’ action tells us that we must always stand for what is right in God’s sight. Our actions might cause us discomfort and we might stand alone. Nonetheless, when we stand for what is right in God’s sight, even though we may offend others, God is with us. It is God who will judge us, not man.
We should not be so caught up in traditions that we neglect doing good for our neighbors. Jesus tells us that the two most important tenets of the Law are: the love of God and the love of our neighbors. Amen.
- Rev. Samuel M. Boodle, pastor at the Lutheran Church of Nassau, can be reached at P.O. Box N 4794, Nassau, Bahamas or telephone 323-4107; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.