And they watched Jesus … so that they might accuse him
The lines were drawn from the outset. The Pharisees were watching Jesus to see if He would ‘break’ the law. Jesus in turn was watching the Pharisees, looking for a glimmer of love, or willingness to help rather than hinder, to use their religion to heal rather than to harm.
This story illustrates all that is wrong with religion that is devoid of God’s love. Following the rules was more important than actually loving and helping one another.
When Jesus questions them it is not on a point ofÂ law, but a challenge to their hearts. Jesus calls the man to Him and brings a single specific act of healing to the floor. How Jesus frames the question is vital. This is not a theological question but a philanthropic one: is it lawful to help, to heal, to do good?
It is their silence that angers Jesus. They know what is right, but their religion is more important to them than their fellow man, than loving their neighbour. The would rather leave a man maimed than revise their religion.
Jesus’ act of healing is a stern rebuke to the Pharisees and to all who allow religion to take precedence over love. Too often we’d rather allow someone else to be hurt than to back down or rethink our motives.
My aim for 2009 is to my fellowship of believers built up and blessed in every way, to refuse to use religion as a weapon against the body of Christ, and not to remain silent when Jesus challenges me or others about healing rather than hindering.