Chapter Thirty Six – Matthew 13: The Parables Begin

stories

Storyteller are you just a teller of some stories or can you perform a miracle in me? – Storyteller CD, Track 4: Teller of Some Stories. Unknown release date. Unknown Artist.

Jesus is a master story-teller. In this chapter of Matthew, seven stories are recorded but we are told there are many more (v.3). Each of these seven stories is told in a particular form called a “parable” in which familiar things are often compared to unfamiliar things. The purpose is for spiritual truth to be understood through everyday objects and relationships (Study Bible, p. 1568). Why would the Christ use parables? Why not just plainly speak the truth? Sometimes He did, and other times He didn’t. His disciples also wanted to know why He did this (v.10).

It’s certainly not for entertainment value. Jesus was a compelling enough speaker that He didn’t need gimmicks to get people to pay attention. But if you speak in parables, only the people who are truly listening will understand the point being made. Jesus was revealing the mysteries of Heaven (v. 11) in these little stories and He only wanted truth-seekers to understand what He was saying. Let’s face it, not everyone who came out to listen to Jesus speak was truly interested in hearing the truth. Some hearts were too lazy or too stubborn to want to understand Him. Some hearts were just there for the spectacle, and Jesus knew it. He didn’t begrudge them – but He would not cater to them either.  He had a mission to fulfill, and He wasn’t going to get sidetracked doing magic tricks the entire time.

Most of the time, after Jesus would finish telling a parable – He would explain what He really meant to His disciples. Matthew also recorded a couple of these explanations so we could see what Jesus was trying to convey with certainty. You see, it’s tempting to read too much into a parable – and Jesus wanted to make sure there wasn’t any confusion when it came to the interpretation. Who knows? Maybe He did this for us – knowing His words would later be written down and read by those who did not walk with Him in the flesh. Maybe He knew some of us would be tempted to put our own spin on what He was trying to say – and He deliberately made an end run around this problem. I don’t know – this is all speculation on my part. Maybe His real reasons are lost to the ages or beyond our understanding.

In any event, in this particular chapter all the parables “teach us about God and His Kingdom. They explain what the Kingdom is really like as opposed to our expectations of it” (Study Bible, p. 1569). This is important to know because just like in Jesus’ day, people sometimes expect the Kingdom of Heaven to be a geographical location instead of a spiritual realm where God the Father reigns. I still suspect some “Christian” leaders of today are trying to usher in God’s Kingdom on earth by seeking to establish theocracies in many places of government. In the process, they ignore living a lifestyle that attracts people to God and focus instead on forcing exterior rules on others who don’t share their beliefs. They make it all about being “right” while others are “wrong”. There’s a time and place for that, to be sure, but government isn’t one of them. Our great country was founded on the principles that the church and state should be kept separate from one another, and that while there is freedom to worship, there is also freedom FROM worship. That’s why the Founding Fathers didn’t use “In God We Trust” on their initial currency. Literally, aside from acknowledging that “all men are CREATED equal and endowed by their CREATOR with certain unalienable rights” there really is no other mention of a higher power or the directive to worship Him in our founding documents.

Back to the parables and the Kingdom of Heaven. I’m sure if Jesus had been the slightest bit interested in establishing an earthly Kingdom He would have had no problem doing so. After all, all of Heaven’s army was His to command. He chose instead to keep things on a spiritual plane of existence. In verse 12, Jesus makes it clear that each individual is “responsible to use well what we have. When people reject Jesus, their hardness of heart drives away or renders useless even the little understanding they had” (Study Bible, p. 1568). We must be careful not to be like this. And I believe most Christians have true intentions to be good doers of the Word.

What gets me angry is when Christians deliberately do something to force God and their beliefs on someone else, and then when that person rejects Jesus – they still feel justified in their approach. No, no. Case in point, I have a friend (several actually) who is an agnostic. This person was recently assaulted by a “Christian” in a department store who recited Scripture at her in hopes of “converting her to Christ”. That is NOT the way of Jesus. Never ONCE did Jesus walk up to a complete stranger and recite Scripture at them in hopes they would follow Him. NOT ONCE.

For one, it’s a complete waste of time. For two, it’s completely disrespectful to that person. Maybe you’ve never done this (thank God) but maybe you’ve left a bible track somewhere public in hopes of “witnessing” to someone. Can God use that to speak to others? Absolutely. But does He? I think His preferred method of communicating His love for people comes in having us LIVE the lifestyle on a consistent basis. And no, that doesn’t mean being a perfect person. God doesn’t need us to be perfect He needs for us to be present. Present in our relationship with Him and others. Present in the good times. Present in the bad times. Otherwise, we are just stories without meaning.

 

Chapter Thirty Five – Matthew 12: A Family Affair

Family_Tree

You’re a good good father / it’s who You are / it’s who You are…/ And I’m loved by You / it’s who I am / it’s who I am… – Chris Tomlin, Good Good Father, from the 2016 album “Never Lose Sight”

I grew up loving Greek mythology. There was something to the stories of various gods, each with their particular station in life, reaching down and impacting human existence. It tended to be a family affair. You had Zeus, the chief god, brother to Hades and Neptune, and father to Aries and Apollo. I found it fascinating how the ancient Greeks explained the unexplainable in nature and the world around them. They invented the original comic book heroes.

The Hebrew God, Yahweh, also utilized family dynamics, with Jesus being introduced as the Son. Matthew emphasizes the familial relationship angle at the end of chapter 12. The Christ is teaching when Mary, his earthly mother, and his step-brothers show up outside, wanting to speak with Him. You see, the crowd listening to Jesus is so large, his earthly family cannot navigate their way through to reach Him.

When He receives word that his family is waiting outside and wants a word with Him, the Christ turns to the crowd and says, “’Who is my mother? Who is my brother?’ Then He pointed to His disciples and said, ‘Look, these are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!’” (v. 48-50).

Remember, this is THE virgin Mary He is referring to in this statement. Ouch. I don’t know how she reacted as Matthew doesn’t record that aspect, but if I were her I’d be a bit hurt by that statement. I’d think, ‘Wait a minute! I carried you in my womb for nine months! I raised you! Bandaged your boo-boos as a little boy! I wiped your tears! What do you mean by these other people are your family?’

Mark (3:31-35) and Luke (8:19-21) also include this event. “Jesus’ family did not yet fully understand His ministry [see Mark 3:21]”. “[He] explained that in our spiritual family, the relationships are ultimately more important and longer lasting than those formed in our physical families” (Study Bible, p. 1623). In Luke, Jesus replies “My mother and my brothers are all those who hear God’s word and obey it” (v. 21).

But Jesus wasn’t being disrespectful and He wasn’t denying His responsibility to His earthly family. “On the contrary, He criticized the religious leaders for not following the Old Testament command to honor their parents (15:1-9). He provided for His mother’s security while He hung on the cross (John 19:25-27). His mother and brothers were present in the upper room at Pentecost (Acts 1:14). Instead, Jesus was pointing out that spiritual relationships are as binding as physical ones, and He was paving the way for a new community of believers (the universal church), our spiritual family” (Study Bible, p. 1568). “In our increasingly computerized, impersonal world warm relationships among members of God’s family take on major importance” (Study Bible, p. 1623).

It also means that anyone has the potential to join the family. In Greek mythology, you had to be sired by a god to be included. Not so with Yahweh. All you have to be is willing to follow Him. There’s no DNA ancestry test required. No secret ritual to follow. You don’t have to make a financial contribution to your local church or diocese. You don’t have to wear special undergarments or go on a mission trip. All that is required is to do the will of the Father.

How do we know what that is? Re-read the Sermon on the Mount (5:21-7:27) or at the very least do the opposite of what the Pharisees have been doing (ie: rejecting, disbelieving, doubting, blocking, etc.).  The challenge we have is to ask which side we are on. ‘Jesus’ true family is comprised of those who hear and obey his words. Hearing without obeying is not enough…Christ offers us an intimate family relationship with Him (Romans 8:14-16)” (Study Bible, p. 1697). How comforting for those who do not have a great relationship with their earthly family. What an additional blessing for those of us who do. Either way, the ultimate relationship is with the Father and the Son. The question is: Do you know them? You can. It’s easy. Just ask them to be a part of your life. Make it a family affair.

“I am a child of the Father and I know what that means for me / It means I’m loved and I’m spoken for / It means I’m wealthy in heavenly things…/ It means I’m redeemed and forgiven / It means I’m holy and blameless and free” – Cheri Keaggy, Child of the Father, from the 1994 album of the same title.

If you’re already a member of the family, great! The question then becomes are you living in such a way as to attract people to the family? That’s our whole purpose for being here. It’s literally THE reason God doesn’t immediately take us home to be with Him when we accept Jesus as our Savior. It’s the ONLY THING we can’t do in heaven. And it’s not “somebody else’s job”. It belongs to each and every one of us. I’m glad you are in the family, now go live God’s truth to an unbelieving world.

Chapter Thirty Four – Matthew 12: The Sign of Jonah

sign-of-jonah

It’s just another sign of the times / One step closer to the day He arrives / To come back and claim His bride / I said it’s just another sign of the times – Three Crosses, Just Another Sign of the Times, from the 1995 self-titled debut album

Matthew’s gospel is not presented chronologically. You have to read the gospel of Luke for that. No, Matthew’s gospel is arranged thematically so the events recorded herein are out of order for when they happened. Last time, we looked at Jesus’ fiery first shot speech to the Pharisees (v. 25-37) in chapter 12. Considering what Jesus had to say to the religious leaders of His day, I would be surprised if they ever spoke to Him again.

Yet in verses 38-45, Matthew records that the Pharisees approach Jesus and ask Him to perform a miracle in order to prove His authority. Can you imagine the audacity if these events were sequential? He calls them evil and then they want Him to prove He’s not?

It’s not like that. It’s hard to say exactly when this request is made because it doesn’t appear in any of the other three gospel accounts. I’m not sure why Matthew included it here at this time but maybe he’s on a roll about Jesus’ interactions with the Pharisees so why not mention it?

In any event, the religious elites are asking for a sign and Jesus lowers the boom on them again saying no sign will be given. Why not? It’s not like it would be hard for Him to do it. Take your pick: make the mute speak, release the demon-possessed, enable the blind to see or the lame to walk…cause manna to fall from the sky, eclipse the sun on command, or raise the dead. Anything would work.

The problem is not the lack of options or the fact that Jesus is unable to perform. The problem is that Jesus knows their hearts and understands that they had already seen enough miraculous things done to convince them He is the Messiah. The problem is that their hearts won’t believe what their eyes have seen. The problem is that they are not sincerely seeking to know Him. “They had already decided not to believe in Him, and more miracles would not change that” (Study Bible, p. 1567).

Jesus then used two examples of Gentile faith in Jewish history to prove His point. The first example was of the city of Nineveh in the time of Jonah. Yes, THAT Jonah. The one swallowed by a whale (more of a great fish). Nineveh was the capitol of the Assyrian Empire (yes, THOSE Assyrians) and it was an evil place full of evil people who repented of their evil deeds when Jonah came ashore. The second example is of the Queen of Sheba who visited Solomon to see for herself if he was really as wise and wealthy as stories claimed. Jesus told the Pharisees that someone greater than Jonah and Solomon was in their midst (Himself) but they refused to repent and listen to Him (v. 41 & 42). So no, no sign would be given. No sign but the sign of Jonah.

“For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights” (v. 40). He is, of course, referencing His own death and resurrection – but He’s saying that not even that would change some of their hearts and minds about Him.

Kind of makes me wonder what it would take for some people to believe in Jesus. This whole scenario applies to us today. There are a lot of individuals who have made the claim that if only they could see a real miracle, then they would believe in God. They don’t believe the Bible is an accurate representation of history even though nothing exists to refute it. They don’t recognize the complexities of nature’s design as being done by an Intelligent Being. They don’t appreciate the fact that every breath is a gift.  The problem is not that God has stopped performing miracles in our time; the problem is that we have so much evidence of God in everyday life and the work that believers are doing around the globe, we don’t need to be looking for miraculous signs.  We need to be looking to Him and reading the sign of the times that exist.

Chapter Thirty Three – Matthew 12: The Work of the Spirit

holy-spirit

It’s not a family trait / it’s nothing that I ate / and it didn’t come from skating with holy rollers / it’s an early warning sign / it keeps my life in line / but it’s so hard to define – never mind…/ it pushes when I quit / it smells a counterfeit / sometimes it works a bit like a teleprompter / when it’s teleprompting you I pray you let it through / and I’ll help you with the how but for now it’s just a spirit thing / it’s just a holy nudge / it’s like a circuit judge in the brain / it’s just a spirit thing / it’s here to guard my heart / it’s just a little hard to explain…

  • Newsboys, Spirit Thing, from the 1994 album “Going Public”

The authors of our intro song above (Steve Taylor and Peter Fuhler) hit the proverbial nail on the head when it comes to explaining the Holy Spirit and how it works. Up until this point, Jesus has been in the spotlight; the center of attention with all His miracles and stories. We’ve only caught glimpses of the third and final member of the trilogy band (think: Jesus’ baptism by cousin John) – the Holy Spirit. It’s mostly been a background character with Jesus as the lead but for a moment here, the script flips. The Son of Man starts to highlight the Spirit’s importance right in the middle of His first shot speech to the Pharisees.

Remember, they accuse the Christ of getting His power to perform miracles from the Prince of demons, Satan. That didn’t sit well with Jesus. So He responds by giving it to them with both barrels, so to speak. In the opening statement, He argues that a house divided against itself cannot stand. If His power really came from Satan, then Satan was working against himself. Then, rather than leave any doubt what He’s talking about, the Christ attributes His ability as coming from this third, mysterious player – the Holy Spirit.

And then He says that to suggest otherwise is blasphemy which cannot be forgiven either in this world or the world to come (v. 31-32). What the heck does He mean?

This act is referred to as the unpardonable sin. It is “the deliberate refusal to acknowledge God’s power in [the] Christ. It indicates a deliberate and irreversible hardness of heart…only those who have turned their backs on God and rejected all faith have any need to worry. Jesus said they can’t be forgiven – not because their sin is any worse than any other but because they will never ask for forgiveness (Study Bible, p. 1567) which is prompted by the Holy Spirit. Whoever rejects the Spirit’s prompting has removed themselves from the only force which can lead them to repentance and restoration with God. Therefore, it is interesting to note that as a result, God will not condemn anyone to an eternity without Him, it will be their choice. And God always honors our choices.

Back to Jesus’ speech. He continues by sharing with the Pharisees a little bit of His Sermon on the Mount. He focuses on the theme of how a tree is identified by its fruit. “If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad” (v. 33). Then He goes in for the kill: “You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right. For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart” (v.34-35). Wow.

He’s calling the religious leaders of His day evil. He just says it plainly and outright. He’s not playing anymore. Snap. Makes me wonder about the words He would have to say to the right-wing leaders of our day.  Jerry Falwell Jr. or Joel Osteen or Franklin Graham or some of the others. Pat Robertson comes to mind. Judging by their actions in recent decades, it’s hard not to say that they have all lost their way when it comes to bringing people closer to God. They spend their time fearful of those who are different and gather wealth for themselves while ignoring the needs of those around them. If Jesus is willing to call the Pharisees a brood of snakes, just what would He call these so-called men of God nowadays? I don’t think the Spirit has given up on them; it seems they have given up on the Spirit.

It’s a heart problem.

The only way to solve a heart problem is to let the Spirit fill a person with new attitudes and motives. Jesus ends His speech by saying that all men must give an account on judgment day for every idle word spoken. “The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you” (v. 37). That sounds pretty harsh but again it goes back to the heart problem.

How am I responding to the Spirit? Do I allow it to convict me when I’m wrong and change my behavior? Do I listen to its nudges to seek forgiveness? Or do I block it outright and continue on my way?

Chapter Thirty Two – Matthew 12: The First Shot

Broken Home

“Could He be the Messiah? Miracle man, part of the plan / Could He be the Messiah? Life in His hand, I understand He could be…” – Michael W. Smith, Could He Be The Messiah, from the 1987 album “Project”

Ever since the Christ walked the earth 2,000 years ago – the main challenge issued has been for us to answer the question of who He is. Is He a con-man? Is He a satanic worker? Is He a god? Is He who He claims to be? Could He really be the one true God incarnate? It’s a serious question and one every single human has had to decide for themselves in their lifetime. It determines how life is lived here – and what happens after we are no longer among the living on this planet.

When last we left Jesus, He was in hot water with the Pharisees who were working on a plan to kill Him. I guess that’s how the religious elite dealt with threats to their power vacuum back in the day. “Then a demon-possessed man, who was blind and couldn’t speak, was brought to Jesus. He healed the man so that he could both speak and see. The crowd was amazed and asked, ‘Could it be that Jesus is the Son of David, the Messiah?’” (v. 22-23).

Without reading any further in scripture, a reader who is paying attention would know that this question is not going to sit well with the Pharisees. And it doesn’t. “…when the Pharisees heard about the miracle, they said, ‘No wonder he can cast out demons. He gets his power from Satan, the prince of demons’” (v. 24). That’s one possibility, I guess, if you don’t want to investigate the other possibility that the crowd is right. But this time, Jesus doesn’t let the accusation go unchallenged. Instead, He fires back a shot that is only going to deepen the Pharisees anger toward Him.

“Jesus knew their thoughts and replied, ‘Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart. And if Satan is casting out Satan, he is divided and fighting against himself. His own kingdom will not survive. And if I am empowered by Satan, what about your own exorcists? They cast out demons, too, so they will condemn you for what you have said. But if I am casting out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of Heaven has arrived among you. For who is powerful enough to enter the house of a strong man like Satan and plunder his goods? Only someone even stronger – someone who could tie him up and then plunder his house’” (v. 25-29).

Then He delivered the crushing blow: “Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me” (v. 30). Translation: I am God and you are not; in fact, you are on the side you accuse me of being on if you’re against me. Ouch. I doubt the Pharisees were used to being talked to in this manner. It probably only ticked them off even more.

Basically, what’s being said is that it is impossible to remain neutral about Jesus. A decision must be made. “Anyone who is not actively following him has chosen to reject him. Any person who tries to remain neutral in the struggle against good and evil is choosing to be separated from God, who alone is good. To refuse to follow Christ is to choose to be on Satan’s team” (Study Bible, p. 1567).

Hey! Don’t get mad at me! I’m just the messenger! Jesus is the one who said it. And it’s the question that continues to be asked. Who is He? And what are we going to do about it? The answer decides our destiny. Since tomorrow is not promised to us, let’s make up our minds today – before it’s too late. The first shot has been fired. The evidence is overwhelming. Look, I get it: some of you will say there’s no way I want to be like those pew-hugging Christians. They’re such hypocrites. Yes, some of them are. Sometimes I am. But this is not about them or me. It’s about you. How will you respond?

Chapter Thirty One – Matthew 12: Description of a Savior

gentleness

Can they see God for who He really is In what they see in you and me? For who He really is, is all they really need to see

  • Steven Curtis Chapman, For Who He Really Is, from the 1988 album “Real Life Conversations”

The Pharisees are now plotting to kill Jesus, and He knows this – so rather than continue to confront the religious leaders, Jesus and His disciples withdraw from that area. Why? Primarily because it wasn’t His time to die yet. He had much more to teach and many other people to heal. And as He healed them, He told them not to tell anyone else what He had done for them.

Why? If it were me, I wouldn’t mind a little bit of attention and thanks for the work I had done. But not Jesus. Remember, He is humble and gentle of heart. So why didn’t He want the word to get out? Was He afraid of the growing crowds? Not at all. There are three reasons why He didn’t want people telling others about who had healed them – 1) He wanted people to come to Him for the right reasons; 2) He didn’t want to “arouse false hope about an earthly kingdom” (Study Bible, p. 1566); and 3) to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah 42:1-4 about the Messiah. Let’s take a closer look at that:

Isaiah basically offers a unique description of the Messiah. He writes things like “he will proclaim justice to the nations” (v. 18b) and “He will not fight or shout or raise His voice in public” (v. 19). He goes on to say that “He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. Finally he will cause justice to be victorious” (v. 20).

What a human being. That is someone I definitely want to know. Isaiah is supporting Jesus’ claims about Himself (ie: that He is humble and gentle) and offering additional information such as He will enable justice. Who wouldn’t want a savior like that? I think in many ways, we still do.

Which is why so many evangelicals are trying to push their agenda on a political stage. It goes against everything Jesus did and how He did it, but they prod along anyway. It’s almost as if they think they can usher in an earthly, theocratical kingdom if enough of our laws reflect their interpretation of scripture. What I find ironic, is that they’ve chosen a leader who is the antithesis of the Christ (an anti-Christ, if you will) to carry out this agenda from the White House. Brene Brown, in her new book “Dare to Lead”, says vulnerability is essential to courage in leadership. Too often, we think it means to be weak, which in actuality is the opposite of what it really is. Jesus was vulnerable (and strong) and yet a majority of evangelicals support a man-child who is weak in his personal ethics and a bully.

Let’s be clear: the people of Jesus’ day wanted an earthly kingdom too. But that is not what Jesus came to establish. “[W]e may want Christ to rule as a king and bring great and visible victories in our life. But often Christ’s work is quiet” (Study Bible, p. 1566). Hear that? It’s QUIET. And the important thing is that it happens in HIS TIME, not ours.

So let’s stop pushing a theocratical agenda on others in our nation, and focus instead on how we can implement the teachings of the Christ in our own personal lives. Maybe then, others would see the Christ for who He really is.  I can almost guarantee if we do that on a regular and consistent basis, the kingdom of Christ will advance across our nation and across the world faster than we could ever imagine.

Chapter Thirty – Matthew 12: More Sabbath Work

helping hands

Sometimes I think what will people say of me when I’m only just a memory, when I’m home where my soul belongs? Was I love when no one else would show up? Was I Jesus to the least of us? Was my worship more than just a song? I want to live like that.

     *  Sidewalk Prophets, Live Like That, from the 2012 album of the same title

When we last left Jesus and His crew, the Christ was schooling the Pharisees about the Sabbath and making outrageous claims of being the Lord of the Sabbath. In the next few verses of chapter 12, the Pharisees retaliate by bringing a man with a deformed hand before Jesus and then asking Him a trick question: Was it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?

It’s a simple yes or no question with some not-so-simple repercussions. You see, if Jesus answers “No” and waited until another day to heal the man’s hand, He would have been deferring to the Pharisees and their authority. If He answers “Yes” and heals the man right then and there, then the Pharisees can claim His power is from Satan. It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t moment in His ministry. What’s a guy claiming to be the Messiah supposed to do?

If you’re Jesus, you answer perfectly by asking a question: “If you had a sheep that fell into a well on the Sabbath, wouldn’t you work to pull it out? And how much more valuable is a person than a sheep” (v. 11-12). I wish I could have been there to see the faces of the Pharisees as Jesus said this. I wish I could have been there to break into a smirk and whisper “Burn you” under my breath. It would have been hard not to. That was a good zinger on Jesus’ part.

But He wasn’t done. He then tells the Pharisees that it IS lawful to heal on the Sabbath and He asks the man with the deformed hand to stretch it out. Just as the man does so, his hand is restored. “Then the Pharisees called a meeting to plot how to kill Jesus” (v. 14). Wow. I am surprised that publicly going against the religious establishment of His day would result in a death warrant, but apparently, it does. Welcome to first century Palestine.

The important part of Jesus’ little speech made it perfectly clear how petty and ridiculous the Pharisees’ rules were. He basically said that the important time to reach out to someone is when they need help, not a moment later. “The Pharisees placed their laws above human need. They were so concerned about Jesus breaking one of their rules that they did not care about the man’s deformed hand” (Study Bible, p. 1566). And why should they care? What was so bad about a deformed hand? It basically meant the man himself couldn’t perform normal everyday tasks, which meant he was a burden on someone else. Which meant he couldn’t participate in society. Which meant he couldn’t be involved in temple worship. Which meant he had no way to offer sacrifices to atone for his sin. Which meant his spiritual life was dead. Which meant he wasn’t in line for the kingdom of heaven.

Until Jesus jumped him to the front of the line and changed all of that.

Now the man is able to take care of himself and work. Now he is able to contribute to society. Now he is able to worship. All because one rogue man defied an institution on a day of rest.

The challenge for myself is: what is my attitude toward others especially when they are in a position of need? Am I like the Pharisees – using them to make a point? Or am I like Jesus – willing to put myself on the line to help? The truth is – if my convictions don’t allow me to help others (regardless of skin color, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, religious background, nation of origin, etc.) then maybe my convictions are not in line with God and His word. Maybe I have become the Pharisee. I certainly do not want to be more loyal to a religious system than to God.