When Religion Engages Love In Controversy On the Sabbath

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ as written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses seven through twenty-four of the fourteenth chapter. When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find it coming directly on the heels of an another encounter Jesus had with religion on the sabbath. If you read and study the four gospels which are found at the beginning of the New Testament you will undoubtedly find yourself coming face to face with certain controversies which Jesus had with religion on the sabbath day. In all reality, this very concept seems incredibly ironic, fo you would think that if there was one day during the week when religion would accept the ministry of Jesus the Christ it would be on the sabbath. The one day which was ordained by the living God for men and women to cease from their labors and to enjoy a day of rest is the one day when Jesus found Himself in direct and diametric opposition to religion and to the religious establishment of that day. What makes this so incredibly unique and intriguing is the fact that the opposition which Jesus found Himself experiencing on the sabbath day wasn’t even around His willingness to help people, nor even the fact that He healed people on the sabbath. The chief priests, the Pharisees, the scribes, and the entire religious system didn’t have any issue, nor did they take any offense with Jesus on the sabbath day because He healed men and women, but simply because His doing so somehow violated their traditions, their rules, and perhaps even their agendas. In all reality, if we are to truly understand the controversy of the sabbath, we must recognize and understand it as being centered upon Jesus’ willingness to operate outside of the rules, the regulations and the traditions of men during His day. Jesus would not and could not be bound by the rules and traditions of the sabbath, and He would and could not allow needs to go unmet simply because it was the sabbath. What I find to be most concerning about the controversy Jesus had with religion on the sabbath is the tremendous emphasis placed on rules and tradition on the sabbath. In other words, the religious system and the religious establishment was not willing to allow their rules and traditions to be broken and violated—even if it meant bringing deliverance and healing into the life of another. The scribes, the rulers of the synagogues, and even the Pharisees would just as easily have allowed the needs of men to go unmet—simply because providing any type of ministry on the sabbath would violate the rules and traditions they sought to uphold on a consistent basis. For the scribes, for the rulers of the synagogues, and for the Pharisees, the Sabbath was not a day that was to be violated by any means and for any reason—not even for the needs of those who desperately needed healing and deliverance within their lives.

Perhaps one of the greatest realities surrounding Jesus’ controversy with religion on the sabbath is the tremendous amount of emphasis that was placed on rules, traditions and regulations. Jesus’ controversy on the Sabbath day didn’t center upon His willingness to heal, but rather that His willingness to heal went against the traditions, the rules and the agendas of religion. In all reality, I can’t help but think about and consider how many churches and ministries within our culture and society today have absolutely no room or place for the ministry of Jesus Christ in their midst if it somehow violates the boundaries and borders they have set up and established. There are churches and ministries in our culture and society today that have absolutely no room for the movement of the Spirit, nor even for the ministry of Jesus the Christ in their midst if it somehow violates the rules and regulations they have set up and established within their midst. What’s more, is there are churches and ministries which have absolutely no room for the ministry of Jesus the Christ in their midst if for whatever reason it violates and goes against their agenda, their plans, and their intentions. The controversy Jesus had with religion on the sabbath day took place—not because Jesus was in fact willing to heal, but because Jesus was willing to heal in the face of that which was commanded concerning the Sabbath. The scribes, the Pharisees, and the rulers of the synagogue took great offense to Jesus’ ministering on the sabbath because His healing was viewed as a form of work, and there was to be no work or labor done on the sabbath day. This is quite interesting when you think about it, for it says a lot about the scribes and the Pharisees—and even the rulers of the synagogues—for they viewed healing as a form of work, and even ministry itself as a form of work. I can think of four specific examples within the gospels where Jesus found Himself engaged in a controversy with religion on the sabbath. ENGAGED IN CONTROVERSY WITH RELIGION ON THE SABBATH! Before I attempt to present you with each of these examples—three of which are found within the New Testament gospel of Luke—I feel it necessary to bring us face to face with the reality that it is possible for the ministry of the Spirit to be engaged in controversy on the sabbath day. It is very much so possible for the ministry of Jesus the Christ to be engaged in controversy with religion on the sabbath. Each of these realities are especially true when you consider the fact they weren’t limited to the days of Jesus alone, but continue to be present and prevalent within our culture and society today. We dare not think that the controversy Jesus found Himself engaged in on the sabbath with religion took place during those days alone, for there are countless churches and societies that have absolutely no room, nor any place within their services and gathering together for the ministry of Jesus, nor even the ministry of the Spirit if it somehow violates their plans, their agendas, their rules and their traditions.

ENGAGED IN CONTROVERSY WITH RELIGION ON THE SABBATH DAY! It actually seems quite ironic that Jesus would find Himself diametrically opposed to religion on a day such as the sabbath, however, within and throughout the gospels you will find that religion could not handle any type of ministry of Jesus on the sabbath day. Religion was content listening to and hearing Jesus teach and speak on the sabbath, but when it came to Jesus actually engaging Himself in ministry on the sabbath, religion lost their mind and couldn’t handle it. I can’t help but find myself gripped and captivated by the fact that religion had such a difficult time with Jesus healing on the sabbath, and somehow viewed healing as a violation of their own rules and traditions, and even that which was ordained by the living God concerning the Sabbath. What marks and what makes this so incredibly unique and interesting is the fact that within and throughout the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ He never once sinned, and He never once violated the commandment of the living God. Scripture makes it very clear that Jesus knew no sin, and did in fact become sin for us as He hung their naked and bleeding upon the cross of Calvary. With that being said, if the actions of Jesus did somehow violate the commandment of God concerning the sabbath, He would have in essence been guilty of transgression and sinning against the Father. This actually brings us face to face with the reality of whether or not ministry is classified as work or whether or not ministry is independent of work. The reason the Pharisees, the scribes and the ruler of the synagogue took such great offense with Jesus’ healing on the sabbath is not because He healed in the general sense of healing, but because they viewed healing as a form of work on the sabbath. For religion—healing and causing men and women to become whole, and doing so on the sabbath day was a direct violation of the rules and traditions of the Sabbath day, and quite possibly even a violation of the commandment of the living God. The scribes, the Pharisees, and the rulers of the synagogues took great offense with Jesus healing on the Sabbath day because they viewed it as going against the rules and traditions they had set up and established, and even that which they believed concerning the Sabbath. It was true that man was given six days with which to work, and it was true that on the seventh day man was to cease from all their labors, however, the ministry of Jesus seemed to indicated that this did not include ministry on the Sabbath day. If there is one thing the ministry of Jesus revealed, it’s that it was possible to be engaged in ministry on the sabbath day, and not be in violation of the sabbath day, nor be in violation of the rules and traditions surrounding the sabbath. It was possible for Jesus to engage in ministry on the sabbath day, and yet not be violation of the commandment of God concerning the sabbath. What’s more, is that Jesus made it very clear that He did nothing which He did not see the Father doing, which means that if Jesus healed on the Sabbath, He didn’t do so of His own accord and initiative, but rather because He saw the Father doing it. If Jesus healed on the Sabbath, and if Jesus only ever did that which He saw the Father do, then it naturally and logically holds true that it was the Father Himself who was operating on the Sabbath, and it was the Father Himself who was engaged in ministry on the sabbath day.

With this being said, it is necessary to look at and examine at least four of the examples of Jesus engaged in ministry on the Sabbath day, and how His choosing to offer healing and deliverance to those in need violated the rules and traditions which man had set up and established. I am convinced that before we get into the text at hand in the fourteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke, it is necessary to visit this concept of Jesus healing on the Sabbath, for if you read the fourteenth chapter, you will notice that it begins and opens up with Jesus once more healing on this particular day. Within the New Testament gospel of Luke alone there are three distinct and three separate accounts and examples of Jesus healing on the Sabbath day—each of which we must carefully consider if we are to truly understand the ministry Jesus brought forth on the Sabbath day. The fourth example I am going to present unto you is actually found in the New Testament gospel of John, and is found in the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel. Consider if you will each of these examples of Jesus offering healing and deliverance on the sabbath day, and the response of religion to this type of ministry. Beginning with the opening six verses of this fourteenth chapter we will encounter one of these examples of Jesus healing on the Sabbath day, which will be followed by three other accounts of Jesus coming face to face with a need on the Sabbath day, and choosing to act rather than allow such needs to go unmet. Consider if you will these different accounts of Jesus healing on the Sabbath, and his choosing to bring the work of the Father and the ministry of the Spirit to the Sabbath:

“And it came to pass, as He went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched Him. And, behold, there was a certain man before Him which had the dropsy. And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day? And they held their peace. And He took him, and healed him, and let him go; and answered them, asking, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day? And they could not answer Him again on these things” (Luke 14:1-60).

“ And He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And, behold, there was.a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself. And when Jesus saw her, He called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity. And He laid His hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day. The Lord then answered Him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering? And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day? And when he had said these things, all His adversaries were ashamed: and all the people rejoice for all the glorious things that were done by Him” (Luke 13:10-17).

“And it came to pass also on another Sabbath, that He entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man whose right hand was withered. And the scribes and Pharisees watched Him, whether He would heal on the Sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against Him. But He knew their thoughts, and said to the man which had the withered hand, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth. Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing; is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? To save life, or to destroy it? And looking round about upon them all, He said unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand. And He did so: and his hand was restored whole as the other. And they were filled with madness; and communed with one another what they might do to Jesus” (Luke 6:6-11).

“After this there was a feast of the Jews’ and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue, Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a greatly mutlitdue of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. When Jesus saw Him lie, and knew that He had been now a long time in that case, He saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? The impotent man answered Him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath. The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is now lawful for thee to carry thy bed. He answered them, he that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed Himself way, a multitude being in that place. Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, let a worse thing come unto thee. The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made Him whole. And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay Him, because He had done these things on the sabbath day. But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill Him, because He not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God” (john 5:1-18).

Perhaps one of the greatest realities surrounding Jesus’ willingness to minister on the Sabbath and offer healing unto those who were in need is the fact that on at least two of these occasions we find suspicion within the hearts of the Pharisees, the scribes, and the Jews of that day. If you read these passages you will find that even when Jesus entered into the synagogues to teach as He had always done, the scribes and the Pharisees watched Him carefully to see what He might do. Pause for a moment and think about and consider the fact that it was possible for Jesus to be in the synagogue on the sabbath day, and for Jesus to teach the people on the sabbath as was His custom, and even for there to even be a need present on the sabbath, and yet it was the need that was present which caused the suspicion of the scribes and Pharisees to rise up within their hearts. How incredibly interesting and intriguing it is to think about and consider the fact that Jesus could be in the synagogue teaching on the sabbath, and the minute a need arose among the people on that day, the scribes and Pharisees went into full on suspicious mode. In at least two of these occurrences within the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ we find a need being present among the people—one in the house of a Pharisees, and another in the synagogue—and those present carefully watching and observing Jesus to see what He might do. Please don’t miss the tremendous significance of what is found within these passages, for I am convinced that the same reality is still manifested among us within our midst today. I am thoroughly convinced that there are churches and ministries among us today which have their own idea of what the Sabbath should look like, and their own idea of what should and shouldn’t take place on the sabbath, and the minute something rises up that could potentially shake things up, they immediately grow suspicious of Jesus and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Isn’t it actually quite interesting what the needs of others could do within and among the hearts of men—particularly and specifically when it arose on the sabbath day? Isn’t it interesting to think about and consider how the need of one manifested on the sabbath day could in fact create such a stir among the scribes, the Pharisees, and the religious folk which were present, and how Jesus knew and was aware of their thoughts, and still chose to to bring healing and deliverance into the need which was present. I’m amazed at how much a single need could so greatly impact and affect that place where Jesus and religion were both manifested together.

This actually brings me to an interesting line of thought, and that is simply how much a single need of one person could create such a dichotomy between the ministry of Jesus and the agenda of religion. I am amazed at just how much the need of one could so greatly impact and affect the environment where both. Jesus and religion. In all reality, I would dare say that more often than not it is the needs of men which prove, demonstrate, and reveal just how drastically different the ministry of Jesus actually is from religion. Religion has its clearly defined borders, boundaries and boxes in which it operates, and religion does not care if the needs of others present themselves in the midst of men. Religion has its clearly defined rules and traditions, and is not willing to allow anything to interrupt either of those realities—even if that which interrupts it is the need of another. What’s more, is that it is safe to say that religion has absolutely no room and no place for the needs of others, and has absolutely no room and place for the need of a single individual to rise up and manifest itself in the midst of the people. Religion has always and will always seek to operate within its own parameters and boundaries, and is not willing to allow the movement of the Holy Spirit, nor even the ministry of Jesus the Christ. As you read these various passages you will notice just how great the difference and dichotomy was between religion and the ministry of Jesus, for religion will keep a careful and close eye on Jesus in the midst of the people to see whether or not Jesus would operate outside of their rules and traditions. This actually begs the question of how many rules and regulations we have placed around us and before us in the midst of our services and our gathering together. How dependent have we become on the rules and regulations we have set in place that we have absolutely no room for the ministry of Jesus, nor even for the movement of the Spirit, nor the manifestation of the Father. I would dare say that we set up rules, we set up traditions, we set up borders and boundaries in order that our agendas and our plans might not be interrupted or disturbed, and we are willing to go to great lengths to guard and preserve those rules and traditions. Furthermore, we are completely and totally unwilling to allow anything to come in between that which we have been used to and accustomed to. We might have spent a considerable amount of time—perhaps even months, and even years—establishing our borders and boundaries, and as a result, we are unwilling to allow anything to come in tweet the rules, traditions, borders and boundaries we have set up. This even means that we are unwilling to allow the needs of another, or even the needs of others to interrupt and interfere with our clearly defined rules and traditions.

What I so love about the account of Jesus healing the man at the pool of Bethesda which had an infirmity for thirty and eight years is that when the Jews realized that it was Jesus who did in fact heal this man, and that He did so on the Sabbath day, He declared unto them that His Father works, and so to He works, and so too He must work. In response to the persecution of Jesus at the hands of the Jews, the first thing Jesus declared unto them was that His Father works, and that because His Father works, He works. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this tremendous reality, for not only does it speak to and reveal the reality that Jesus works—even on the Sabbath day—but also that the Father Himself works on the Sabbath. The words which Jesus spoke unto the Jews in response to their persecution of Him because He chose to heal on the Sabbath are absolutely extraordinary, for they point to and reveals the reality that not only does Jesus work, but Jesus only does that which He sees the Father do. The very fact that Jesus suggested and spoke of the Father working—and that in direct connection to the Sabbath—suggests that it was more than simply Jesus ministering on the sabbath, but it was actually the Father who ministered on the sabbath. This is quite interesting when you consider the fact that the ministry of the Father and the Son were in direct alignment and agreement on the Sabbath day, and did not operate independent of each other. The ministry of the Father, and the ministry of the Son worked in direct correlation and fellowship with each other—and even did so on the Sabbath. When Jesus chose to bring healing and deliverance to the needs of those whom he encountered on the Sabbath, He wasn’t doing so of His own accord, nor was He doing so of His own initiative. When Jesus brought healing and deliverance to those who had needs, and did so even on the sabbath, it wasn’t Jesus taking it upon Himself to operate apart from and outside of the will of the Father. We dare not and must not lose sight of this, for when Jesus brought healing and deliverance on the Sabbath day, he did so in full alignment with the divine will of the Father. The ministry of the Son—even the ministry of the Son which took place on the Sabbath day—never operated independent of, nor separate from the will of the Father, but instead operated in direct connection and direct relationship to the divine will of the Father. If Jesus worked on the Sabbath, and if Jesus healed on the Sabbath, and if Jesus brought deliverance on the Sabbath, then it was because His Father was working, and it was because He saw His Father moving and operating among the hearts and lives of men—even on the Sabbath day. Oh that we would understand and grasp this reality, for by doing so we come face to face with the fact that Jesus has never and will never operate within our rules, our traditions, our borders, nor even our boundaries.

What we find in the opening six verses of the fourteenth chapter is in fact yet another encounter which took place between Jesus and religion, and that on the sabbath day, for Jesus chose to bring healing and deliverance on the Sabbath day—even though it would incite and upset the balance of the Pharisees, the scribes, and the religious leaders of that day. What’s interesting about how the fourteenth chapter progresses is that immediately after Jesus silenced the Pharisees on the sabbath day concerning actions they themselves would take on the Sabbath day, and whether or not it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath day, is that Jesus then put forth a parable to those which were hidden to the house of one of the chief Pharisees. The fourteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke begins and opens up with Jesus entering into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day, and how while in the house of this chief Pharisee, He was watched closely by those who were present within the house. When you come to the seventh verse of the fourteenth chapter you will find Jesus putting forth a parable to those who were hidden unto the house of this Pharisee—a parable that was issued when He noticed how they chose out the chief rooms. The parable which Jesus put forth to those which were present on this day centered upon being invited to a wedding, and contained within it a very specific instruction concerning those who were invited to to the wedding. Within this parable Jesus instructed them to not seek out the chief seats, nor even the highest room, lest a more honorable than they enter into the room and they be asked to move to a lower seat and a lower room. Conversely, Jesus instructed those who were hidden to instead seek out the lower seats, and the lower rooms, for it is possible that one would recognize them sitting in a lower room and in a lower estate and invite them to come up higher. The entire premise of the parable was that those who exalt themselves will be abased, and those tho humble themselves shall be exalted. This is in direct alignment with the words which James wrote in his epistle which is found in the New Testament, for James urges the saints of God to humble themselves under and before the mighty hand of God, and it would be God alone who exalted them. If we are being honest with ourselves, and even with the living God—humbling ourselves is perhaps one of the most difficult actions we can take. There are very few among us who enjoy humbling ourselves—not only before the living God, but also before others. I know that more often than not it is difficult for me to humble myself, and especially humbling myself in the sight of others, and before men. One of the most difficult things we can do is to humble ourselves before and in the sight of others, and to choose to move in a lower estate. It goes against every fiber of our beings to humble ourselves in the sight of the living God, and especially before and in the sight of others.

As you continue reading this particular passage of Scripture you will notice that Jesus didn’t merely speak about the need to humble ourselves, and our need to resist the temptation to exalt ourselves in the sight of others. If you continue reading within this passage you will find that Jesus went on to instruct those who were present on this particular day within the house of this Pharisee that when they make a dinner or supper, they are not to call their friends, nor their brethren, nor their kinsmen, nor their right neighbors, lest they also bid them again, and they have their reward and recompense here upon the earth in the natural and temporal realm. Instead, Jesus instructed them—when they make a feast—to call the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind, in order that by doing so they would be blessed, for those whom they invited could not recompense or reward them. Instead, their reward would not be found in the here and the now, nor in the realm of the temporal and natural, but rather would be found in the spiritual realm. In all reality, the instruction Jesus gave to those who were present at this supper to not seek reward or recompense in the here and now, nor to seek to be rewarded in this natural and temporal life, but rather to seek their reward in heaven, and to seek their reward when the resurrection of the just takes place. Furthermore, Jesus also instructed those who were invited to this supper to humble themselves in the sight of God, as well as in the sight of men, and that they would fight and guard themselves against the temptation of seeking to exalt and elevate themselves. This particular section of Scripture concludes with Jesus speaking about a certain man who made a great supper and invited many to come, and even sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited to come, for all things were now made ready. Much to the surprise of the servant who was sent by this master, all those who were invited began with one consent and one voice to make excuse as to why they could not come unto the supper. One stated they couldn’t because because they had just bought a piece of property, and needed to go and see it. Another stated that they bought five Hooke of oxen, and needed to go and prove them. Another declared and stated that they just married a wife, and could not come because of this new relationship and commitment. The servant returned unto the master and declared unto him those things which were stated in his hearing, and how those who were invited made excuse as to why they could and would not come. This particular parable concludes with those who weren’t initially invited to the supper being invited—the poor, the maimed, the halt and the blind, and even those in the highways and hedges. This particular section concludes with the excuses we make and the lies we tell ourselves as to why we can’t come when we have been invited, and why we can’t do what we have been called to do. The one thing I would leave you with in this writing is centered around the lies you are telling yourself, and the excuses you are making as to why we can’t come when we have been invited, and why we can’t do what we have been called to do. I leave you with a question concerning what lies you have told yourself, and what lies you are telling yourself as to why you can’t do what you have been called to do, and why you can’t come when you have been invited. I leave you with the question regarding what excuses you have made as to why you can’t come when you have been invited, and why you can’t do what you have been called to do.

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