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Silenced by Truth

Mark 3:4
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. (NIVUK)

Like the law of gravity, all God's laws simply express how His creation (both physical and moral) is designed to operate.  They clearly define what will work and what will not.  But like multiple layers of paint that hide the original of an old masterpiece, petty rules (that 'gold plate' God's original instructions), lose sight of what God originally intended.  Jesus faced the criticism of religious leaders for even thinking about healing a disabled man on the Sabbath (Mark 3:1-3).  Christ's action would restore the hand deformity, enabling the person to live and work again: it would reverse the process of disease, display God's power and bring glory to Jesus (Mark 3:5).  

What was the problem with that?  God's grace and mercy, together with His power to heal, made the petty regulations seem meaningless – which they were.  Religious rules, exceeding what God commands, are a way of controlling people; they are the dividing point of those who are 'in' from those who are 'out'.  In any religious community people want to out-do each other in piety, and keeping such rules is the ideal way of proving allegiance.  But Jesus was not interested in religious games.  He wanted to show that He had the power of God to restore what had been disabled in a world living under God's curse on sin (Genesis 3:17-19).      

Jesus separated God's objective for the Sabbath, the decision to stop for one day a week to worship and rest (Exodus 20:8-11), from wrong ideas that God never intended (complex regulations about what constituted work).  His opposers claimed that healing people on the Sabbath was wrong - because it was 'doing work'.  So, Jesus asked the question to provoke their thinking.  By starkly contrasting life-saving with 'manslaughter by neglect', Jesus forced them to see the foolishness of their manipulative legalism.  

There comes a point in every argument when the logical inadequacy of an argument is so obvious that there is nothing more to say (Matthew 23:13-29).  When that happens, people usually start to think ... which is a very good thing!  However, serious thinking cannot begin until prejudice is exposed as a dominating wrong habit.   When God is at work, probing thoughts and motives (Matthew 9:4), do not be surprised that people go quiet.  There is nothing to say when false assumptions fall away, and the truth will become self-evident.  It is then, and often not until then, that your friends will start to think about what God is saying.

Dear Lord. Thank You that Jesus is the Truth and that His words bring truth into a world of lies. Forgive me for not being straightforward about what is true, so that my friends and colleagues do not hear Your voice above the cultural din. Please help me to encourage people around me to think about what You are saying. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams