October 10 I Sunday
“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.” —Mark 3:4
If Jesus were to pose the question from the opening verse of this devotion to us, what would our response be? What should the logical response be? The context of this question came about when Jesus told a man with a shriveled hand to stand up in front of everyone at the synagogue. An easy question that even a child would know the answer to was met with silence in the room.
Why was everyone silent? Because of the oppression of the legalistic Pharisee system. The oppressive tradition that gives the appearance of righteousness, but has nothing to do with God. What God designed as a day of rest and renewal had become a day of death. Like a host of other ways that religion had hijacked God’s plans, the Sabbath was hijacked by 39 prohibitions developed by the rabbis on what cannot be done on the Sabbath. The system had become so burdensome that it suffocated all joy out of God’s day of rest, while saying it is all done in His name.
When Jesus’s question was met with silence, “He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts...” (Mark 3:5). Why was Jesus angry and distressed? Because of their stubborn hearts. We can actually be stubborn with our religious rules. Out of a desire to be obedient, the Pharisees were, in reality, stubbornly refusing God. These Pharisees, who were the enforcers of the rule—who thought they were doing it in God’s name—were actually in direct opposition to God Himself, who stood among them. The self-righteousness of these Pharisees that was rooted in their ego was actually an idolatry of self.
In W. Ian Thomas’s book The Saving Life of Christ, he wrote, “Make sure it is God’s trumpet you are blowing—if it is only yours it won’t wake the dead, it will simply disturb the neighbors.” The Pharisees were blowing a trumpet with God’s name attached to it, but it was not God’s trumpet. It did not bring life; it only disturbed people.
There are many world religions that have a self-imposed set of rules, rhythms of life or ways of life that seem so righteous, but they lack any real value in restoring the life of God back to us. When we are holding on to these so tightly, Jesus Himself could be standing there making Himself known to us, but we are stubbornly holding on to what has us in bondage. Do we find ourselves like the Pharisees, caught in silence because of the bondage of the law? Or do we find freedom from the constraints of the law because we are resting upon Christ and His finished work?
Prayer: Lord of the Sabbath, free me from any legalistic rules that I impose on myself. There is nothing I could do to earn my salvation; I only need to rest upon Your finished work. Thank You, Lord.