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|And departing from there, He went into their synagogue. And behold, there was a man with a withered hand. And they questioned Him, saying, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"--in order that they might accuse Him. And He said to them, "What man shall there be among you, who shall have one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it, and lift it out? "Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath." Then He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand!" And he stretched it out, and it was restored to normal, like the other. But the Pharisees went out, and counseled together against Him, as to how they might destroy Him. (Matthew 12:9-14).|
Paul J. Bucknell
This powerful statement of Jesus summarized all our efforts to combat different kinds of false teachings within Christianity. With one swoop, they all fall.
When we normally speak against a certain teaching, we tend to be like an inexperienced surgeon who cuts away more than necessary. Jesus was always able to cut out only the cancerous part and retain that which was good and necessary.
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I regularly meet up with those who think they are doing good by criticizing some problem in the church. The strange thing is that I agree with them doctrinally! Something, however, is wrong with their spirit. I believe it is this excessiveness.
Clearly the Pharisees thought they were in the right. They believed that they were defending the sabbath by criticizing Jesus' activities. We can agree with them on the point that many people are not careful to observe the sabbath. However, it is the excessiveness resulting from pride that destroys any good that otherwise would develop. The blind spot originates when one side believes it has a superior judgment.
They become protectors of the law. They become like a god unto themselves saying more than what God ever said. What is worse is that they make themselves judge over other people's actions. I am personally amazed how Jesus instructed people to do the right things by doing the right things in the right spirit.
Legalism breeds a deadly spirit of pride which ends up in condemning what the law itself was designed to protect and keep. In this case, they clearly overstepped themselves when they assumed that doing good was the same as labor. They lost the spirit of the sabbath law which was to reflect the Creator. Instead they ended up reflecting man at his worse.
We see a similar problem in the American church. There are many who feel compelled to protect the teaching of salvation by faith. We share their love for this biblical teaching. However, they are so intense in this fierce struggle that they have ripped out the seams of other biblical doctrines.
Modern Examples of Excessiveness
As above, the problem gets exacerbated when we become crusaders for God. We stand in a superior position at the helm. Pride carefully sneaks in and robs our humility from us. Without this shield of humility, we make ourselves prone to fall. Here are four cases where brothers are teaching unbiblical things as biblical so they can protect God's teaching.
We all need to learn through the life of Jesus on how to hold on to God's truth and yet not get caught in the trap of pride. After all, if anyone could be the protector of truth, it was Jesus. God's truth, however, needs no protection from us but only proclamation through tongue and life. Truth is like the light. It lives on as long as it is released. Once released, it has a life of its own.
How did Jesus release the truth rather than box it in?
The Pharisees were trying to see if Jesus would submit to their man made interpretation of the sabbath. They challenged Him saying, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?" (12:10).
Jesus refuses to be framed into their closed arguments. He uses the simple story of doing good by saving a dying animal. They focused so much on all the things they should not do on the sabbath that they forgot of its positive purpose. This is where Jesus came up with His powerful statement in Matthew 12:12 that released a great flash of light.
"Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath."
If the sabbath was made for any purpose, surely it was to reflect our holy God. Jesus summarized our actions as good. We see that Jesus' response basically is saying that good things come from the Good One. Anything that God requires is good. We can see the out working of this in the way Jesus summarized the Law: love both God and man. This is good..
After all, is it not God who for six days made and declared everything good? If this is God's way of working, surely we should relfect this goodness on the seventh day by doing good. God creates a good creation so that it would itself do good works. These good works then in turn bring glory to God.
God > goodness > creation > goodness > glory to God
Next =>A Case for Goodness
(1) We could spend much time commenting on this phrase "it is lawful." It derives from two Greek words: 'out of' (ek) and 'I am' (eimi). This is the same 'I am" that is used in Exodus where Jehovah describes Himself "I am that I am.." The law then is that which comes forth from Jehovah. Interestingly, this Greek word (exestin) is the origin of our English word to exist.
Scriptures typically quoted from the New American Standard Bible unless noted:
(C) Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1988