Day 79: Hard-wired hatred

Luke 13:10-17 (AD 29)

What makes you feel ‘indignant’? What gives you the feeling of, ‘This should not be’, ‘This is an offense against what is right and good’. Not merely, ‘I’m not sure this is the best’, but ‘Yuck, no’. The OED defines it as, ‘feeling or showing anger or annoyance at what is perceived as unfair treatment’.

In today’s incident, Jesus was not in the middle of a healing festival at the synagogue. No synagogue business had been put on hold to accommodate healing tourism. In fact, Jesus was in the middle of teaching and the crippled woman wasn’t interrupting. And when he finished healing her (which took almost no time at all), he carried on teaching. Nothing happened to give anyone cause to worry that worship of God in the synagogue was being in any way interrupted or hindered.

And yet there was the synagogue ruler, whose response to the instantaneous and complete healing of the woman, was to be “Indignant” (v.14).

Think of all the other immediate responses he could have had.

Amazement, wonder, astonishment, bewilderment, confusion, concern, gratitude, delight, joy, rejoicing…even the instinct to worship the man who had performed this miracle as being God, or at least elevating him as a man from God on a level with the likes of Moses, Abraham and Elijah – fathers of the nation.

The synagogue ruler – and many of his fellow-leaders, had been hating God all of their lives so it had become the natural response of their brain to God’s mercy.

But no, the immediate emotional response of the leader of the synagogue was to feel that something terrible had happened. And this wasn’t a feeling he was ashamed of, or thought twice about. He vocalised, instructing people not to come to be healed on the Sabbath (which they weren’t, they were listening to Jesus preach), but to come on another day.

The Pharisees felt that Jesus saying words, and putting his hand on someone, healing them, was work. As work, they felt it was against one of the Ten Commandments. As such, they felt the Jesus doing that among them, risked the wrath of God.

It makes me slightly ill to think of religious authority-figures being that anti-God. That anti-people. All in the name of God. It makes me ill to think of how badly that affects the reputation of the name of God. To see hypocrisy that has been that practiced, that frequently reinforced, that hard-wired into the psyche that it has become a shameless, natural reaction to the mercy of Jesus. Many of the people were longing for God, and were “delighted with all the wonderful things [Jesus] was doing” (v.17). Imagine being on the wrong side of that, though. Imagine being the hypocrite who speaks of God, and yet whose words, actions, or lack of either, expose a hypocrisy that could drive people away from God. Ask God to help you with your mercy, compassion, love for people, and holiness of life. Beg him to help you always be someone who points people to Jesus, and never someone who puts people off.

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