“What Are You Doing?”
Mark 3: 1-6
So this weekend we introduced the kids to Star Wars. It started when they wanted to play Star Wars Monopoly. Well it was a hit. But of course it’s a little tricky to explain places, ships and characters when they haven’t seen the movie. So last night we had a movie night and watched the first movie, Episode IV.
Again, it was a huge hit. There’s even a rumour it may have ousted Cars 2 out of the top spot of hit movies in the house. Who would have thought that was even possible?
However, as we watched the movie I was very glad I have seen it many times before. “Who’s that?” “Is that a good guy or a bad guy?” “What are they doing?” “Who’s that?” “Is that a good guy or a bad guy?” “Where are they going?” “Where’s that place?” “Is that earth?” “Who’s that?” “What blew up?” “Is that a good guy or a bad guy?” “What did he say?” “Is he a good guy or a bad guy?” “Is he dead?” “What’s ‘terminated’ mean?” “Do the good guys win?” I think you get my drift.
Star Wars is an entertaining movie, for sure. But the dialogue and action may be a little advanced for 7 and 5 year olds. They tried to pay attention, but details just don’t sink in that quickly. So they watch carefully, but also ask a lot of questions when they don’t understand what is happening. It’s a little more complicated than a lot of movies they tend to watch, that’s for sure.
But, is it really that different for adults? Have you ever had company over and you were sitting down to watch your favourite show when your guests start to ask questions about who the characters are, and maybe what the storyline is about since they’ve never seen the show before? It can get a little frustrating can’t it. You just want to sit and enjoy your show, but you can’t because you have to explain everything as it goes.
“Well, she doesn’t like him because….” “Oh, he’s like that because one time…” And so on.
Think for a moment what it would have been like for Jesus. Everywhere Jesus went people were watching him and asking questions. “What’s he doing now?” “Who’s that he’s talking to?” “Why would he be going there now?”
Well this morning we hear of Jesus going into the synagogue, a place he was going to be watched very closely by those who thought they knew everything.
After Jesus entered the synagogue, he encountered a man with a withered hand. It’s interesting that the questions of the crowd watching wasn’t so much “could he do it?” but rather “would he?”
Jesus, as we found out last week, would know what they were thinking. He knew they were watching and wondering. So he says to the man, “Come here.”
And as the man approaches, Jesus asked, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?”
No one answered. There was just silence.
Notice how Jesus responded. “He looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart…”
Jesus was angry. He was not pleased at all that they were just waiting to judge what he might do, forgetting anything to do with the man who was suffering and his needs.
So Jesus offered a simple request to the man. “Let’s see that hand!”
As the man lifted his arm to show, his hand was made whole, completely restored.
Today, we continue our look into some of the miracles Jesus performed. We are doing this because it is often very easy to read a story like the one we read this morning and miss out on some details. To look at it and think, “That’s nice of Jesus, I wish he would heal my friend,” and then continue along. But if we do this, we might miss out on a key message from Jesus. Not just to the people he was surrounded by, but also for ourselves.
The key phrase in this rather short encounter is the question Jesus asked, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?”
Let’s forget about that first part of the question for a moment and just look at “Is it good to do good or to do harm?”
Of course the answer to this seems pretty straight forward doesn’t it. It’s good to do good! What else could it be? I don’t think anyone would argue at all with Jesus on this one.
But Jesus says, “Is it lawful…?” Yes, of course, it’s lawful, it is allowed to do good to another. It is lawful to save a life. There’s little debate in this area.
But it’s the Sabbath. The day of rest. Rules are very strict on this day of the week. There is to be no work at all. No work in the gardens or fields. This is the Lord’s day, and everyone is expected to honour God on His day. Some of you have shared stories yourselves about what you could and could not do on Sunday’s when you were growing up. From what you’ve told me, there was a lot more could not’s than could’s!
So healing, feeding, helping, saving, these things are forbidden by law simply because it’s the Sabbath. Well, at least that’s what the religious leaders had been telling everyone. That was their interpretation of the law. Unless it was extreme circumstances, then you could save someone’s life.
So it’s against the law to do this? Just because of the day of the week? I suppose what’s the deal with one more day? We don’t know that this man is on death’s door, but I’m not sure a withered hand would be all that comfortable and willing to wait another day.
So when Jesus asks the question and he gets no answer, he’s mad. They know full well he can do it, he’s done all sorts of miracles so far. They know what he’s capable of, and yet they want him to let a man suffer just because of the day of the week?
I think we know full well that’s not how Jesus works. Jesus has come not to live by the laws put out by the religious leaders, he has come to show the world how the laws were meant to be followed. He came to show that love, grace, and mercy were to be the norm. Those are the primary laws. So to withhold helping someone who was in need simply because it was the Sabbath? Not cool.
Our own lives have their own limitations. Society has imposed it’s own laws upon us. There are professionals in our society who cannot act to help a family or children in need because there are rules that don’t let them do what needs to be done. I talk with teachers who see children come from homes that are unhealthy for the kids, maybe even life threatening, but their hands are tied by the system. They all want very much to help, but they aren’t allowed. Those are the rules.
It wasn’t always that way. It used to be that the community would pick up on the loose ends. The community used to help out the families around who were in trouble and struggling. People used to care about their neighbours and do something about it.
But times are different now. We’ve handed the helping function of our neighbourhoods off to professionals: social workers, police, psychologists, doctors and so on. Don’t get me wrong, these people care a lot about the people they help. They must, because it’s hard work and if you weren’t passionate about helping, it’d be a hard career to live through.
But they can only do so much. To protect themselves and the people they work with, they set up very clear boundaries. It makes sense to do this.
And the community sits around and watches.
Here’s another thought I have about these rules around helping and watching.
We’ve stopped going to church.
We have eight churches in this town. If we polled each church about their attendance this morning, I seriously doubt any of them would be over half full.
We’ve abandoned the one place where we learned what it means to live morally in our communities. We’re missing the instruction on what it truly means to “love your neighbour as yourself.”
A couple of you have shared with me that when you were growing up and you did a little bit of mischief around town, you might be better off not going home. Someone would know what you did, and if someone knew what you did, so did your parents. So staying away from the house sounded like a good idea at times.
The community used to look out for one another. It used to police itself in many ways. The old saying that it takes a community to raise a child is still very true, we just don’t live it out any more.
The love of Christ is unknown to us. God’s commandment to love one another as we love ourselves is forgotten. We prefer instead to live at a distance, to let rules determine our involvement with one another.
That’s not how Jesus shows us to live. Jesus shows us to question those rules, and if they are not helping our neighbours, then we need to get mad and do something about it. Who cares what others think? The love of God is more than the rules, it’s about changing lives for the better.
So if society starts to question us, asking “What are you doing?”
We simply answer, I am doing the will of God. I’m making the world a better place by showing His love to the world, and to you.
Thanks be to God for the love, grace and mercy shown to us in Jesus Christ. Showing us rules are not always good, but love most certainly is.
May the love of Christ flow through you, and into others as we serve our awesome God.