Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost
August 26, 2007
One Sunday morning a pastor discovered that the road leading from his house to the church was impassable. Fortunately, he was able to get to church by skating on the frozen river. When he arrived, the elders were horrified that their preacher had skated on the Lord’s day. After services they confronted him. He explained that it was either skate to church or not come at all. Finally, one elder asked, “Did you enjoy it?” When the preacher answered, “No,” the board decided it was all right!
Religion is a dangerous thing. It can deceive us about what’s important and what’s not. Religion can make us suspicious of pleasure. It can drain the joy out of our lives and, far worse, rob God of the praise He is due. How can we keep religion from doing that to us? How can we be sure that our religion is, as James 1:27 puts it, a “religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless”?
Put another way, how can we avoid being humiliated by our religion like the synagogue ruler and his allies were humiliated by theirs in Luke 13:10-17? Theirs was a religion that resented the pleasures of God’s grace at the very moment they should have been rejoicing in them.
What are the marks of a right religion that rejoices in God’s grace?
Right religion delights in Jesus and the wonderful things He does.
One Sabbath day, Jesus was teaching in a synagogue. A woman who had not enjoyed the simple pleasures of standing or stretching for 18 years walked in. Luke 13:12-13 reports, “When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, ‘Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.’ Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up…” Her response was both natural and right. She praised God, rejoicing in the pleasures of His grace! Likewise, verse 17 tells us that the people were “delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.”
Right religion always begins with our personal and corporate delight in Jesus and the wonderful things He does. Even as Jesus saw this woman in her need, He sees us in ours. Like Jesus called her, He calls us. And in the same way Jesus touched her with His healing touch, He touches us. This Jesus who had no sin became sin for us. He paid our penalty. He died our death. And only by these pleasures of His grace do we stand straight before God-set free from our bondage to Satan and sin.
It’s no wonder we delight in Jesus and the wonderful things He does! How else could we respond? Unfortunately, many refuse to delight in Jesus and His grace. Verse 14 reports, “Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, ‘There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.’”
A wonderful miracle had taken place in this man’s presence. The glory of God had been revealed before his eyes! Why wasn’t he praising God? Why wasn’t he delighting in Jesus? Here’s why. In his mind the Sabbath had been violated. The Law had been broken. Conformity had been breached! Disobedience was running amok in the church! Jesus rebukes his ignorance and condemns his pride because he did not understand that…
Right religion embraces God’s purpose for the Law.
God’s purpose for the Law was to prosper His people (see Deut. 5:33). That’s why, when Jesus healed a bent woman on the Sabbath “whom Satan has kept bound for 18 long years,” He didn’t violate God’s Law. Exactly the opposite! He fulfilled God’s purpose for the Law. Of course the synagogue ruler didn’t see it that way. For him, the Law was never about prospering people. It was about controlling them according to the standards of his false view of obedience. Jesus rebukes him because…
Right religion comprehends the essence of true obedience.
Jesus says, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman…be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?” In other words, “Don’t you know that the essence of obedience isn’t about your outward adherence to God’s rules? The essence of obedience is about sharing God’s heart! And God’s heart is a heart of compassion.”
“When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated…” They were humiliated because their religion wasn’t right religion. Is yours? (Dean Shriver)