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Jesus and the Pharisees

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Luke 13:10–17


Today’s Scripture packs two strikingly different ideas into one reading: healing and hypocrisy. The healing is of a woman who had been crippled for eighieen years, and the hypocrisy is on the part of a synagogue official who cannot see what is happening right before his eyes – a woman being miraculously freed from her terrible pain and suffering. The synagogue ruler had been too crippled by the letter of the law to recognize the true spirit of the law.


The Pharisees allowed animals to be taken care of on the Sabbath (see Luke 14:5), so why should they begrudge a sick woman this extraordinary and wonderful gift of God? Such harsh, legalistic and quite frankly mean behaviour from so-called religious people is staggering, isn’t it? What had happened to their understanding of God and their understanding of the dignity of the human person to make them think like this?


Yet it is perhaps too easy to be judgemental and harsh towards the Pharisees. We can find ourselves saying to God, ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like these Pharisees because I would not let myself become so confused and legalistic that I applied the letter and not the spirit of the law.’ To think like this is, of course, to have fallen into the same trap! Make no mistake, Jesus loved the Pharisees – it is obvious from his eagerness to correct their thinking.


To live in the Spirit we need to be very clear about two things: the first is that God loves everybody, and the second is that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God and God wants the best for everybody. The Pharisees made the error of assuming they knew how God thought, but they could not have been more wrong. Jesus came to set us all free because we all need to be set free. The Pharisees’ religion had made them narrow-minded and mean-spirited, whereas the Spirit makes us big-hearted and generous. The Pharisees’ religion had made them hypocrites (a very real tension for all religious people), but the Spirit convicts us of our sin and makes us grateful and forgiven sinners in continual need of God’s healing and mercy.


The all-sufficient Physician of humanity, the Saviour, heals both body and soul.  (St Clement of Alexandria)


Chris


From Bible Alive


Ephesians 4:32-56 • Psalm 1:1–6 • Luke 13:10–17


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