August 5, 2019
One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. There in front of him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him on his way. Then he asked them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?” And they had nothing to say.
The man was suffering from dropsy. Excessive amounts of fluid had built up in the tissues and cavities of his body. The problem was coming from issues with the man’s liver or other ailments such as pancreatitis. Today dropsy, or edema, can be treated with medication, but in Jesus’ day the man was suffering and would continue to suffer until he died. Jesus had compassion on the man, healed him, and sent him on his way.
For the Pharisees the healing was not the problem, the timing was. This encounter took place on the Sabbath as Jesus was on His way to eat at the home of a prominent Pharisee. The Pharisees had strict rules about what could and couldn’t happen on the Sabbath. Healing was not in the “Can Do” category, so Jesus used an analogy of a child or an ox that fell into a well on the Sabbath. The law allowed for the rescue. Certainly, Jesus reasoned, the law would allow for the rescue of a man who was suffering. This rationale silenced the legalistic Pharisees.
Legalism puts forth a strict adherence to manmade laws that drains away every ounce of grace and compassion. Legalism rails on one sin and winks at another. Since we are all sinners, legalism leads to a life of contradiction, which inevitably produces hypocrisy. Grace, on the other hand, exists because of our imperfect nature. Grace does not give us a license to sin. Rather, it provides the freedom to obey.
Father, guard me against the shortsightedness of legalism. Help me avoid hypocrisy by responding to Your grace in the freedom of obedience. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
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