Yesterday I concluded with a question - Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath
Now there’s a technicality behind that question, and Jewish scribes used to debate it: is it lawful for a physician to heal on the sabbath? If the answer’s ‘yes’ how about someone else, like a prophet? The Shammaite Pharisees did not allow praying for the sick on the sabbath, but the followers of Hillel allowed it.
Arguments, arguments: ‘arguments by extension’ to which Jesus answers with an ‘argument by analogy’. If the sabbath laws allow you to help a sheep, why not a person? (But then, the Essenes wouldn’t have rescued a sheep either: gets complicated!).
So Jesus healed the man. Two notes at this point:
#1. Jesus asked the man to stretch out his hand, to do as much as he could. Jesus often did that in his healings. It’s the same today: we get help any way we can, and do what we can. Jesus still heals: sometimes slowly (always slowly in cases of sexual / emotional abuse), sometimes instantly; sometimes with, sometimes without, the help of medicine…
#2. I was a co-speaker at a conference with the Dr Paul Yonggi Cho, pastor of the largest church in the world. He said: ‘Every miracle recorded in the New Testament, including the raising of the dead, has also happened in Korea: we are praying for some miracles not mentioned in the Bible, nor recorded in Christian history. Like the replacement of a limb – an arm or a leg – that’s not there . We’re believing God for miracles like that.’
Back to the Sabbath: what's it all about? Two things, basically: faith and rest. Faith that God will supply our needs if we don’t have to work all the time; and rest so that our lives will be in balance. As you know, I counsel clergy: that’s what John Mark Ministries is about. They’re often burned out.
But when they are, it’s almost always associated with a failure to take the idea and practice of sabbath seriously. They don’t take a day off: a day off is any day (for pastors it’s often Thursday) when from getting up to going to bed at night you are not preoccupied with your vocation. Isn’t it interesting that in our leisure-oriented culture, there’s also more fatigue? A lot of people are just plain tired. The five-day work week is a recent innovation, but ‘leisure’ and ‘sabbath-rest’ are not the same.
Gordon McDonald, in his excellent book Ordering Your Private World has a chapter ‘Rest Beyond Leisure’ which I urge you to read. He writes: ‘God was the first “rester”…Does God need to rest? Of course not. But did God choose to rest? Yes.
Why? Because God subjected creation to a rhythm of rest and work that he revealed by observing the rhythm himself, as a precedent for everyone else… [For us] this rest is a time of looking backward. We gaze upon our work and ask questions like: “What does my work mean? For whom did I do all this work? How well was my work done? Why did I do all this?
What results did I expect, and what did I receive?” To put it another way, the rest God instituted was meant first and foremost to cause us to interpret our work, to press meaning into it, to make sure we know to whom it is properly dedicated’ (Highland, 1985, pp.176-7).
The Pharisees had lost sight of the essence of the sabbath. Alister McGrath says in his NIV Bible Commentary: ‘The Sabbath was instituted to give people refreshment, rather than to add to their burdens’ (H&S, 1995, p.242). Precisely how you keep the Sabbath today will be governed by love for God and neighbour, and the kind of work you do. If you’re a manual worker, rest. If you’re sedentary, do something physical. Make sure it’s ‘recreational’ for you – re-creating your body, mind, emotions and spirit.
Sometimes I talk to a pastor who is being ‘destroyed’ by Pharisees. They are still with us. Why? It’s all about what social scientists call ‘mindsets’: the mindset of the Pharisee and that of the prophet are antithetical: they can’t get along. Let me explain.
The Pharisee is concerned about law: how to do right. Now there’s nothing wrong with that as it stands. Except for one thing: you can keep the law and in the process destroy persons.
I have a friend who lectured in law in one of our universities, before he got out of it all in disgust. He said with some conviction: ‘The whole of our Western legal system is sick, unjust. For one thing: if you’re rich, and can afford the cleverest advocacy, you have a pretty good chance of not going to gaol; but not if you’re poor.’ There’s something wrong with a system supposed to preserve ‘fairness’ when double-standards operate…
There’s a tension between law and love. Law is to love as the railway tracks are to the train: the tracks give direction, but all the propulsive power is in the train. Tracks on their own may point somewhere, but they’re cold, lifeless things. But love without law is like a train without tracks: plenty of noise and even movement but lacking direction.
Both law and love ultimately come from God. We need God’s laws to know how to set proper boundaries and behave appropriately: without good laws we humans will destroy one another. Prophets, in the biblical sense, try to tie law and love into each other.
The Old Testament prophets were always encouraging the people of God to keep the law of God. But the greatest commandment is love: love of God and of others.
Dr Mark Tronson - a 4 min video
Chairman – Well-Being Australia
Baptist Minister 45 years
- 1984 - Australian cricket team chaplain 17 years (Ret)
- 2001 - Life After Cricket (18 years Ret)
- 2009 - Olympic Ministry Medal – presented by Carl Lewis
- 2019 - The Gutenberg - (ARPA Christian Media premier award)
Gutenberg video - 2min 14sec
Married to Delma for 45 years with 4 children and 6 grand children