Then Jesus went over to the Pharisees’ synagogue and they asked Him, “Does the law permit a person to work by healing on the Sabbath….Jesus said, “Yes, the law permits a person to do good on the Sabbath.”
Matthew 12:9-14 (Paraphrased)
We face decisions every day – we spend a lot of time trying to figure out which is the right and which is the wrong one. Some of those decisions are obvious. Murder is wrong. Stealing is wrong. Those big ticket items we don’t have to think too hard about. But, what about those grey areas? “Most of us feel as if we are fighting our way through a jungle of endless bad choices looking for the one good choice we are supposed to make. When we talk of doing God’s will, we speak as if his will is elusive, and perhaps even unattainable. We work from the assumption that every choice we make outside the one choice that is God’s will for our life is a wrong choice. No wonder so many of us feel paralyzed, terrified to act. The likelihood our choices will be wrong—or even sinful—is too high to risk. We’ve come to believe that God’s will is like walking on a high wire. Any misstep, and we’ll go plummeting to our death.” (Erwin McManus, “The Genius of Jesus”)
This is the kind of life the Pharisees lived – paralyzed by fear of doing the wrong – of breaking a law. It blinded them to what God had for them – to who was standing right in front of them. It is not the life we were meant to live.
Jesus told them, yes, you can do good on the Sabbath. Jesus took their question about right or wrong and made it about good. Good is what God wants. He doesn’t need us to be right (or to not be wrong). What we often forget is that we can’t be right enough. We could keep every law, never be wrong, and still never be right and never do good. In other words we could keep the Sabbath holy but never heal the withered hand. In doing that we have failed at the greatest commandment – to love God and love people.
We don’t need to be right. Jesus is right. It is His rightness (righteousness) we need to be saved. We cannot save ourselves by avoiding wrong. We can only be saved by choosing Jesus. He then picks up our slack and accomplishes for us what we can’t. In His righteousness we are free to live – not however we want – but in goodness.
Paul says, “Christ has truly set us free. … For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
You are free from the burden of avoiding wrong and free to the life of good. Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose from the grave to make you right. All we have to do now is live in that freedom and allow that love to flow through us to others – do good and you won't be wrong.
You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.
What do you think of when you think of power? Who do you view as the most powerful person ever – and I don’t mean your favorite super hero (we all know superman is the best anyway!). Typically power is defined by might, strength (militarily or financially), control, and maybe even influence (even if that influence is due to fear or force). The biggest issue with that kind of power is that it is often oppressive and enslaving. Yet, when we try to find freedom from that power we end up using the same kind of power against it. Then, we just get stuck in this cycle of enslavement and oppression – the only change is who holds the power.
This is the cycle Jesus was born into. Alexander the Great had set the standard for power and dominance expanding the Greek empire and influence through his military power. Then along came the Roman empire that was exercising their power over the Jewish people during the life of Christ. Everyone wanted to be on the top, everyone wanted to control the power! So, when Jesus showed up the people were thinking it was finally their turn, now the Jews could have the power.
But, Jesus, the most powerful person to ever walk the face of this earth. The Son of God, the Creator, who could heal the sick, forgive sin, walk on water, calm storms, and raise the dead was here. Surely He was going to kick butt! But, instead He came with a different idea of power and freedom. He came and showed the people that no matter who thought they had the power, no one could ever really take it from them if they didn’t let them. They were always free. In fact, it was in this power of servanthood that Jesus drastically changed the world.
Erwin McManus says, “Never allow anyone else’s actions to lead you to be less. Their use of power reveals who they are, and your response to power will reveal who you are. Whatever power you may feel your oppressors have over you, they are powerless when it comes to your character. Only you can choose who you are and who you will become. You can step into a freedom they are incapable of understanding, and stand in your power in such a way that they are powerless to stop you.” That’s the power Jesus displayed all the way to the cross. That’s the power that truly changed the world. Live in that power.
Pastor Matt Huff leads Portland Central Nazarene Church. He loves being in ministry and seeing lives transformed by the power of Christ.