(Bible quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise stated)
Religion or people?
13th September 2006
Take a look with me at Matthew 12, verses 1 to 21.
First, we read verses 1-8:
At that time Jesus went through the cornfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were
hungry and began to pick some ears of corn and eat them.
We could draw a lot of lessons from this passage, but for this study, let's just see that:
Some people think religion is more important than people, and some people think that people are more important than religion.
Of course, it depends what you mean by "religion".
What I mean here is that:
Which camp are you in?
We then read verses 9-13:
Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue,
and a man with a shrivelled hand was there. Looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, they asked him, "Is it
lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"
Chillingly, we read of the Pharisees' reaction in the next verse:
But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.
The Pharisees were plotting against Jesus’s life for the crime of healing the sick on the Sabbath day. For them, religion was far more important than people.
Jesus chose at that time not to confront the Pharisees, but to work amonst the people. There’s a right time for all things.
We then read verse 15:
Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. Many followed him, and he healed all their sick, 16 warning them not to tell who he was.
Where Jesus is, people will follow. This is one reason (but not the only one) why some churches are growing while others are shrinking – because people can find Jesus there.
And Jesus healed all their sick! Sometimes, Jesus didn’t heal all the sick people present (see, for example, the healing at the pool in John 5). Sometimes he did. Again, there’s a set time for all things. Jesus did what His Father led Him to do - no more and no less.
But this passage shows that God CAN heal ALL the sick!
And it's interesting that Jesus healed so many people at a time when the Pharisees - the religious people - the rule keepers - were not around.
But he asked the people he healed not to tell anyone. On this occasion, Jesus wanted to heal people, but he wanted to do it quietly. Again, there's a time for all things – a time to shout from the rooftops that Jesus heals the sick, and time to keep it quiet. There's much more divine healing going on than we realise - because most of it is kept quiet.
The passage continues:
Jesus always acted in accordance with, and so confirmed, the scriptures. Verses 18 - 21 are a quote from Isaiah 42:1-4.
The word translated “Here is” really means "look". A better translation is in the AV, which says “behold”.
And what good advice: actually behold Jesus – actually take the time to look at Him. Meditate on the character and work of Jesus Christ our saviour.
Jesus – God’s chosen one – the Messiah promised from generations ago, God’s beloved only Son, God’s delight. Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, Jesus who is bringing justice – good government – to the Earth.
The word translated "quarrel" is erizo and means “to engage in strife”. The corresponding Herbrew word in Isaiah 42:2 is sa-aq, “to cry out”. A free translation might be "He won't make a fuss". Jesus so often doesn’t make a song and dance about what he’s doing – he works quietly, in the hearts of those he has chosen, he speaks quietly, so no-one else can hear – he whispers in our inner ears. No-knows (usually) that God’s speaking to you.
Remember the story of Elijah:
1 Kings 19v11-13
God spoke in the whisper, not the wind, or the earthquake, or the fire. And Jesus said:
Jesus is meek, gentle, and lowly. When you’re God, when you have infinite power and authority over the universe, you don’t need to shout.
And to those of us who are weary or burdened, it’s so refreshing, such a relief, such a joy, to find a saviour who just speaks quietly to us, touches us and heals us without a big fuss.
Jesus loves bruised people.
In fact, the most troublesome Christians tend to be the ones who aren’t bruised – they still have their pride, they still think they’re doing God a favour by serving Him, they still look down on other Christians.
But we who are bruised, battered, exhausted, weary, confused, bewildered by the way life still seems to treat us, we’re losing our pride. We realise we’ve got so little to be proud about.
And God also loves the smouldering wicks – the ones whose fire is just about burned out. Did you used to be on fire for God? Has the effort, and the scant results, and the cynicism, and the tiredness, and the unfairness of it all, and the lure of worldly pleasures caused you to lose that zeal?
Were you (to change the metaphor) running a good race for Jesus? Have you just got tired of it all and do you feel like you’re in danger of jacking it in altogether?
Jesus loves you.
Jesus won’t ever extinguish you. He wants to fan you back into flame!
Our final verse is:
We can’t hope in our own resources. We bruised reeds, we smouldering wicks, can’t fix our own problems - can't sort out our own lives. We will trust in Jesus Christ!
So, at times of great heatache or difficulty, let's remember verse 18 and “behold my servant”!