One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” 27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”
Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. 2 And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” 4 And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. – Mark 2:23-3:6
“I would have wished for a more gracious response from you.” That’s a quote from a letter I wrote to someone who took me to task about comments and advice I had given. I was serving as circuit counselor. The church of which the gentleman was a member was going through a call process. Some of the people on the Call Committee had called me for advice. I happened to agree with their concerns.
Mr. Orange (not his real name) did not agree. He was championing a different agenda. So he wrote me expressing how poorly I had served the committee and how I had failed to be faithful to God and truth. I was stunned, so I wrote back, defending myself to some degree, but also expressing my sadness that his accusation was not as gracious as I had hoped.
Jesus might not have expressed his disappointment with the Jewish leaders quite so softly. In fact, he came on like gangbusters sometimes. Calling them whitewashed tombs, blind guides, and on this occasion displaying a degree of anger and distress that was observable.
It would be so good if all the people who claim to be Christian were kind, gracious, gentle, and humble. Sadly, however, that is not the case. Whether it’s warring factions in Ireland (both of them claiming to be Christian), the people who pushed their enemies out the window of the castle in Prague, or the ruling Christians in Syria: there seems to be a shortage of kindness, mercy, humility, or gentle rebuke.
I realize sometimes we need to plant a stake in the ground. Jesus did on this occasion. His anger was kindled over the people’s hesitancy to do good on the Sabbath. People’s good and blessing was at stake. A man who was a cripple could just stay crippled for a day or two more as far as they were concerned. Really?!?
One time I ran into a buzzsaw with a member of a church I was serving at the time. A wise older pastor advised me to say to the buzz-sawer, “Well, you can let God back on his throne now.” That’s where God belongs, not us. And as long as we remember that, our conversations – even our corrections will be seasoned with grace as well as truth. We will be gentle in our admonitions. And the cause of the Kingdom will be better advanced.