Saint Mark Daily Lenten Devotional – February 28, 2015
by Michael Prudent
Scripture: Mark 2:23-3:6
As I contemplate this reading, I am struck by words like “anger,” “stubborn,” “distressed,” and, of course, “kill.” Despite words with such negative connotation, for me this passage is so encouraging because Jesus is telling us that we need to use common sense. We need not stick to old ways or customs or even laws if they are hurtful, exclusionary, or illogical. The Sabbath was “made for man,” not the other way around.
How similar to some “modern” rules are those of Jesus’ time. Until the late 1800’s in the U.S., it was okay to enslave and own human beings; until the mid-20th century, it was okay to prevent people of other races from marrying one another; and to this day, it is prohibited for two people of the same gender to enter into a legal marriage in many of the 50 states.
Jesus is challenging us to throw off these ill-fitting, illogical, and exclusionary rules, and to embrace doing what is right simply because it is right. In his “anger” and “distress” he opts to show the Pharisees what is really important. It was okay to heal someone even on the Sabbath because Jesus was doing what was just. He wasn’t withholding his power from the man with the shriveled hand just because it happened to be a day that the religious officials had deemed important or sacred. Jesus made the point that the rigidity of their religious rules was defeating the very purpose for which those rules were created. Jesus wasn’t saying religious devotion, observance, and sacrifice were unimportant, just that by applying them in an oppressive, harsh manner, the Pharisees were colossally missing the point.
And what about those Pharisees? So upset were they by “that new guy” espousing a more loving, peaceful way of life that they immediately began to plot his murder, thereby proving Jesus 100% correct. This isn’t all that different from many hard-nosed conservatives today who believe the rules should stay the same just because they’re the rules, just because “It’s always been this way.” If we keep things the same as they have always been, then we’re not using what God has given us, which is the ability to reason and use our common sense.
Prayer: Dear God, thank you for giving us the ability to think and reason. Thank you for sending us Jesus who set the old guard on its ear with his radical notions of love and common sense. Help us to utilize these abilities to chart a course that is based on love, understanding, and mutual respect, and not on strict adherence to arbitrary and capricious “rules.” Amen.