Leaving Well Enough Alone
As I continue my lifelong journey of taking scripture by the throat, choking every ounce of truth from it, I run the risk of drawing ire from the more learned theologian. I perhaps should simply read scripture at face value, and when there is a question in my spirit, ask someone who knows better? Otherwise, I should learn to leave well enough alone!
What is my problem? It seems that as I have gotten older and have more thoroughly examined the explanations offered over time, I realize the deep mystery yet to be discovered. Let alone the contrast and variance of “truth” among those who most openly practice their faith. One nation under God, really?
Jesus, the son of a carpenter, perhaps from the home of a peasant, seldom seemed able to leave well enough alone when he saw hypocrisy among the ultra-religious. As I press through the Gospel of Luke, there are times when I just cannot move forward without comment.
In Chapter 13-15, Jesus seems to be on a roll, if not in a rumble with the Pharisees; perhaps today, he would be addressing the Fundamentalists, those requiring strict adherence to their view of scripture? Apparently a conversation had emerged around some unfortunate Galilean souls killed by Pilate; as a mockery perhaps, their blood was commingled with some pagan sacrifice.
Surely, these souls had some hidden sin, some less than legal adherence to the Laws of God in order to have fallen victim to this madman? Jesus’ response was quick and simple! Given this congregations focus on the sins of others, they too ran the risk of sin! He should have stopped there, but he goes further.
He then randomly mentions eighteen souls, remember that number, upon whom the tower of Siloam had fallen. This tower was thought to have been just south of Jerusalem. They were all most familiar with this unfortunate accident, which was in no wise indicative of hidden sin. His point should have been well taken.
Then Jesus takes their struggle with the sins of others a step further, with a parable of a certain man (I think he was speaking of himself) who planted a tree in a vineyard. After three years (the length of time Jesus ministered) still no fruit, and the owner of the vineyard had ordered it removed. Intercession was made, so that the Lord of the vineyard might cultivate and fertilizer, eventually achieving the goal of the Master. Somewhat more subtle than earlier, he was challenging them, while also leaking a promise of a New Covenant of grace, soon to be delivered at Pentecost.
Nice story, great way to end a service! Now, just leave well enough alone!
Not so with this man! While teaching on a Sabbath, knowing full well the religious rules of the synagogue, he turns toward a seriously handicapped woman and heals her! Not just any woman, but a woman who had sat “bowed” among them for eighteen years. Remember his earlier mention of eighteen souls, now twice Luke calls attention to the fact that this woman’s infirmity was interestingly enough also eighteen years! Is there a message here?
This is where I could get in trouble with the Hebrew Scholars that might be reading this blog. I ask for grace, as I am simply trying to learn as much as possible about scriptures which I have read all my life, though perhaps blind to their deepest meaning?
Maybe his teaching that day had been on the Shemoneh Esrei, which literally means eighteen, and was the most important prayer of the synagogue. The prayer, sometimes called the Amidah (“standing”), was recited while facing the Aron Kodesh (the ark that houses the Torah scrolls). There were eighteen blessings divided into three general types: Praise, Petitions, Thanks. 1
Had they just finished their lengthy prayer, perfectly content reciting their eighteen blessings, though among them, a lady long humiliated in that she was unable to stand as they offered praise to a God she knew was full able to heal her? Was Jesus, now on behalf of the God she so loved, making a long overdue personal statement to her?
As well, though of a totally different nature, he was also sending a message to those now indignant that He would heal her on the Sabbath. It seems they cared more about their own ass (and oxen) than the people they worshipped with! Not my words, read it for yourself in verse 13:15 KJV.
You have to love the irony here, for she being unable to stand, had in her humility long fulfilled the intent of the Amidah, while others more uncompromising of the Law, harbored sin in their hearts, just as they had earlier supposed of the unfortunate Galileans.
Jesus apparently went about his way, but can you imagine the difference in their worship the next time they stood before the Torah, she now standing with them!
Aren’t you glad He never leaves well enough alone!