Guilt by association

In today’s study, Selwyn looks at two examples of how Jesus was unjustly criticised. In a sense, those who are standing on flawed value system as their basis for making judgments – tend to habitually make harsh and unfair decisions.

If, I can turn around Selwyn’s theme – I think there is some truth in the statement that the people we associate with, will influence the way, we think and act. There are many sayings, some very old, such as; “Birds of a kind and colour flock and fly, always together  (William Turner, 1545).”  These sayings reflect our human tendency to form groups based on shared, common characteristics.

In Selwyn’s first example Luke 15:1-10, we read in the first two verses (NLT): “Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people – even eating with them!” Keep in mind, at that time, there was a lot of emphasis placed on preserving your ‘spiritual cleanliness’,  by carefully following the Jewish food and purity laws – as defined, in great detail, by the teachers of Jewish law.

Jesus’ response to this criticism was to give them three parables – all concerning the restoration of the ‘lost’: the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son.

It’s interesting that as we read about this incident in Luke 15, we come to verses 28-30, the older brother’s reaction to his father’s restoration of his lost son: The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money  on prostitutes, (that is, a sinner – one, you should not associate with) you celebrate by killing the fattened calf, (and eating with him)!’” However, the spiritually blind, teachers of the law, who were listening to Jesus, would have missed the significance of these verses.

Selwyn’s next example, comes from Mark 3:1-8 (NLT): “Jesus went into the synagogue again and noticed a man with a deformed hand. Since it was the Sabbath, Jesus’ enemies watched him closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath.

Jesus said to the man with the deformed hand. “Come and stand in front of everyone.” Then he turned to his critics and asked, “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?”

But they wouldn’t answer him.

He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts.

Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored!

At once the Pharisees went away and met with the supporters of Herod to plot how to kill Jesus.

[Later], Jesus went out to the lake with his disciples, and a large crowd followed him. They came from all over Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, from east of the Jordan River, and even from as far north as Tyre and Sidon. The news about his miracles had spread far and wide, and vast numbers of people came to see him.”

As Selwyn states: “In this action Jesus defined the nature of righteous anger – a grief at what is happening to another rather than a grudge at what is happening to oneself.”

Our God – can use the hurts you suffer – not only to help transform you into His likeness, but for your right response to be an example to others – a steam of living water restoring those who thirst for Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit.

[As a side issue – here’s a question, which group do you associate with, are you: one of those who follow Jesus for the companionship, free food and healing; or, a  member of the large group who are angry at the way Jesus restores the lost – either because you don’t believe any are lost, or that they deserve to be ‘lost’; or, are you one of the few, who is a sinner – seeking to be saved and restored?]

The prayer for today, is good – don’t you think? “O Father, is this really possible? Can I, too, handle my hurts so that my reactions turn into revelation? Your Word says, ‘Everything is possible for those who believes’. I believe – help my unbelief. Amen.”