“Mirror of the Passion” Lent devotion for March 2, 2022.
“The chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death” (Luke 22:2).
On the one hand, I easily relate to the chief priests and the scribes. I’m a full-time church worker. I work where people worship. I study and teach the scriptures. It is my vocation. My job. My career. I do it just about every day.
On the other hand, I’ve never conspired to kill someone. So if I’m going to step into their shoes, I need to understand why they were so upset.
It’s all about the Sabbath. The Pharisees are quick to point out that the disciples aren’t supposed to grab grain to eat on the Sabbath (Luke 6:2). In response, Jesus deliberately heals a man with a shriveled hand in the synagogue on a Sabbath (Luke 6:9-10). They were livid. They began to talk about what to do to him.
Everyone knew the rules. You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death (Exodus 31:14). When a man is caught gathering firewood on the Sabbath, God commands that the assembly stone him to death (Numbers 15:32-36). Actions have consequences.
Now I get it. I’m a rules kind of guy. What I mean by that is that I usually toe the line because I’m afraid of getting into trouble. Or worse. When someone once suggested that we run an extension cord under an area rug to conceal it, I reacted, “No! Don’t ever do that!” I remember fire prevention coloring books from elementary school warning me to never, ever do that. I never have. Then I saw a guy using a concrete saw with no eye, ear or nose protection. I cringed. How can you do that? Everyone knows you shouldn’t do that.
OK, so here’s what I think is going on. A focus on the rules distracts you from the person.
The chief priests and teachers of the law work tirelessly to help people stay close to the Lord. But what about when the Lord wants to get close to you? Then it’s not about the rules. It’s about him.
Yes, my actions have consequences. That’s why Jesus came. He came to suffer and die for my sin, for my disobedience, and yes, for my disregard for the rules.
That’s why there’s a Sabbath. That’s why we set aside our work. We create a space on our calendars and to-do lists to gather with the church, listen, pray, eat and drink and experience his closeness. In a world where God can seem very far away, he reminds us to carve our a little space to know him as Immanuel, that is, “God with us.”
Thank you, Lord, for being around. Don’t let me get so wrapped up in the rules that I miss your presence, your power and your peace. Amen.