14 It happened that when He went into the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees on the Sabbath to eat bread, they were watching Him closely. 2 And there in front of Him was a man suffering from dropsy. 3 And Jesus answered and spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” 4 But they kept silent. And He took hold of him and healed him, and sent him away. 5 And He said to them, “Which one of you will have a son or an ox fall into a well, and will not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day?” 6 And they could make no reply to this.
We’ve covered this many times before, even in the last chapter. Perhaps it is repeated so often within the gospels because we need to constantly be reminded of it: taking action to love people is the most important and most tangible thing we can do to demonstrate our love for God. It trumps religious observance. It trumps politics. It trumps our differences.
The Pharisees were considered quite religious. They were the biblical fundamentalists of their day. Not only that, but (at least in public) they refrained from the common cultural sins and were devoutly observant of the traditions, customs, and laws of their faith.
They’re religion was completely worthless to the sick man.
Worse, their religion was completely hostile to his well-being, because Jesus happened to run into the man on the wrong day of the week. They were indifferent to his suffering and hostile to the idea that he should be freed from suffering right then and there.
It is stunning how ideology can make us view other human beings created in God’s image as insignificant or as enemies.
And I think we’re all prone to it. We’re so focused on ourselves and our own personal standing with God or our own little group or tribe, that it becomes difficult to see other people and love them in the way that God does. Jesus loved the sick man, and He demonstrated it in a very real, tangible fashion. And He did it despite the objections of the religious people who claimed to be close to God.
We are closest to the heart of God not during our prayers, not during our singing, but in humble service to our fellow man and those who are in need and are hurting. The heart of Christ aches for these. Ours should as well, if we choose to bear His name.
Any other response makes our religion worthless.