“They were filled with rage and discussed with one another what they might do with Jesus” Luke 6:11

When Jesus entered the synagogue on the Sabbath He met a man with a “withered hand.” The scribes and Pharisees were also there but Jesus perceived that their intent was not to worship God or edify the people but to find grounds to accuse Him. They had not appreciated His claim to be “Lord of the Sabbath.”

To demonstrate that He is indeed Lord of the Sabbath Jesus called the man forward and asked the scribes and Pharisees if the Law permitted acts of compassion on the Sabbath. They did not respond but kept silent.  Jesus healed the man’s withered hand. We would expect such an act to produce great joy and gladness to the man and to the witnesses but there was no such joy in the hearts of the scribes and Pharisees.

They understood that Jesus was claiming to be God incarnate. To them that was blasphemous and it enraged them. They ignored the testimony of the miracle and instead of rejoicing that the man had been healed they were filled with rage over Jesus’ claim. What brought them to such a state of heart where they could be outraged by this wonderful and gracious act of God?

We see the same thing in the media daily. Men filled with rage mercilessly and cruelly killing anyone who does not hold their religious view. Such rage comes out of religious fervour. Instead of having a loving relationship with God, men have become entrapped in a legalistic religion in which they believe that the end justifies the means. Jesus demonstrated that He had a loving relationship with the Father by showing compassion on the man. The scribes and Pharisees demonstrated that they did not have such a relationship with God. Rage is the seed of murder and murder is always the intent (expressed or not) of the one filled with rage.

People who are filled with this kind of rage will seek to kill Jesus and their rage will be all the greater when they witness His great mercy and grace. If they can’t get at Him they will express their rage against those who they believe represent Him.

Instead of compassion for the man who had the withered hand the scribes and Pharisees looked down on him as an undeserving sinner who deserved his predicament. They were indignant that Jesus showed kindness and compassion to the man and that He also claimed to be the One who gave the Law – specifically the law regarding the Sabbath. They could not see that they were outraged with the very Messiah for whom they claimed to waiting.

Followers of Jesus Christ have always faced this kind of rage from people who are fervent in their legalistic religious beliefs (including atheism). Just as men crucified Jesus they will seek to kill His followers today and will continue to do so until Jesus returns. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you” and “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:18, 20).

Rather than being discouraged by the more open hostility against Jesus Christ and His followers we should be encouraged as we see the day of His return approach. This in no way mitigates the wickedness of those who perform such horrendous acts (cf. Genesis 4:8-13). Jesus told us these things would happen in the lead up to His coming. Besides, just as no one could touch Him until He permitted them, so no one can touch us until He allows.

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