Thank God I’m not Jesus. Or I think there may have been fewer synagogues left standing at the end of the day or, at the very least, fewer synagogue rulers.
Reading in Luke 13 and, for some reason, I’m particularly enraged at the hardness of heart of one particular “ruler of the synagogue.” While Jesus confronted his sin, calling him a hypocrite, I think I’d have been tempted to call him home . . . if you know what I mean.
Jesus is teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath. And there in front of Him is a woman unable to stand up straight, disabled by a demon. And while this might be the first time Jesus sees her, the folks at “church” have seen her attending meeting this way for eighteen years. Eighteen years! Looking at her toes 24/7 for eighteen years! And when Jesus sees her, He calls her to Himself, and says to her, “Woman you are freed from your disability.” And, after laying His hands on her, she stands up straight.
Praise God! Right? A miracle! True? Best Sabbath at church ever! Ya’ think? No wonder she glorifies God. But wait . . . before anybody else gets a chance to offer an “Amen!” or “Hallelujah,” an alternate perspective is offered.
But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.”
(Luke 13:14 ESV)
What?!?! This woman, a daughter of Abraham, who had been bound by Satan for eighteen years (13:16) is standing there tall and free, and this guy is indignant? Displeased? Grieved in his heart? Vexed in his soul? Because Jesus worked a miracle on a non-working day. Give your head a shake, man! Unbelievable!
Like I said, good thing it wasn’t me who had to deal with his hardness of heart. My immediate inclination would be to do more than just call him out on his hypocrisy.
But, lest I think that the Spirit was helping me experience some “righteous wrath”, I then turn to 1Timothy and realize that the Spirit was actually setting me up for some “perfect patience.”
I thank Him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because He judged me faithful, appointing me to His service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. . . . But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life.
(1Timothy 1:12-14,16 ESV)
The ruler of the synagogue was a hypocrite. A real jerk. But Paul was a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent opponent. A real threat.
The woman in the synagogue received healing, and stood up straight. Paul received mercy, and stood up for the Lord.
How? By the Savior’s perfect patience. Through overflowing grace.
So that all who are crippled by sin — whether a stooped over woman, a cynical synagogue rule, or a self-commissioned persecutor of the church — might have the opportunity to hear the Savior say, “Come to Me.” Be healed. Be made whole. And stand before the Son of God, face to face.
Not that righteous wrath isn’t deserved for jerk church keepers. But praise God that many don’t get what they deserve because of Christ’s perfect patience. Not willing that any should perish (2Pet. 3:9). Merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (Ex. 34:6). Rich in forbearance. His patience, His kindness leading lost souls to repentance (Rom. 2:4).
Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1Tim. 3:15). Hard-hearted synagogue rulers. Heavy-handed church persecutors. Even devotional writers quick to judge.
Thank God for His perfect patience.
Because of overflowing grace. For His unending glory.