Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How Much More Valuable is a Man than a Sheep?

This is a question Jesus asked after a confrontation with the religious leaders of his day. It seems he had entered the synagogue and there came into contact with a man having a withered hand. The Bible says that as Jesus came into contact with this man, the Pharisees were watching carefully to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath day. As he asked the man to step forward, he asked the crowd whether it was lawful to do good or evil, or to save a life or to kill on the Sabbath.

According to Mark 3:4,5 "They kept silent. And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.'"

I'm interested in two descriptions of Jesus' reaction. First of all he looked at them with anger. He was God, come to dwell among us, and found that those who supposedly represented him in the religious world could not see the benefit of healing someone who was suffering no matter what day of the week it was. He had a righteous anger about that. We too should be angry when justice is not served and compassion is not demonstrated among us.

Secondly he was grieved. The word grieved means he felt sorry and deeply distressed over the lack of compassion he observed. These people were more interested in their positions and the precision of their legal interpretations than in the needs of this one particular man.

In Matthew's version of the incident, he says, "What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out?" In other words they would have "violated" their sabbath rules to rescue a sheep in order, I think, not to suffer the personal loss of the sheep. At this point Jesus asks the question, "How much more valuable is a man than a sheep?"

Think about this question not only with reference to yourself, but to your fellow human beings. Elsewhere in the gospels (Matthew 6) Jesus says we (all of us) are more valuable than a sparrow and yet God watches over and takes care of the sparrow. Will he not watch over and take care of us? And shouldn't we have similar concern for those in need around us who also have been created in the image of God?

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