Jesus had just gone and cured someone – done something GOOD for a person in need… But, it seems, he did so in such a way that it violated the “religious sensibilities” of those “authorities” around him.
Might there be some similar analogues to this in contemporary settings? Maybe helping someone who “doesn’t deserve it”? (After all, you wouldn’t want to be an “enabler” or anything like that… You might be killing their initiative!) Perhaps not “going through channels”? (We have a fund for things like that, with procedures to ensure the proper level of accountability…) Or simply not “honoring the traditions”? (You’re obviously not from around here, are you? Because if you WERE, you’d know that those sorts of things “just aren’t done” – not the way you’re doing it, at least!)
But Jesus just took things outside the acceptable parameters. He just went and brought trouble into a “place” designed to be a “trouble-free” zone. And, as a result, people are beginning to get on his case, to go on the offensive against him. Jesus seemed to act as if human need in some way overrode human tradition… and not just tradition in the abstract sense: human tradition about God and His word.
Jesus’ question, in a way, isn’t really a question at all… it comes across as more of an accusation. “You are not seeing praise from God, but from one another; you’re not looking for validation from the Eternal, but from other people instead.”
But there is a question – not yet asked – which underlies this accusation – and we should point out that the accusation itself is NOT “open to question” – Jesus has the authority to adjudicate the question of their underlying motivations. Let’s not forget that we seldom, if ever, do.
But GIVEN what he knew (that they were not looking to God for approval, but to one another), it was clear that, if they had the approval of their peers, their “religious brethren,” then God’s approval becomes unnecessary and irrelevant. And it’s in that light that he’s really asking them, “How can you believe…?”
And it’s this question that strikes at the heart. Where does the praise, the affirmation – the validation – that really matters in our lives come from? Are good words spoken of you by your peers, the people who are more like you (look, think, act, believe) than anybody else in the whole world, the highest that you are shooting for? Is that truly going to satisfy you?
If so, how will you ever be able to transcend your own horizons to see what God is doing in the world?
Jesus wants to challenge these people – who are taking offense to Jesus bringing a miraculous cure to one who needed a touch from God – with the fact that (in Jesus’ own words and deeds) God can do, and is doing, amazing things in the world.
And that, being sovereign, He can do whatever he jolly well pleases. While we act as if our own strategies, devised by us and our “tribe” to police the boundaries of respectability that help us quickly tell – even at a glance – who’s “in” and who’s “out,” are then end-all and be all to the world’s problems.
How can we be open to faith – the ability to see things differently – if we can’t break out of that mold? How can we expect the world to change – to be transformed – if we are unwilling to turn aside from “accepting” the affirmation and praise of likeminded people (we don’t have to “seek” it, because it’s a safe assumption, as long as we don’t challenge the “prevailing wisdom”) and begin “seeking” the praise that comes from God? I don’t say “accept” it – because we can’t just bank on it – it needs to be searched out, it’s not something you have in your back pocket quite yet.
To what or to whom are you looking for validation? And what impact does that have on your ability to re-vision the world and how it can be changed? Might it be that God is doing something right now that you don’t, you can’t, see, simply because you are so completely satisfied with the approval you get from your like-minded friends (or social media contacts)?