Saturday, October 29, 2011

Baptism, Communion, and Shriveled Hands (Practical Redemption 2)

Blue Cheese makes a simple observation: "Too often The Church's conversations are completely irrelevant to the brokenness, needs, hurt, and loneliness of the world."  I think of greater concern is not that our conversations are irrelevant but that we are unaware of their irrelevance. Or, perhaps of greatest concern is when our churches are aware of our irrelevance but fail to care because we are so caught up mastering our religious system.

The Pharisees in the Gospel of Mark play this role well.  They, with good intentions, weighed The Law down with regulations, legalism, and doctrine to the point of irrelevance.  You could roll out a 15 foot scroll with perfectly dotted "i's" and crossed "t's" and yet the man who sits in your pew at Saturday Synagogue still comes and goes with a shriveled hand.  Let me explain:

1 Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. 2 Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. 3 Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”
 4 Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.
 5 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. 6 Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus. (Mark 3:1-6)

Jesus blatantly breaks the Pharisaic interpretation of the Law.  A jury would convict him.  He was guilty, but he was right.  God always intended The Law to be practical to every day life.  It was to redeem, in a tangible way, a broken world.  God didn't give The Law as a set of rules for rules sake, but rather to transform and recreate.

For example, The Creator did not pull the "Keep the Sabbath Holy" command out of thin air to stroke his sovereignty.  The Sabbath command was practical for redeeming every day life. It challenged oppression.  Masters and Lords could not force their slaves or animals to work on Saturday.  Farmers could not tend their fields.  As a result, slaves and oxen could rest while their master was reminded, "These people and these animals do not belong to you.  They belong to God."  It also kept human arrogance in check. On the Sabbath Israel ceased all productivity and yet life carried on - the sun rose and set, the seasons continued as normal, the world refused to spin off its axis into the flaming ball of fire.  Every seventh day Israel tasted again God's sovereignty and their dependence upon Him.

Jesus gets angry not simply because the Pharisees screwed up the Sabbath but because they missed the purpose of the whole Law.  In response, Jesus readjusts their perception by taking them back to the heart of The Law - to the heart of God... PRACTICAL REDEMPTION.  He stands the man up and gives him a new hand!  "There!" Jesus says, "That's the purpose of the the Sabbath.  That's the purpose of the Law.  That's the heart of God! - Practical Redemption."

Practical Redemption was not only the purpose of The Law; it is the mission of The Church!


  1. Charlton, I remember the sermon you preached in Dr. Fleer's Dmin seminar. Many times I can't even put into words what i feel about the church and the lostness i feel as a church leader. I continually entertain walking away.... I didn't know where you went but God put you and your family on my mind several months ago. Found your new blog yesterday. Praying for God's rest to come to you and your family.
    David Warren

  2. David! Great to hear from you. I hope you and your fam are doing well. Are you still in Abilene? If so I'd love visit sometime.

  3. Charlton, We moved to Seymour, a small town between Abilene and Wichita Falls, about a year and a half ago. We are doing well. Hope we cross paths again some day-


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