Links Daily Devotional

Disturbing Jesus

He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” (Mark 3:5, NIV)

Today is the opening day of practice for what will be my tenth season of coaching high school golf. It’s a grand pleasure almost every single day, but sometimes it can leave me shaking my head.

I wonder if it was this way for my coach and my father when they used to watch me choose shots in competition. Sometimes, of course, good players hit bad shots. There are other moments, however, when a disastrous result is the product not of a swing error but of a stubborn choice. Among young players today, that typically means pulling out a lofted wedge when the play is long and flat or when they’re trying to chase a pitch up a steep green. Every time I see this decision, I bristle—even when it works out OK—because the choice is a stubborn one, when I have shown them so many other options.

Maybe the problem is me, though. Perhaps I am not skilled enough to envision that shot working out well. Or perhaps I am too impatient, unwilling to tolerate the growing pains of a young player’s decision making. Yes, I do need to be patient in that regard. Maybe this is a time to employ that most famous of personal questions: What would Jesus do?

Jesus will always challenge our dead religion. He will ignite us to true goodness.What may surprise you, then, is that against all the canned answers about Jesus’ own mercy and patience, we stumble across a passage like the one we see today in Mark 3, where the Lord entered a synagogue on the Sabbath and found a man with a shriveled hand. This account is offered by Mark in the context of other stories where Jesus’ critics questioned his actions. Now they were there wondering if Jesus would heal the man. In their minds, this was an unlawful act of work on the Sabbath.

But Jesus called the man forward, then he asked the local Jewish leaders what was lawful on the Sabbath, “to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” This wasn’t really supposed to be a trick question. The answer is plain, for the Sabbath or for any other day. But the leaders sat mum. They were fixed in their religion.

Which is, we see, precisely the way to disturb Jesus. His look at them bore anger and he was “deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts.”

From childhood, we are taught to sing, “Jesus loves me this I know.” And it may be that when you envision that love, anger and distress are unimaginable. But it is because Jesus loves us so much that he does not want us to have stubborn hearts. He will always challenge our dead religion. He will ignite us to true goodness.

My players do not set out to frustrate me by their stubborn play in the throes of competition. But they do. In the same way, I don’t have any desire to disturb Jesus by my stubborn adherence to lesser things than his beautiful righteousness. But if I do not guard my heart against proud religion, then he must love me with stern instruction and meaningful discipline. Sometimes that is what it takes to soften my hardened heart and reform it into his image.

Jeff Hopper
February 1, 2016
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