How Religious Fundamentalists Kill God—And Why

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July 8, 2016

Matthew 12:9-13

9 Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, 10 and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”

11 He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.

CONSIDER THIS

Yesterday we were in the grain fields. Today we are in the synagogue. The Pharisaic vision was a totalizing approach to religious fidelity. And isn’t that the essence of religious fundamentalism—religious fidelity turned into a type of fanaticism. It covers over a fierce control movement with a facade of faith. It turns the shield of faith into a sword of fanaticism while coopting the word of God to support its well-intended, ill-fated agenda.

You could have heard a pin drop yesterday, when Jesus told them, “I tell you that something greater than the Temple is here.” Jesus is the Temple of God. Nothing would have been more offensive to the ears of the religious leadership than this. It’s kind of like that time in the synagogue in Nazareth when he read Isaiah 60 and declared, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (see Luke 4:21).

Wherever Jesus goes, the Temple goes. Wherever Jesus goes, goodness and mercy follow. (See what I just did there? ;0)  Psalm 23). In today’s text, the Temple walks into the Synagogue and the proverbial dung hits the fan. Take a look:

Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”

They saw the man with the shriveled hand. He was only a plot device, a pawn, in their twisted story.

11 He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

It’s kind of like a reverse check-mate he pulled on them. Then he does a victory dance.

Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other.

Jesus is the triumph of mercy. At the same time he executes humble justice. This is exactly what the Temple was envisioned to accomplish—to restore people through the triumph of mercy and to put things right in the world through the humble institution of justice.

Remember yesterday when we talked about the way fundamentalism leads otherwise God fearing people to usurp the role of God and attempt to kill God in the process? The last verse in today’s reading nails it.

But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.

 

Daily Text MATTHEW 07-08-16THE QUESTIONS

1. Can you see the well intentioned-ness of religious fundamentalism?

2. How can people become so focused on the “rules” and their enforcement that they miss the larger Rule by which they must be interpreted? How does that happen? Has it ever happened to you or in a community you’ve been a part of?

3. Would it be fair to say that fundamentalism seeks the triumph of justice while Jesus and the faith of his followers lives for the triumph of mercy? Wrestle today with the relationship between mercy and justice. Are they opposite ends of a continuum or two sides of the same coin or indivisible elements of the same holy love or . . . . .???
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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. jd.walt@seedbed.com.

1 COMMENT

  1. Re question 3: justice and mercy are all part and parcel of God’s holy love. From the notes section of ‘Wesley’s Revision of the Shorter Catechism”:

    “God’s holiness is his ineffable purity, manifesting itself in opposition to sin, either by the way of atonement and redemption [mercy], or by the wrath of his offended justice, in terrible acts of judgment [justice]”

    I’ve been doing my homework! :0)

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