Dining With Enemies 2 — Logic Vs Traditions
Updated: May 4, 2020
Chan Gin Kai
One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. There in front of him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the Law, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him on his way.
Then he asked them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?” And they had nothing to say.(Luke 14:1-6)
We’ve learnt in the last article how a prominent Pharisee invited Jesus for a meal, and planted a sick person as a ploy to trap Jesus. It was the Sabbath, and he wanted to catch Jesus “working” on the Sabbath so that he could accuse Jesus of breaking the Fourth Commandment.
The Pharisee’s behaviour defied logic. His trap was based on his confidence that Jesus would heal the sick person even though it was the Sabbath. This means he knew that Jesus had miraculous powers unlike any other person. He knew Jesus used his powers for good. And he also knew that Jesus could not resist healing the man even if it endangered him.
It just doesn't make sense. Why would the Pharisee want to harm someone whom he knows is powerful and good?
That’s because he was so stuck on traditions that logic no longer mattered.
Knowing that it was a trap, Jesus asked them a question, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” Now this was no ordinary crowd. They were “Pharisees and experts in the Law”; they were well versed with the Torah (Laws of Moses). “But they remained silent” because they couldn’t answer him.
The Torah forbids working on the Sabbath, but it does NOT forbid healing. That’s why they couldn’t answer Jesus; they knew that he was right. So why did the Pharisees make a fuss about healing on the Sabbath?
The problem lies with traditions.
The Jews knew they shouldn’t work on the Sabbath, but what constitutes ‘work’? So the Pharisees and religious leaders set about defining what ‘work’ encompasses. This was an effort to help the people obey the Sabbath better, and it was useful to a certain extent.
But when they defined healing as work, and the Torah forbids working on the Sabbath, what Jesus did became wrong by THEIR definitions. But where in the Torah does it say that it is wrong to heal on the Sabbath? It doesn’t, and that in essence was Jesus’ point to them. The Pharisees’ demand for obedience to their manmade traditions was the problem.
Jesus drove home the point by questioning if they would rescue a child or an ox that falls into a well on a Sabbath day. Again, they were silent because they couldn’t argue with the logic. Jesus’ words always make sense.
The problems of manmade traditions can be easily solved when we apply some logic. And the confusion easily clears when we seek to understand God’s heart.
It is interesting that the same illogical methods that the Pharisees used have been similarly applied by some in Christendom to twist the Bible.
How do false teachers argue against the necessity of baptism for salvation? They call baptism a ‘work’, and since we are not saved by works, baptism is therefore not necessary for salvation. But where in the Bible does it say that baptism is a ‘work’? It doesn’t. This same weak rationale is applied in their argument against the necessity of repentance too. Where in the Bible does it say repentance is a ‘work’. Repentance and baptism (just like belief) are our response in faith to God’s grace. They are all necessary for our salvation.
But let’s be humble and realise that we are not immune to illogical traditions too.
I’m not talking about Easter eggs or Santa Claus, or the many Chinese New Year traditions. They are pretty harmless and some of them actually quite fun. I’m referring to the traditions we’ve set in our church, except that we use more fanciful terms like advice, guidelines and boundaries.
There is no doubt that there is much value in seeking advice (Proverbs 11:14, 12:15, 19-20). Guidelines and boundaries can be very helpful too. They are all useful for clearing confusion and providing practical steps in our pursuit of godliness.
But when advice gets elevated into inflexible rules, and guidelines become an enforceable code, we become over-reliant on human wisdom. In the best case scenario, we trap ourselves in inconvenient customs. In the worst case scenario, we lose sight of God’s heart and our pride inexorably grows.
God’s words always make sense. Do we forgo the teachings of the Bible in favour of worldly wisdom? Do we elevate the thoughts of man over the heart of God?
Read more about ‘Dining With Enemies’:
Chan Gin Kai
Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. He serves actively in the Central Christian Church and describes himself as “just a sinner who wants to get right with God”.