Words of Faith 9-19-18
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2018
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues,  and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all.  When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, "Woman, you are set free from your infirmity."  Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.
 Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, "There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath."
 The Lord answered him, "You hypocrites! Doesn't each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water?  Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?"
 When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.
 Then Jesus asked, "What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to?  It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches."
 Again he asked, "What shall I compare the kingdom of God to?  It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough."
In our Scripture today, Jesus scored points with the people in a synagogue. We don't know exactly which synagogue or where, but the people were thrilled. Many of the people gathered perceived it as sort of a "slam dunk" and they cheered.
It all started when Jesus saw a woman in the synagogue who had been crippled and bent over for 18 years. Jesus healed her. It was the first miracle they had seen in a while. But that was not the big deal.
This whole thing stirred up yet another "Sabbath controversy." A religious ruler was indignant because Jesus had healed this woman on the Sabbath. Healing was "work" and this was clearly an offense to God in his mind. You will remember that this was a familiar controversy from the earlier days of ministry in Galilee.
Jesus appears to have been motivated entirely by His compassion for the woman. He had already said that He was not giving any more "signs" other than the sign of Jonah, the repentance of people in response to His preaching, but the healing clearly established His authority.
Jesus had a strong answer for the critics. "You hypocrites! You Religious actors. Doesn't each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?" Jesus argued that not only is it permissible to be healed on the Sabbath; it was preferable! What better day? How better to honor God?
Jesus argued with such clarity of Spirit that "all His opponents were humiliated." Slam dunk. The KJV translates that they were ashamed. The Greek meaning is that they were "shamed down," disgraced or dishonored. The response of Jesus was so insightful and so clearly to the point that there was no response that could be made. The religious ruler looked like a total fool and the people cheered.
Of course this was not basketball, but the description fits. A slam dunk is that overwhelming "in your face" score that humiliates and demoralizes the opponent. The people in the synagogue had been waiting a long time for someone to stand up to the religious leaders. This was their day.
The people were delighted. The KJV says they rejoiced. No one had ever delivered like that. No one had ever confronted the religious leaders and then so clearly devastated there arguments. Thus far, they had only seen rim shots and bank shots against the religious rulers.
But this was close to a backboard shattering victory and they loved it! You can almost hear the crowd say "YeeeeeES! Got em! Ate your lunch! Take that back to your synagogue council! Get 'em Jesus!" (I suspect that is all somewhere in the Greek word translated "delighted"...)
But what the people did not realize is that slam dunking the opponent was not what Jesus was about. Jesus knew that for some people, life is a game. They operate on a win- lose basis all the time in business, family, and even religion. For such people it is always a matter of one up, tit-for-tat, get the last word in, slam dunks and kill shots. Win the day. Win the meeting. Win the argument. Hang on the rim or shatter the board if you can.
Jesus responded by teaching with a parable. You folks don't get it. The Kingdom is like a mustard seed that is so tiny but then grows into a large tree with room for every bird of the air. The Kingdom of God is not a about a devastating humiliation to your spiritual rival or opponent.
The people probably did not look convinced because, after all, people really like a slam. So Jesus went on. The Kingdom is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough. The Kingdom is about a bit of yeast that works all the way through the dough. A little bit of truth, a little bit of Spirit, or a little bit of love shared works its way through. But it can only transform the whole batch if it is mixed with the whole batch. (This is one of the only places that Jesus used yeast as an image of the positive influence of the Kingdom.)
Now here is the key. The Kingdom of God is not about winning; it is about winning over. The Kingdom of God is not about devastating your opponent; it is about transforming him. The Kingdom of God is not about sending your enemies running with their tail between their legs. It is about a tree that they are invited to be a part of. It is not about separating ourselves for the purpose of victory. It is about mixing through the whole batch and transforming it.
Jesus was not at all thrilled that the synagogue ruler was defeated. He had compassion for him and wanted him to see the truth. God's Kingdom is something that grows and grows and there is room on a branch even for you!
Perhaps this perspective was especially vital to Jesus because He was actually headed toward the final horn in a really big contest. The clock was ticking. Jesus was going to "win" but not with a game winning slam dunk. In fact, it would be a last second shot that would bounce on the rim and look a bit clumsy.
Jesus knew that He could shatter the backboard in the synagogue or in Jerusalem. Instead, He chose to walk in humility. He chose to take the abuse, forgive His enemies, and die. Can you imagine what Jesus could have done, had he wanted to? He could have relieved the irate synagogue leader of the ability to talk as God did with Zechariah. He could have devastated an entire Roman army with a glance.
Jesus will win in Jerusalem but not in a way that anyone would expect. The final shot of Jesus is more dramatic than anything we could concoct. It is the championship game and Jesus comes off the bench in the final minutes of the game. The big guys with names like Elijah and Jeremiah, Hosea, and Amos have been trying to put this game away for centuries, but have failed. The home team is one point behind. The score is 68 to 69.
Everyone is disappointed in Jesus. He does not seem to by playing to His potential. He has not lived up to the hype about Him. Word is that if He wants to, Jesus can hit from anywhere or dunk He can even shatter the backboard. But instead Jesus gets fouled again and again, but the refs won't call the penalty.
In the final seconds of the game Jesus has the ball. Jesus is injured and now everything depends on one final shot. All eyes are on Him. He bounces the ball rather weakly. He makes the final throw. The ball arcs and bounces on the rim several times. Everyone holds their breath and then... the ball hangs up. It's one of those bizarre things where the impossible happens. The just ball sits on the rim. No score. No finish. No time. No more seconds on the clock and the scoreboard shows a losing score 68-69. The game is apparently over. Everyone goes home stunned. What a disappointing Friday night.
But that is not the end, is it? A whole night and a day and another night go by. On Sunday morning one of the cheerleaders goes to the gym. She is crushed by the loss. She walks across the court to try and figure out how they lost the championship game and discovers something in the middle of the court, a basketball. The ball... has fallen through the net. She looks up at the scoreboard and where Friday night it read Home 68 Visitor 69, and now the scoreboard says Home 70. She gets some other cheerleaders to spread the word that the game they thought was lost was in fact won.
Jesus wins. Don't ever miss that. But also don't miss this. The Kingdom of God is not about slamming our opponents as the Christian crowd cheers. It is not about proving you are right. It is not about taking delight that your opponent is humiliated. It is not about winning as much as it is about winning over.
Yes, there are players who foul out of the game who will forever be banned. But Jesus takes no joy in that. Yes, Jesus could have legally slammed every one of those who foul Him, but instead He gave them every chance to come over to the right side.
Yes, there is victory, but the Kingdom of God is about planting a seed. A tiny seed that grows to become a tree where there is room for everyone. For the Kingdom to be welcomed, we must allow the mixing. Some people do not mix with others. You will never get the yeast if you don't mix with God's people.
This text is about how we live our lives in relationship. Do we have to win all the time? Do we have to devastate our enemies? Do we have to win the day at all costs shattering the backboard? Or can we be about the Kingdom. Small seeds planted, and leaven mixed.
Lord God, may I do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than myself. May I look beyond my own interests to the interests of others. May my attitude be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross.