The promised second installment of this series! I’m not sure I have all the cards I wrote, seeing as I moved recently, so my things are a bit mixed around. But let’s pretend I do, and go from…
All of this chapter is good – the Lord speaking to his followers about the Pharisees and scribes, and the dangers of being like them. Everything is direct and starkly truthful: For they bind heavy burdens, grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they will not move them with one of their fingers (v.4 – Mark, though, puts this after the speech to/about the Pharisees, and directed at the lawyers). Basically, they won’t lift a finger, but expect others to bear heavy burdens which they exact. Laziness in high places! I can’t quote it all, though, and have chosen a few portions that I find particularly impactful, about pretense and reality. Just before this, Jesus has counseled humility: don’t try to be considered greater than another; just serve each other and remember who the Greatest really is, and that you are all brethren and sisters.
But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, actors! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.
Woe unto you, ye blind guides, … ye fools and blind… pretenders! For ye pay tithe of mint and dill and cumin, and have abandoned the weightier matters of the law, judgement, mercy, and faith. Those ought ye to have done, without leaving the other undone.
Ye blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel, who make yourselves appear unto men that ye would not commit the least sin, and yet ye yourselves transgress the whole law. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, actors! For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of greediness and self-indulgence. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within…, that the outside… may be clean also.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, pretenders! For ye are like unto whitewashed tombs, which indeed appear beautiful on the outside, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all manner of uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of pretense and iniquity.
… Ye serpents, ye crop of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
Wow. If I were them, I’d be speechless at this point (and that’s only part of what was said!). Such piercing clarity and lack of pretense. He really brought their truth out into the open, for everyone to see. I find it both so sad and satisfying to read this, and similar teachings by the Saviour. These people – the scribes and Pharisees – were so astray, so far away from decent human beings and everything they should have been, and trying so hard to pretend they were the only ones living correctly, and ruining the lives of so many who looked up to them or were controlled by them. And the Saviour came and exposed exactly who they were; His words and imagery are spot-on (that’s the satisfying part), beautiful and deadly. Cutting and clarifying. They had nowhere to hide – no wonder they wanted Him gone and became angry enough to kill Him. I think that, in a way, these words are both expose and lament. A warning to people to beware of them, not to follow or be like them, and a lament for such wickedness and wrongness having developed in these groups of ‘leaders’ – that they each had become so, allowed it to happen and been so ruined by it. They are, perhaps, those for whom the light that was in them had become darkness, and therefore how great that darkness (Matthew 6:22-23/Luke 11:34-37).
The next scripture fave features a change of tone; obviously, Jesus only spoke in the above way to and of the scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees and lawyers – groups who professed to lead His people, and yet only led them astray and oppressed them.
Here, a woman with a chronic, debilitating disease seeks healing from the Saviour, shyly, thinking perhaps she is unworthy of His full attention, and receives in return healing, kindness, compassion and understanding. Now, this has connotations for me, dealing as I am with extreme insomnia, also chronic and debilitating, and also not being certain if the Lord will heal me, or if I’ll need to keep battling it out for years to come. I’ve tried a lot of things that are professed to help, without them helping to the extent I need, or at all. I haven’t quite spent all my income over the years on remedies, but many people with these types of illnesses do. It’s a terribly difficult, lonely, discouraging thing to endure.
And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, who had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any, came behind [Jesus] and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood ceased.
Immediately her illness disappeared! That is truly awe-some. I wonder at the power, and faith, that went into that. And no wonder Jesus felt that power’s transfer. I just love reading this – she was sick for so long, it was so debilitating, and had so much effect on her life, and here, she is in the Saviour’s presence and immediately is healed. It feels beautiful, and reassuring.
Here is the continuation of the story:
Mark 5:30-34, 36
And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that power had gone out of him, turned…about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes? And his disciples said unto him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?
And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing. But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth.
She was worried (maybe) that she would receive a reprimand! That she had been presumptuous in seeking the gift, and was too insignificant to merit such blessing, or that it was her ‘fault’ that power had come out of him to heal her, and she shouldn’t have done it without permission.
And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.
Oh, I love that. Go in peace, be whole of thy plague – He knew, intimately, what she had suffered, and the power she had drawn from Him was due to her faith in Him; it was the Saviour’s mission in all things to heal. She had done nothing wrong, was not insignificant, but was known and loved; she had sought what He came to give.
This event had occurred while Jesus was actually on His way to heal someone else – the ruler of the synagogue (Jairus)’s daughter. By the time the woman had been healed, and they were all still making their way through the crowds, a servant came to tell Jairus that his daughter was dead, and he didn’t need to trouble the Master further.
But when Jesus heard [this], he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only exercise faith.
And of course, He healed the girl – called her back to life – when they arrived. I find this another example of compassion, kindness, and understanding. How distraught the father might have felt at that moment, but the Lord saw his pain and held back the despair with reassurance and encouragement: be not afraid; I am here; death has not won; exercise faith and be brave.