September 22, 2019

Wild Vines Produce Sour “Whine”

Read: Daniel 9-10; Psalm 123; Luke 5
“Why do you question in your hearts?”
Luke 5:22, ESV


Have you ever found yourself muttering under your breath something like, “Not in my church”? Such inner rumblings are typically a response to a perceived violation of some long-standing tradition. Someone changed the bulletin, did not wear a coat and tie to preach, or even “not our type of person” visited your church. Jewish religious leaders were observing Jesus as he taught and his actions inside of a house. They became deeply irritated because he demonstrated the power of God to heal (5:17) and to forgive sins (5:20). Luke frames a picture of how a person may stand in the way of God’s redemptive work. We do not want to become that type of person.

A Biblical Lens

Too many times we become “judges with evil motives” that the Scripture warns against. By this, I mean that we grouse in our hearts like the religious leaders in our passage and find ourselves standing arms crossed in opposition to an oncoming wave of love. The nascent human opposition to Jesus’ ministry surfaces here, and it occurred when he told the paralytic that his sins had been forgiven (5:20). Have you ever questioned why God would save “such-and-such” person?

We do not know if the paralysis was due to some sin on the man’s part, but is that really the point? I do not believe so. We do know that a correct theology will see sickness and death as part of the “deterioration” that humankind has endured because of universal sin (EBC). Jesus invites us to look for a larger redemptive purpose when we gaze into the eyes of human brokenness. Think about this perspective, while we read on. The Kingdom of God was expanding, and Jesus was reclaiming ground that evil had claimed. Sometimes religious folks are the problem! Their traditions grow like wild vines around God’s word and make it virtually impossible to gain access to the Father. Jesus cut away this hindrance. Jesus was simply applying what he had preached (4:18). He indicated that he had divine authority, and the actual miracle was simply a sign of this fact.

Of course, there were those who opposed the claim to have authority to forgive sins because blasphemy in Jewish law was punishable by stoning. Even so, there had to be unmistakable and egregious “defilement” of the divine name (5:21). That did not happen here, but when you count yourself as the keepers of the rules, then you cannot allow people to bend them; or, so the religious leaders thought. Jesus knew the “rules” about defiling God’s name and about Sabbath observance, but he called people to look deeper than the rules (5:22; “question in your hearts”). No, he did not do away with God’s standards (Matthew 5:17-20); instead, he called people to look at the underlying principles that gave rise to such norms. Let’s not cultivate traditions that grow like vines and choke out access to the Father.

A Moral Crossroad

Case in point. A news article on the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders was published in the Dallas Morning News. A longstanding tradition of the skimpy uniforms that the women have worn since their introduction in 1972 was called into question. The author claims that their attire invites the objectification of the women. The problem is magnified because their routines are broadcast on the Texas-sized video boards in the stadium. A complaint was lodged but a member of the video content team did not agree. Instead, he pledged to work even harder to ensure that the team would only put the best content on the board this season. The organization based its reasoning on the “more than 700 women who have worn it [the uniform] since its inception in the days of Tex Schramm and Tom Landry.” Tradition! Oh, and tradition may blind us, too. Christ-followers may learn from this moral situation. We will want to ensure that we model the Master when it comes to clearing away any tradition that places an obstacle in the way of people coming to Christ.

For Your Journaling

1. We need not look far to find the vine that produces sour whine. It is prideful human hearts. Apply liberally the miracle-grow that is found in Matthew 5:3.  

2. I always found that “exit interviews” with people who left the church, as painful as they were to experience, exposed unhealthy traditions that served only as barriers to those were seeking the Lord. Take a moment to consider attitudes and actions in your church life that may be hindering the access of others to the Lord.  

May all your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock