The concern of Jesus — part 3
40 blogs of Lent — day 14
A few years ago we were visiting a friend in another city. We were asked by a man the directions to a place and none of us could answer. These were streets my wife and I did not know and out friend, who was guiding the two of us back to her home was blind, and although the place the the stranger wanted was nearby she had never seen it. It must have been a sight, a couple, one of them on crutches, being led by a person with a white stick.
10 And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” 12 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” 13 He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”Matthew 15:10–14 ESV UK
This is not my favourite Bible passage. My introduction above shows that blind people are able to guile others along familiar streets. Taken in isolation it looks like Jesus is shaming people because of their disability. When you look at the ministry of Jesus as a whole you see compassion for the disabled. It is out of love that he healed diseases, made the deaf hear, the lame walk and the blind see. Jesus had a ministry of not only feeling compassion, but acting on it. On the occasion in Nazareth when he could not heal people because of their lack of faith it was not the lack of faith of the sick and disabled that caused the power failure but that of the people of the town who had rejected Jesus.
In contrast their are Christians who do the opposite. They have become victim blamers, accusing people who are not healed of not having faith, in their eyes they cannot be wrong, God must answer their prayers by doing what they pray for and therefore they accuse the innocent. How unlike Jesus they are. 15 years of being disabled, of having constant pain, means I have run into these people far too often. We share a high regard for the Bible, though they have not yet learned the important lesson that their interpretation of scripture may be wrong. Like the Pharisees earlier in this passage, they are using laws and rules, even those in the Bible itself, to harm people rather than help. Harming people is never the way of Jesus, especially not doing it in his name.
The Pharisees in the passage had come from Jerusalem, they were probably members of the highest group, the Sanhedrin, or sent on their behalf. Jesus used their practice of saying something was Corban, it means a gift, meaning that it is a gift dedicated to God, that should not be used to help people. Jesus is not saying that tradition is wrong. Jesus in not saying that the Mishnah traditions did not come from Moses. Jesus did not say that the rules were wrong. He is talking about the application of the rules: If the application of the rules means you are not loving your neighbour as yourself, putting your religious practice before another person’s physical or emotional needs then you need to take a long, serious look at how you interpret what you do.
Jesus did not tell them that the rules were wrong, but he did say that people who applied these good rules in the way that they did are dangerous, and working against God’s kingdom. Victim blaming disabled people is a sure sign of this.