Scripture: John 7:19-24
“Did not Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why are you looking for an opportunity to kill me?” The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is trying to kill you?” Jesus answered them, “I performed one work, and all of you are astonished. Moses gave you circumcision (it is, of course, not from Moses, but from the patriarchs), and you circumcise a man on the sabbath. If a man receives circumcision on the sabbath in order that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because I healed a man’s whole body on the sabbath? Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
In the previous reflection on John, we read what I believe is the most humbling statement in all the bible for trained and highly educated clergy: that the truth of God doesn’t necessarily come from the academic world. Today, Jesus offers another kind of humbling challenge. And it’s one that I believe the whole church should take seriously.
Jesus bluntly tells us, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” This statement comes in the context of an argument with some religious authorities who are still pretty upset that Jesus healed a man on the sabbath – a blatant violation of the law. That happened back in chapter five. In his statement, Jesus is essentially telling them that the way they’re using scripture is a detriment to the work of God and a break from scripture’s overarching message of healing and redemption. “Judge with right judgement” means use a little reason and logic as you interpret the bible. I think Jesus is warning us against the practice of taking verses out of context and interpreting them literally and militantly. For Jesus, the arch of scripture points toward a message of love, healing, and salvation. If our interpretations land us outside of this arch, then we need to reevaluate what it is that we believe.
Great Redeemer, help me fit my life inside the message of love and healing that you’ve been telling since the beginning of time. Amen.