The Synagogue Official

Chemical tests are helpful but the results are sometimes unwelcome. Sodium rhodizonate is an example. When it is applied to something containing lead, like older paints, it turns red—helpful to know, because it warns of poison, but potentially expensive to fix. There’s a reaction when Jesus and religion make contact too. It happened with one synagogue official.

[Jesus] was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And there was a woman who for eighteen years had had a sickness caused by a spirit; and she was bent double, and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your sickness.” And He laid His hands on her; and immediately she was made erect again and began glorifying God. But the synagogue official, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, began saying to the crowd in response, “There are six days in which work should be done; so come during them and get healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” (Luke 13:10-14. See too Matt. 12:9-13)

If that synagogue had really gathered to encounter God and be led by Him there would have been no problem when the Lord appeared in skin. Instead there was a reaction. The unfriendly synagogue official thought his job was to interpret and teach the commandments, but he misunderstood them. He thought Sabbath law was negative: rest from work. Jesus pronounced rest in the completeness of God’s work, including freedom from demonic bondage to sickness.

All synagogues have ruling officers. Rulers make rules: some for good reasons, and some for bad. Some synagogue rulers just want to keep things tidy. Others use rules to protect themselves. Anyone who seems to live by different rules, or who might be a King in disguise, threatens them.

Rulers slowly teach their people the same. Perhaps they did not know it but the unnamed synagogue restricted and controlled God and His interactions with people. They nodded at Him but preferred life in structured compartments: an hour or so here for God, one tenth there, the rest at individual disposal. Of course, the idea was for Him to spill over into the rest, but if that never really happened they didn’t care. The synagogue meeting was a weekly reset button, a token, just like the cash dropped into the offering bag.

Congregations like that gather with little excitement, love for one another, or openness to change. The meeting or building can be more important than the presence of the Lord. In fact, He’s not expected, perhaps not even wanted. Believe it or not, some people go for reasons other than to meet with God. That’s religion.

In such cases, when the King shows up to speak and act, there’s a reaction. His presence tests synagogue rulers and anyone else who is loyal to the ruler’s ways. The reactions indicate the effects of slow poisoning by religion. Some even turn red!

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