It wasn't fair, really. The Pharisees were just no match for Jesus. After all, they had to try to hide their intentions from a man who could read their very minds. In our text for today from Luke 6, Jesus is engaged in a series of so-called "Sabbath controversies" with the religious leaders who are accusing Jesus and his followers of brazenly disregarding the day's rules for rest. In the second of these controversies, the Pharisees are "watching Jesus closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath" (verse 7). The Greek for "watching him closely" is paratereo, meaning "to spy," or, as one Greek dictionary puts it, "to watch scrupulously." The sense is that the Pharisees are peering at Jesus out of the corners of their eyes, hoping that Jesus will not notice their ill-intended paratereo. But Jesus does notice: "But Jesus knew what they were thinking" (verse 8). The Pharisees' spying, it seems, is no match for Jesus' mind reading.
In order to rebuke the Pharisees' ill-intended paratereo, Jesus calls to himself a man with an atrophied hand. He asks the religious leaders, "Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it" (verse 9)? No one responds. There is only dead silence. Jesus continues by saying to the man, "'Stretch out your hand.' The man did so, and his hand was completely restored" (verse 10).
Interestingly, in this particular Sabbath controversy, Jesus does nothing that could be considered Sabbath-breaking, even by the legalistic standards of the religious leaders. Jesus does not physically assist this ailing man, nor does he even touch him, he simply speaks to him: "Stretch out your hand." And speaking is surely not prohibited on the Sabbath! The man whom Jesus heals also does nothing which would transgress Sabbath laws. After all, reaching out a hand hardly constitutes doing work.
Jesus does nothing here that would break Sabbath law or tradition. And yet, the Pharisees, even when Jesus adheres to their Sabbath stipulation playbook, become blinded with rage at Jesus: "They were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus" (verse 11). Once again, the Greek is instructive. The word for "furious" is anoia. This is a compound word made up of noos, the Greek word for "mind" and a, a Greek negative prefix. Thus, the religious leaders are so angry at Jesus that they literally "loose their minds." Their fury toward Jesus is baseless. It has no logical grounding in what Jesus has actually done. It is insane anger.
All too often, our anger echoes that of the religious leaders. It is anoia anger. It is insane rage. Last week, I took my wife Melody to a bed and breakfast in the Texas Hill Country in celebration of her birthday. On our way, we, of course, got stuck in heavy traffic on I-35. As we were sitting there, bumper to bumper and brake light to brake light, I could feel my temperature rising. My hands gripped the wheel, my head craned forward trying to see when this traffic snarl might end, and I almost lost it. I almost began griping passionately and crassly about the traffic tribulation that is I-35 and how they really need to do something about this horrible highway. Thankfully, I caught myself... this time. I took a deep breath, I loosened my grip on the steering wheel, and I tried to relax. Sadly, I am not always so self-controlled. Sometimes, I become livid over something as innocuous as a traffic jam. There is nothing I can do about it, no way I can fix it, but nevertheless, I blindly froth with rage as I sit, stopped on the highway in my truck. I become, even if only momentarily, anoia.
What is it that raises your ire, even when there is no real cause for anger? It is little wonder that Scripture reminds us, "Man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires" (James 1:20). I find it gripping that, in the final analysis, the religious leaders never had true cause for anger against Jesus, for Jesus, as God's Son, never acted out of accordance with his Father's will. The anger of the religious leaders toward Jesus was always baseless. How often is it the same for us?
Today, rather than losing your mind to anger, rest in the peace of God, which surpasses and salves human anger. For this is the kind of righteous life that God desires. I hope you desire it for yourself as well.