Thursday, February 19. Matthew 12:15-32.
Jesus is turning the world upside down. That is our theme for Lent this year. Do you know what happens when you turn the world upside down? The people who thought they were on top are suddenly on the bottom. That doesn’t usually go well, especially for the people who messed things up.
Today’s reading shows us just how messed up people’s thinking can get when they are blinded by pride. This passage tells us that Jesus has the Spirit of God upon him, he is bringing justice, healing, and hope to the whole world (including the Gentiles). That’s the big picture. Then the passage zooms in and tells one particular story where Jesus heals a demon-possessed man who had been mute his whole life.
This seems like pretty amazing, godly stuff, doesn’t it? How did the religious leaders respond to Jesus’ acts of kindness and healing? They said he was in league with Satan! Do you see how their prejudice against Jesus made it impossible for them to see goodness. They believed he was evil, so even his good acts were perceived to have evil motives.
Jesus responds to them. He tells them that they can hate him all they want, but they had better be careful not to mess with the Holy Spirit.
Here’s what I think Jesus is saying. The word Satan means adversary, or something that is working against something else. The work of the Spirit is love. The apostle Paul calls it the “fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22-26. Anything that is an act of authentic, other-oriented love that promotes healing, restoration, and reconciliation, is an act of God’s Spirit. It doesn’t matter who does it. You can’t be truly loving apart from the work of God’s Spirit. Therefore, an act of true love cannot be Satanic.
Many times Christians take on the Pharisee’s prejudices and find it hard to believe that people who don’t fit into their mold can be loving and promote healing and reconciliation. Imagine what the world would be like if Christians worried less about judging everybody and focused more on noticing where God’s Spirit is at work…and joining the Spirit in the life of justice, healing, and hope.
That would be a good kind of upside down.