Luke 6:6-7 On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shrivelled. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. (NIV)
Jesus went to 'church' (synagogue) to teach, but religious leaders came to criticise Him. They did not have open minds to receive the message from God, to help them understand why the Old Testament prophets wrote about Him. Instead, their hearts were hard; they had already decided that Jesus was an intolerable threat to their authority and power structure: He needed to be removed ... legally, of course, and that was why they scrutinised all His words and actions.
We do not know if they 'planted' the disabled man in the congregation, but they certainly thought that he might attract Jesus' compassion. If so, and Jesus healed him, then they would be able to report Him to the religious court for breaking the Sabbath law by 'working'. How perverse! They came to church to find fault with the preacher and use His compassion as a means of accusing Him. They did not care about the man with a paralysed hand.
Christless religion (that is, religion which is not devoted to worshipping and serving the Lord Jesus), will always behave in the same way. Jesus is a threat to those who do not love Him; He is an obstacle to their pride and power. It should never happen in the church of Jesus Christ: but it does, if people forget that Jesus really is the Lord. Helpful structures for serving Christ, become power-bases for personal politics. Ministry then becomes submerged under non-Jesus agendas. In the extreme His Word is dismissed by 'wise thinkers' who invent 'modern ways' which He will never own. Meanwhile, those who speak out for truth are criticised, or worse, as it was for Jesus.
Every believer needs to be alert to the danger of pretending to be on God's side while disagreeing with God's Word about Jesus. Christian leaders are especially vulnerable. And if that is true for them, pray for those who think they speak for God but have no hope in Christ. It is sobering to read that Jesus was more generous to His executioners (Luke 23:34) than to the religious leaders (Luke 11:37-53).
Prayer: Sovereign Lord. Thank You for sending Jesus to tell the truth and to open the way to life for all who will believe in Him. Please forgive me when I harden my heart against Your Word and push Jesus away from His throne in my heart. Forgiven me when I criticise Your love and compassion, and fail to rejoice when Your blessings come to others. Give me a heart which is eager to hear You and swift to obey You, and may I delight in your wonderful works and daily submit myself to Your authority. I also pray for those whose hearts are hard against Jesus: please open their eyes to see Him. In Jesus' Name. Amen.