Jesus Went About Doing Good, But...!
By Rev. Dr. Noriel C. Capulong
Delivered during the First Sunday in Lent, March 5, 2017 at SU Church
Scripture Texts: Psalm 99:1-4; Mark 3:1-6, 20-30
We are in the first Sunday in the season of Lent, ushering us into a spirit of penitent reflection on the 40 days from Ash Wednesday up to the Holy Week, as we remember the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus that will bring him to his death on the cross. But we know this will also culminate on the day of his resurrection on Easter day. And so, we continue to reflect on the Scripture texts that remind us of the distinct nature of the work and mission of Jesus which stirred up so much the flames of hope among the people but which also created the reason for his being executed on the cross.
In Mark 3:20-28 Jesus is accused of having the spirit of Beelzebul and being identified with the demons in casting out demons in his various stories of healing and driving evil spirits from people possessed and victimized by them. This is one unique story of Jesus’ ministry that really stands out among the rest of the stories in the gospels.
Earlier, in the synagogue of Capernaum Jesus had cured a man with a withered hand on a Sabbath day. Now doing this is supposed to be a violation of the law. He was already being watched closely by the Pharisees if indeed he would proceed to cure the man even on a day when they were supposed to do nothing but rest and worship in the Synagogue, so that they could accuse him of violating the law. Jesus however, spoke so calmly as he said, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill? Jesus was evidently doing good in healing the man. This was just one of the so many good things Jesus did to so many people. Jesus was always doing good.
Just like what the Sunday School song says, “Jesus went about doing good, the Bible tells me so…He heals the sick and cures the blind, to little children he was kind. He gave some hungry people food….Jesus went about doing good, the Bible tells me so” This is precisely what Jesus was doing and telling the crowd! He was doing good in helping a man become cured. And yet he was going to be accused of a serious violation of the law.
Doing good, being of help to people, to care for those who suffer in sickness and deprivation and are in pain and victimized may not necessarily reap rewards or even words of thanks and plaques of appreciation. It may not amount to winning the Nobel Peace Prize, like Mother Teresa.
Doing good, like what Jesus did, would not necessarily make you popular and adored by people around you. On many occasions, you may even reap criticism, scorn and probably laughed at and mocked and then persecuted. I know of someone who was once head of a major government agency. I know him to be an honest, upright man, who would never succumb to any temptations of corruption nor any pressure from corrupt agents. He was doing so well in his job. But in the end things were turned around against him and he was framed and got accused of corruption. It was he who was terminated and lost all his benefits and pension, with a tarnished reputation. He died suddenly of a heart attack, a very much broken man.
Indeed, there are times when doing good does not always pay. But in theory as taught by Jesus, we Christians do good things not for the reward, not for the recognition, but simply because it is the right thing, the righteous and moral thing to do regardless of what others may think. We never tire of doing good (Gal. 6:9) because we believe and worship a God who is righteous, who loves to do what is right and just, a God who is a lover of justice.
Jesus went about doing good, curing the sick, restoring the sight of the blind, making the lame walk, raising the dead back to life, feeding the hungry, and driving away demons from possessed people as he also preached and enacted the coming of the Kingdom of God. On the basis of these deeds and his teachings he was able to attract a few loyal followers. These are those who believe in what he preached and who were among those amazed by what he did to so many people. They are those who saw in Jesus the seeds of hope for a truly new beginning and a truly new and really good life.
But here lies the big question arising out of a big contradiction. Why would someone who does nothing but good for the people be the object of conspiracy to destroy him and have him killed? Why would someone doing good for the people be accused of doing bad, or even of being demonic in his deeds, as he was accused of doing things in the name of the demons? Why would good deeds, helping people, healing people, feeding people, be seen as demonic and even satanic?
This is the biggest contradiction arising out of the life, ministry and crucifixion of Jesus. The one who did good was accused of doing bad! Its just like a sincere Christian trying to do good but ended up being vilified as a corrupt, wicked, evil person. The one doing the work of God was accused of doing the work of Satan. The one who spent his life being with people was accused of keeping company with the demons. The one who was living his life so selflessly in serving and offering his life to the people is accused of being satanic. How could this be?
The fact of the matter is, the ones accusing Jesus were the ones making demonic schemes and satanic plots to stop him from doing his good deeds to the people. Jesus’ feeding, healing, teaching and preaching are so empowering for these people. Jesus is seen as giving hope of a new life for this people, the hope of a life freed from what ever was ailing them and keeping them sick, hungry and blind, the hope of becoming an empowered, enlightened people.
The good deeds of Jesus was raising the possibility that the people may become too empowered so as to become a threat to those who have the power and authority in the Jewish and Roman society, those who benefit from keeping these people poor, indebted and uneducated, hungry and blind and who had suffered so much because of their powerlessness. These are the Pharisees who control the interpretation of the law, the Sadducees who control the operations and income from the temple, the Herodians who spy on the people in behalf of Herod and the Roman authorities.
For them, the good deeds of Jesus towards the people is simply bad for them. It is undermining their influence, their power and authority over the people. That is why they just cannot tolerate and allow Jesus to continue doing his good deeds to the people. Jesus had to be demonized in order to justify his eventual elimination. He had to be identified with the demons no matter how godly and righteous the things he was doing in order to justify their eventual destruction of him. This is precisely what brought Jesus to the cross. His being with people, his love for the people, his attempt to bring healing and hope to the people.
This kind of selfless love and service to the people becomes the ultimate sign of the presence of God and His kingdom as stated in our own Statement of Faith as it says, “…The kingdom of God is present where faith in Jesus Christ is shared, where healing is given to the sick, where food is given to the hungry, where light is given to the blind, and where liberty is given to the captive and oppressed. This is the very ministry of Jesus for which he offered his life on the cross.
In our time, it is us, the church, the body of Christ, which is tasked with the mission of continuing this ministry of Christ. Jesus’ mission has now become our mission. Those good deeds of Jesus then must be continued by his church, by us, even if there will be accusations thrown at us of being demonic or satanic in order to divide, confuse if not destroy the church.
The work of Jesus before, is now the work of the Spirit working through the church. That is why, to stop this kind of work, to suppress this, or even try to malign and destroy those who carry out these good works in the name of Jesus is, in the words of Jesus, to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit which, according to him, can never be forgiven.
As we prepare ourselves to partake of the communion in his body and blood in this first Sunday in Lent, let us remain focused on the ways and the works of the spirit of Christ among us, as it moves us, unites us and empowers us to follow Jesus doing good to his own people, serving them, even sacrificing for them out of his love for them. Like his disciples whom he had called to his ministry of doing good, let us then go about looking for whatever opportunity is opened for us to serve and do good and express God’s love for our people and for the rest of his creation what ever may be the price, whatever may be the consequence. It doesn’t matter. For we have with us his Spirit, inspiring us, strengthening us along the way of this faith-life journey of ours towards eventual permanent communion with Christ our Lord. Amen.