“Ostensible” is a word that needs our familiarity. It means to approach a person with an issue that is not the real reason for the conversation. That is, the outward presentation does not reflect the true inward purpose for the talk. In today’s Gospel lesson, the Pharisees act out the classic definition of the word. They ostensibly come to Jesus and ask him a question that would lead everyone to think that they care about the law. But the text makes it clear that the real reason for asking the question is to try and trap Jesus and make him look as if he does not revere God’s commands. And the wise response of Jesus turns the tables on the Pharisees. Not only does Jesus justify the healing on the Sabbath, but unmasks their pretense and exposes the Pharisees’ truly uncaring disposition. The result is twofold: the man with the withered hand is restored; and, the Pharisees come away from the encounter determined to do away with Jesus, their hatred inflamed.
Basic human nature has not changed much over the centuries. There are people in the church and “believers” everywhere who ostensibly uphold the Bible and appear to care about the things of God, but inwardly harbor the pretense of looking godly and/or seeking to undo another person who threatens their image. These types of people are outwardly polite, caring, and concerned; they are not obnoxious. But behind the scenes they undermine others and form secret alliances to topple those who stand in the way of their personal agendas.
The lectionary readings for the past few weeks have focused on the healing ministry of Jesus. While restoring broken people, Christ exposes evil and brings the demonic realm out of the shadows. If a person ostensibly operates one way for people to see but inwardly is another person, then that individual has more in common with the devil than with Jesus. We must be savvy to such persons so that we are not intimidated to bind up the brokenhearted and have a genuine ministry of healing others in Jesus’ name. Let the inspiration of Jesus, the love of God the Father and the courage of the Holy Spirit keep you vigilant and strong to truly serve others.
Mighty God, who has broken the power of sin and brought victory through Jesus, enable me to live my life in such a way as to help others so that the kingdom of God draws near to the people around me. Strengthen my faith so that I walk in confidence, reflecting my Lord in all things. Amen.