As surprised as we are, it turns out we shouldn't be
The word “rage” jumped out at me in my Bible reading this morning:
On another Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching; and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him. But He knew what they were thinking, and He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” And he got up and came forward. And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to destroy it?” After looking around at them all, He said to him, “Stretch out your hand!” And he did so; and his hand was restored. But they themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus (Luke 6:6-11).
Rage. That is the emotional response to a man getting healed?! Well, yes. Have we not seen it in the last three years? I am still in utter disbelief myself as I dare to put the analysis into words. I argued against such hypotheses over three years ago. But in this era, I have witnessed physicians who dared to posit and, worse, demonstrate that an illness had safe and effective treatments enrage those who stood to maintain or gain in power and money by their denial.
I always have to offer caveats so that I am not accused of hyperbole. Some were not motivated by money or power. Some trusted the system. I used to trust it too. Some were blinded by the pride of what they were so sure they knew, failing to humbly admit that maybe there are things we do not know.
I prayed to find these physicians who were similarly bewildered by the sudden abandonment of long held medical, infectious disease, and public health principles and, by the grace of God, they have become my friends and colleagues. Between us, we have thousands of testimonies: recovery from illness, hospitalizations prevented, lives saved. We have other testimonies too: patients, friends, and family who got other advice and suffered unfavorable outcomes, including death. Another required caveat: please do not misinterpret me to mean there were no bad outcomes on the one side and no good on the other. But, at minimum, sufficient observational evidence is there to be convincing.
The rage is convincing too. Physicians have been fired, investigated, and stripped of licenses, credentials, and board certifications for running afoul of the “authorities.” Just last week, Dr. John Littell, a God-fearing, Jesus-loving family physician who I can attest has worked tirelessly on behalf of patients and physicians over the past three years, was stripped of his Family Practice board certification. I don’t even understand this move. I understand losing licenses and privileges to practice. To be clear, I don’t think he has done anything to warrant such a move, but I understand how the powers-that-be might justify it when there is sufficient evidence of malpractice. That is akin to a lawyer being disbarred. But removing an education credential which he did the work to earn? That is like removing a Juris Doctor degree. How do you erase history? That seems particularly unjust and nonsensical. Rage.
I am currently listening to the book “The Crucifixion of the King of Glory” by Eugenia Constantinou. I highly recommend it for Lenten reflection (and have to give credit to Eric Metaxas’ podcast for finding it). Her investigation and explanation of historical writings demonstrates how profoundly corrupt the religious leaders of Jesus’ day were. They weren’t just religious leaders. They were the political leaders of their time. It gives great insight into how incredibly shaken they were by any threat to their power and wealth. Rage. Rage so blinding that they could not celebrate a man being healed. Rage so blinding that they did not care if the innocent died.
As I’ve worked my way through Matthew, Mark, and now Luke in my yearly Bible reading, this picture of the rage of the authorities has become clearer. John the Baptist came first, preaching a baptism for the repentance from sin and admonishing people to bear fruit in keeping with repentance. He dared to call the religious authorities a “brood of vipers.” After Herod had him beheaded as the ultimate consequence to John pointing out his sin, Jesus began His public ministry, echoing John’s message of repentance. Matthew, Mark, and Luke make it clear how quickly Jesus ran afoul of the authorities, who spent the rest of His earthly ministry plotting and eventually succeeding, according to His will and submission, in killing Him.
The Gospel writers also make clear how quickly Jesus made apparent to His followers that such behavior should not surprise us:
And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets. But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full. Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way” (Luke 6:20-26).
Unless we know the Word, we are constantly surprised by the world.
Dr. John Littell, I think you are in good company. We pray for you as your persevere under trial.