Mugshot Christ: Great Teacher or Rebellious Lawbreaker

There are some people who love to portray Jesus as “a great teacher.” Others like to portray him as a rebellious lawbreaker—one that the authorities wanted to put under arrest and get off the streets.

Sometimes Jesus was on the wrong side of the law. This is the Jesus we’re looking at today.

Here’s today’s word…Power!

Depending on the context, the word can carry several meanings. In Jesus we find multiple meanings wrapped up in one man.

On another Sabbath, he entered the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was withered. And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might find a reason to accuse him. But he knew their thoughts, and he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come and stand here.” And he rose and stood there. And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?” And 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 were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.

What we have here is a basic power struggle between two parties. The scribes and Pharisees are in one corner. Jesus is in the other.

I’m going to take a brief rabbit trail here to mention that the Pharisees weren’t the epitome of evil. Christians tend to view the Pharisees as really bad guys. The word Pharisee has even become a negative comment on modern behavior (“He’s such a Pharisee”). Let be clear that they were godly people who were trying their best to please God. Jesus did not fit inside the box of what they knew to be “right standing before God” so they attempted to deal with him.

Still, these were the guys opposed to Jesus—the ultimate hero. And they’re watching him. They’re not just observing—they’re waiting, hoping to catch him doing something illegal (by Jewish standards). Anyone who created or did work on the Sabbath was lawbreaker, and they hoped this could be their chance.

But Jesus turns the tables on them and asks a question about doing good versus doing evil. It was lawful on the Sabbath to save a life—to DO good towards others. He catches them in their own trap. By the law, they have to answer that it IS lawful to save life and do good. But if they answer affirmatively they affirm Jesus’ ministry, and they CAN’T do that. So they stay silent. And Jesus wins the argument. Power means authority.

On a practical note, we often forget that wishing people well often isn’t enough. As people of faith in Jesus, called to be LIKE Jesus, we should be concerned about DOING good towards others. It’s a too-foreign concept in our world. We often focus on me-and-mine and help others when it’s convenient. But Jesus points out that it’s ALWAYS lawful to do good—even on the holy day of rest. As a digital church, we believe in being actively involved in doing good towards others. We recently raised money through a GoFundMe campaign to help missionaries in Asia Pacific install sewage lines in a local elementary school. Pretty cool to be able to participate in that even though we remain thousands of miles away!

Hoping to catch Jesus, but getting caught in his trap, these religious men become infuriated and start looking for a way to handle this lawbreaker—this Jesus of Nazareth.

Since the bad guys are drawing up sides, it’s Jesus’ turn to pick his posse. Luke gives us the names of these 12 who form the inner circle (Peter, James, and John form the smaller and innermost circle).

In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.

There are some fascinating things here. Notice that Jesus called his disciples, and then chose 12. We often focus so much on the 12 who became apostles that we don’t even notice that Jesus already had disciples before the choosing of the apostles. There are many unnamed people in the Bible who follow Jesus and walk in his footsteps. I find that oddly comforting. I don’t have to be a somebody to be with Jesus. Arguably the most famous (infamous?) personality of his day, yet he was around people who were nameless nobodies. You and I don’t have to be superstars—we’re still welcome with Jesus. It should make us think twice about the way we behave towards others. It should make us repent for casting a critical eye upon people who don’t meet up to our standards. All are welcome to follow Christ.

In fact, you couldn’t keep people away with a stick. The flocked to see him, to hear him, to touch him. He was so power-filled that a mere touch could heal them all. I know a lot of people who are looking for a miracle-cure. We all want that easy button to come along and help us out.

But Jesus isn’t mere snake oil. He does what no one else can do. He is authentically unique. Power means ability.

Now take some time to think about the message and focus on the words of the songs.

In today’s story, we see Jesus rallying his “troops” around him for his mission, but the Bible elsewhere talks about God in military terms. Our first song is Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies). It is based on the story in 2nd Kings where God shows Elisha and Elisha’s servant that they were surrounded by an invisible army of horses and chariots! It’s another one of my favorite worship songs of all time. Picture a God who surrounds and protects you even though you may not see it.

You crush the enemy
underneath my feat
You are my sword and shield
Though troubles linger still
Whom shall I fear?
I know who goes before me, I know who stands behind.
The God of angel of armies is always by side!

As you listen, ask yourself, “How do I feel knowing that this lawbreaker and rebel Jesus fights in my corner? What does it mean in my darkest times to sing that He stands behind me?”

Let’s worship…

Our second song this morning is Break Every Chain and simply declares:

There is power in the name of Jesus
To break every chain, break every chain, break every chain!

It’s the power of Jesus that rules over the Sabbath. It’s the power of Jesus that has the Scribes and Pharisees discussion how they are going to handle Jesus. It’s the power of Jesus that has the whole crowd trying to touch him.

Let’s worship…


– How would I respond to the power of Jesus? Would I be one of those looking to handle and manage this lawbreaker or would I be one of those looking simply to touch him?
– How do I need the power of Jesus in my life today?
– Am I willing to be called a disciple and be part of this rabble-rouser’s troupe?


– This week, think about the areas of your life where you have power. Think about things that have power over you.
– Ask God to be a source of power in your life: a source to provide healing and a source to empower you to do good towards others!

Chaplain Chris Linzey
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