One Sabbath day as Jesus was walking through some grainfields, his disciples began breaking off heads of grain to eat. But the Pharisees said to Jesus, “Look, why are they breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath?”
Jesus said to them, “Haven’t you ever read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He went into the house of God (during the days when Abiathar was high priest) and broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests are allowed to eat. He also gave some to his companions.”
Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!”
Jesus went into the synagogue again and noticed a man with a deformed hand. Since it was the Sabbath, Jesus’ enemies watched him closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath.
Jesus said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.” Then he turned to his critics and asked, “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?” But they wouldn’t answer him.
He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored! At once the Pharisees went away and met with the supporters of Herod to plot how to kill Jesus.
“Why weren’t you at church? You’re in leadership. You must be at church every time the doors are open.
“Also, we need to talk about how you dress...”
I’m not making that up. I’ve had that discussion “back in the day.” I wish I was a better Bible student then. I would have replied like Jesus did here - “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of the people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.”
I know a lot of us need to read that verse and take it to heart. Sometimes, we can be so quick to judge someone when they don’t “go to church” or they aren’t at church. Especially if it’s over an extended period of time.
And how they express that is the opposite of the way the Pharisees did in the story. While some people think, “That’s the minister’s job,” other’s just don’t bother. They don’t call you. They don’t email you. They don’t drop by. And if you bump into them out somewhere, there is this air of judgment in their mannerisms.
I had a friend once (no, really, I did) who wouldn’t say “I love you,” back to us when we told him we loved him. One night, we asked him about it. His reply was something like, “Church people are too flippant with that word. It’s like when someone asks, ‘How are you?’ They don’t really mean it. As soon as you start to tell them how things are really going, instantly they’re annoyed. They just want the pat answer, ‘I’m fine, praise the Lord!’ It’s the same way when the say, ‘I love you.’ ‘Really? So, if I need you at three in the morning, you’ll be there for me? No? I didn’t think so.’ So I don’t say ‘I love you,’ because people usually don’t mean it.”
If we’re going to say we follow Christ, to him, that meant that sometimes we would be inconvenienced. That’s what love meant. His experience was that, too often, our “religions” are nothing more than a brooch - a pretty piece of jewelry we wear to match the rest of our ensemble.
We see this happening in the story before us. When Jesus arrived at a professional religious building, he noticed a man with a deformed hand. None of the clergy helped the man because it was the “Sabbath,” the day when no one was supposed to “work.” The Religious Elite took that to mean any type of work. They obviously didn’t want to help this man to begin with or they would have already done so.
When Jesus saw the man, he had him stand where everyone could see him. Jesus then confronted the Religious Elite with the man - in front of everyone. They didn’t like it when their motives or theology or orthopraxy was called into question. So they didn’t even respond.
Once more, Jesus is upset. Like we saw recently, the attitudes of those employed in the Empirical Religious Institution angered Jesus. Because of their attitudes, the people suffered. To top it off, they used people to get at Jesus. To them, people were nothing - less than nothing - if they don’t promote their selfish goals.
The man is a symbol of what happens when those called to serve go awry.
This is nothing new. All throughout the Jewish Scriptures, the prophets called the leaders of Israel - whether they were kings or priests - to repentance for the way they treated the people, especially those on the margins.
When the man was healed, once more showing those in power that G_d’s promised Realm had come at last, we would expect everyone to be rejoicing. But the story ends with the complete exposure of those in power. They will not sit idly by and have their power or position questioned or in jeopardy. They actually meet with supporters of the occupying Gentile nation. In other words, while they can’t “touch” the unclean man, they go and meet with the “unclean” Gentiles! While they force their requirements of the Sabbath over the community, they go “work” to find a way to kill Jesus, the one who healed the marginalized and exposed their greed for power!
There’s a danger, my friends, in standing up to power. We shouldn’t be näive. But that is the life we’ve been called to. We’re called to serve creation. We’re called to stand with the marginalized and powerless. And we’re called to speak to power. Even if that power is our cherished religious systems. And, as we’ve been seeing, that can be a costly undertaking.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC
* Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.