Lectionary Reflection—21 August 2016
Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. A woman was there who’d been disabled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and couldn’t stand up straight. When he saw her, Jesus called her to him and said, “Woman, you’re set free from your sickness.” He placed his hands on her and she straightened up at once and praised God.
The synagogue leader, incensed that Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, responded, “There are six days during which work’s permitted. Come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath day.”
The Lord replied, “Hypocrites! Don’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from its stall and lead it out to get a drink? Then isn’t it necessary that this woman, a daughter of Abraham, bound by Satan for eighteen long years, be set free from her bondage on the Sabbath day?” When he said these things, all his opponents were put to shame, but all those in the crowd rejoiced at all the extraordinary things he was doing.
October 26, 1881. The time was about 3:00 p.m. The place was the O.K. Corral in Tombstone Arizona. On one side was Billy Claiborne, Billy and Ike Clanton, and Frank and Tom McLaury. On the other side was Doc Holliday and Virgil, Morgan, and Wyatt Earp. The two groups were roughly 6 to 10 feet apart. Town marshall, Virgil Earp, said, “Throw up your hands.” Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton drew and cocked their pistols. Virgil yelled, “Hold on! I don’t mean that!”
Then the shooting began.
One of the most famous gunfights in American history was over in roughly 30 seconds. Everyone was either wounded or dead.
That’s what this story from Luke feels like. Jesus and the synagogue leader seem to be battling each other about how things are supposed to be and who’s supposed to be the true leader. The synagogue leader’s holding on to the old traditions and he feels threatened by Jesus and The Way Jesus represents. And the reason the synagogue leader feels threatened is because, if Jesus and The Way he’s leading takes hold, it means the end of the old traditions, his old way of living, his old way of being. The Old Way will have to die (Matthew 10.39 ; 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24; 17:3; John 12:25). And like most people when we feel threatened, the religious leader lashed out.
“There are six days during which work’s permitted,” the synagogue leader said. “Come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath day.” The woman and Jesus weren’t following the traditional rules. But that’s the way Love works. Love isn’t bound to traditions or rules or any of that. Love knows no bounds (1 Corinthians 13.4-8).
“Hypocrites!” Jesus replied. “Don’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from its stall and lead it out to get a drink? Then isn’t it necessary that this woman, a daughter of Abraham, bound by Satan for eighteen long years, be set free from her bondage on the Sabbath day?”
Love exposes our hypocrisies and inconsistencies. We always seem to see the sins of others so clearly but are blind to our own. The hypocrisy Jesus exposed wasn’t their care for the animals on the Sabbath. It was the way the religious community—and by extension, the rest of the community because of religious tradition—saw the woman as being less than human and even less than the animals. Jesus wasn’t referring to the leading the animal out to get a drink. It was that they showed more kindness, compassion, and love to their animals than they did to their own sister “of Abraham.” But instead of repenting of their sin, they highlighted Jesus’ breaking of their religious tradition.
But that’s exactly the unnatural human condition, isn’t it. When someone points out an area of weakness, instead of humbly acknowledging that weakness, we instantly point out the inconsistencies of the one who exposed us. And for a plethora of examples, one only needs to turn to this political season. When the actions of one candidate are uncovered, instead of that candidate taking responsibility for them, a spotlight is quickly shown on the actions of the opponent.
Too often, I feel, we’re more concerned about who created the planet than we are about taking care of it. We’re more concerned about the Olympics than we are about the cities and countries that host them. We’re more concerned about Ryan Lochte than we are about Omran Daqneesh. And if we have to Google the name of the second and not the first…well…you get my point.
In a letter to his fellow monks at Luxeuil monastery, St. Columbanus (543-615 CE) wrote, “Love has nothing to do with order.” The Way of Jesus is the Way of Love. It doesn’t care about the “rules” of humanity or governments or even religions. Indeed, Love pushes against those rules used to imprison the children of God until they break.
When following The Way of Jesus, do we disrupt social and religious traditions? Do our actions and words provoke uneasiness with the religious establishment? Does the Love of Christ compel us to action that threatens the established religious and societal norms? Or are we following the traditional rules?
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC