Healing a Woman
10One Sabbath, Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, 11and a woman was there who had been crippled by an evil spirit for 18 years. She was completely bent over and could not straighten up. 12When Jesus saw the woman, he called her over and said, “You are now well.” 13He placed his hands on her, and at once she stood up straight and praised God.
14 The man in charge of the synagogue was angry because Jesus had healed someone on the Sabbath. So he said to the people, “Each week has six days when we can work. Come and be healed on one of those days, but not on the Sabbath.”
15The Lord replied, “Are you trying to fool someone? Won't any one of you untie your ox or donkey and lead it out to drink on a Sabbath? 16This woman belongs to the family of Abraham, but Satan has kept her bound for 18 years. Isn't it right to set her free on the Sabbath?” 17Jesus' words made his enemies ashamed. But everyone else in the crowd was happy about the wonderful things he was doing.
“Aha! We’ve caught him, breaking the law.” The law – everything in Leviticus and Deuteronomy – says that you should not work on the Sabbath. In the Ten Commandments God specifies that the seventh day belongs to the Lord and that means that both Jew and Gentile (and even animals!) should worship and rest. That means no work. It’s built into the way the world has been made (Genesis 2:1-3; Exodus 20:8-11).
When the Jews came back from exile and rebuilt the Temple in the C5th B.C., the scribes (who were responsible for the keeping of the law) elaborated on the commandment in Exodus. Their intention was to build a fence around the law, so that no one would break it accidentally. So they spelled out all kinds of work, agricultural, domestic, etc. that were prohibited by this commandment. Only necessary work was permitted.
So, Jesus has broken the commandment and is guilty. The woman should have waited until Monday morning, (so to speak).
“You hypocrites”, says Jesus, “How come it’s all right for you to water your animals on the Sabbath, and not all right for me to heal one of your own family?”
Jesus was not only kind and loving. He was also sharp. He knew what was going on in people’s minds, and, like a good chess player, could see several moves ahead. The crowds loved it.
We love it too when he beats the Pharisees at their game of keeping the law. But I wonder if we aren’t just as guilty, on the other side. Yes, we agree with Jesus that compassion takes precedence over meticulous Sabbath keeping. But he never said we could do anything we like on Sunday. What do you do with the commandment to worship and rest?
Jesus, forgive me if I’ve played fast and loose with your example here. Help me to honour you in the way I spend Sundays. Teach me how to work hard the other six days so that I have one day a week for rest and for you – and for showing kindness to other people.