Reading: Luke 13: 14-17
Laws are important. Imagine for a moment living in a society that had no laws. It is a frightening image. In reality, all groups, societies, and cultures have laws or norms that they live by. Even a band of thieves has some norms that govern life within that group. Civil societies have many laws that govern behavior and establish order. The purpose of laws is to protect us, to keep us safe, and help the community function. And although the law is the law, there are times we see the law as optional or as flexible. For example, we may walk across a street somewhere other than the crosswalk or we may drive a bit over the speed limit. Other laws seem to be more absolute. Election laws are followed precisely and none would ever condone breaking the laws against child abuse.
For the synagogue ruler in today’s reading and for other religious authorities in Jesus’ day, all of the law was absolute. Keeping every letter of the law is what separated them from and elevated them about the rest of society. Consequently, they held the view that if you break one letter of the law, you break the whole law. Jesus grew up a practicing Jew. He understood and knew the law. He also understood that at times, as was the case today, that God’s law will at times trump man’s laws.
Jesus chooses to heal a woman on the Sabbath. Jesus knew the laws against working on the Sabbath. He also knew that almost everyone there had tended to the animals or the children or … Jesus knew that the religious authorities had so defined the Sabbath through a myriad of laws that keeping all of the laws had superceded actually honoring God on the Sabbath. They had lost sight of the day being about resting in God. The leaders were so caught up in the laws that there was little time left to honor and worship God. The laws had become the focus. Lost was the renewing of the mind, body, and spirit that comes from a whole day dedicated to God.
On the Sabbath Jesus sees a women who needs mind, body, and spirit renewed. She has been captive to her infirmity for many long years. So Jesus frees her. He heals her so that she can fully worship God, which she does immediately. Instead of keeping the whole of the Sabbath law, Jesus instead chooses to honor the Sabbath by following one of God’s ultimate laws – love your neighbor. Healing this woman was not work. It brought honor to God. It restored a child of God to wholeness. May all we do this Sabbath day bring honor and glory to God.