More on the Sabbath Controversy
There are two issues in today’s gospel each coming from a different perspective. The scribes and the Pharisees are keeping a close eye on Jesus to see whether he is going to heal (work) on the Sabbath and, true to form, Jesus does not disappoint. Jesus makes a point of doing a very public healing of a man with a withered hand. For the Pharisees the issue is breaking the law of the Sabbath rest.
For Jesus the Sabbath was not the issue. For Jesus the issue was whether someone in need deserved a helping hand even if it went against “policy”. The other morning two men came to my back door and asked for a cup of coffee on a cold winter day. “Sorry”, I said, “its only 7:30, we don’t serve coffee at the back door until 9:00”. That is our policy. Sometimes policy and rules get in the way of helping someone in need.
To be fair to the Pharisees, the law of the Sabbath rest was a lot more than just a policy, it was even more than a law. It really was a way of life that, when understood well, was meant to bring one’s spirit closer to God. Also the curing of the man’s withered hand was not essential. A healing the next day would have been just as advantageous.
In healing on the Sabbath, however, Jesus showed that sometimes we have to be willing to set aside our comfortable patterns of behaviour and ritual. This can be scary because without our familiar patterns we are left very vulnerable and we can’t be sure of what might happen next. Jesus certainly found this out as he raised the ire of those in authority as he stretched the boundaries of law with his ministry.
In our time many of us don’t consider the Sabbath (for Christians it is Sunday) to be a day unlike any other. For those who go to Church we might do our “obligation” and then stop and pick up some milk on the way home before we get on with our yard work which has been neglected during the busy week. If this sounds like you, then maybe it would pay to reflect on the value of a Sabbath rest. If it doesn’t work for you on Sunday, where in your hectic life do you give your body a chance to rest and your soul a chance to recharge? But Jesus also invites us to consider the value of helping one in need even at personal cost. Even if it might interfere with personal time set aside.
Finding balance in our life is not always an easy task we must work, rest, play and help others. May God help us with his grace.