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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Today’s Reading | Luke 6:1–19

One sabbath while Jesus was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked some heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands, and ate them. But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” Jesus answered, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and gave some to his companions?” Then he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.” On another sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees watched him to see whether he would cure on the sabbath, so that they might find an accusation against him. Even though he knew what they were thinking, he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come and stand here.” He got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?” After looking around at all of them, he said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was restored. But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.

Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot, and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them. (NRSV)

Jesus was in conflict with religious leadership over practices that were central to Jewish piety and to their identity as God’s people. These two controversy stories about the sabbath come on the heels of two stories about Jesus’ eating habits. First, the disciples, in plucking and rubbing grain, were harvesting and threshing, both regarded as forbidden work on the sabbath. Second, Jesus healed the withered hand of a man, when curing was considered unlawful on the sabbath.

In both cases Jesus courageously claimed a teachable moment. He lifted up a precedent when a human need—hunger—made a claim prior to that of sacred ritual. He proclaimed himself Lord of the sabbath: it is Jesus’ words and actions that determine when, where, and how sabbath laws apply. He used the law for good. Though it was risky, knowing others were closely watching in order to find grounds to accuse him, Jesus intentionally cured a man. He posed the issue as to make inactivity before a human need no real option: you must choose either to act to save life or refuse to act, which destroys it. There is no wrong day to help another.

Jesus could have played it safe and healed the man the next day. But his reason for being was to reveal to us God’s love and how to love one another. His integrity led him always to show that to truly honor and obey God—on the sabbath or anytime —one does that which nurtures and saves life.

God of love, show me when I play it safe and thus diminish my faithfulness to you. Give me courage to stand up for what is good and to act on behalf of others, even when it challenges the norm. Amen.

Written by Victoria G. Curtiss, Associate Pastor for Mission

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