On Tuesday, the passage for Isaiah emphasised strongly the importance of the Sabbath as a way of becoming a nation pleasing to God, and today’s reading adds something to that: the Sabbath is not just a law to be kept but is more a way of life, an attitude to life.
The word ‘indignant’ caught my eye in the text, and in that description we can almost see the synagogue leader puffing out his chest, seemingly sure of his ground, face flushed at this infraction of the law. What do you think was going on for him — did he feel threatened, his beliefs offended, or his authority challenged, or was he afraid for his reputation? Here we have the crux of the Gospel message: doing the loving thing is always the way forward, even though it may be hard, and we can’t do it by effort of our will, we have to ‘let go and let God’.
To quote Richard Foster (in ‘Celebration of Discipline'): “The will has the same deficiency as the law - it can deal only with externals.” To develop a sabbath way of life, needs the inner journey of transformation.
Take some time today to look back over the last week — in the news, in meetings, in your workplace, in the church — and look at it with the eyes of love. Whether you are the indignant one or one of the bystanders, the poor woman or a supporter of Jesus, the questions remains the same: what would be the loving thing to do? Or, what would grace look like in that situation?
“May the sacredness of your work
Bring healing, light and renewal
To those who work with you
And to those who see
And receive your work” (John O'Donohue, from 'Anam Cara’)
10-13 He was teaching in one of the meeting places on the Sabbath. There was a woman present, so twisted and bent over with arthritis that she couldn’t even look up. She had been afflicted with this for eighteen years. When Jesus saw her, he called her over. “Woman, you’re free!” He laid hands on her and suddenly she was standing straight and tall, giving glory to God.
14 The meeting-place president, furious because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the congregation, “Six days have been defined as work days. Come on one of the six if you want to be healed, but not on the seventh, the Sabbath.”
15-16 But Jesus shot back, “You frauds! Each Sabbath every one of you regularly unties your cow or donkey from its stall, leads it out for water, and thinks nothing of it. So why isn’t it all right for me to untie this daughter of Abraham and lead her from the stall where Satan has had her tied these eighteen years?”
17 When he put it that way, his critics were left looking quite silly and red-faced. The congregation was delighted and cheered him on.