St Luke 6: 6 – 11 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.
Reflection A woman comes into the church service for help. She has fallen over in the street. Surely we wouldn’t say: “Sorry, but we are too busy worshipping God. You have to go away. Now if it had been a Monday…”
The scribes and Pharisees were in the synagogue, not for worship but in vengeful pursuit of Jesus who had infuriated them when his hungry disciples gathered grain to eat on the holy day. How dare he flout their Sabbath ban and claim that the “Son of Man” is master of the Sabbath!
In the synagogue to learn from the scriptures was a man with a withered hand. He did not ask for help but caught the eye of the teacher. Jesus directly confronted the law as viewed by the Pharisees, asking: “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?” There was no answer forthcoming, so he performed a miracle of healing.
The Pharisees were left frothing at the mouth and determined to bring down this upstart. They couldn’t care less about the man’s deformity, the discomforts he had suffered or his delight in being “whole” again. They could not admit that healing was more important than restrictive rules.
Of course we would come to the aid of the injured woman coming into church. But are we always so forthcoming, and in all circumstances, whether as a church community or as Christian individuals?
Some regulations and duties are necessary for the smooth running of a healthy society, but there are times when action in situations of need overrides our other priorities. Compassion comes first. And, if in doubt, just think of the joy of the man in the synagogue when Jesus, whose very life was on the line, broke the law to help him.
Prayer Dear God, grant us the humility to recognize our need for rules, the wisdom to know when life calls us to move beyond the ordinary rules, and the courage to break them when such occasions arise. In Jesus’ name, Amen.