The leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the Sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, "There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the Sabbath day." But the Lord answered him and said Ö "And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day?" Luke 13:14-16
There are several passages in the gospels that report Jesusí Sabbath practice and his exercise of ministry in the care of men and women who were ill, who were broken. Often the passages are presented in defence of Jesusí disregard for the Sabbath and his radical challenge of the established order as a herald of the new era, now begun.
We show our misunderstanding of the roots of our faith and dishonour Jesusí motivation when we hold such a position. It is vitally important that we understand clearly that the Sabbath observance is foundational for the sons and daughters of Abraham. And that certainly included Jesus.
In recent days we have become sensitive to the Sabbath and particularly with the opening of grocery stores that will remain open for business on Sundays until after Christmas. "It just isnít right," we say, "to do things on the Sabbath when there are others days for such activity!" We echo the words of the leader of the synagogue who challenged Jesus in the gospel passage from Luke.
We operate our lives by the "oughts" that drive us. More precisely, we operate the lives of others by the "oughts" that drive us. When the leader of the faith community saw what Jesus had done, he was quick to point out that the law had been transgressed and that Jesus ought not to have healed the woman on the Sabbath. There were, after all, six other days when he could have restored her to healthÖ when he should have restored her to health!
Letís be clear about one thing: Jesus did not dishonour the Sabbath. And yes, he might have healed the woman any one of the others days of the week. But he didnít. And we have to reflect on why that might be so. What do we discover about the nature of God exposed by Jesusí untimely intervention?
We discover how God rests. How God rests? Why, yes! And how he purposes to redeem his creative activity.
The peace of God, the shalom of God, speaks of the capacity of God to infuse our lives, indeed the whole of his creation, with a sense of completion, wholeness and well-being reflecting his purpose.
The womanís need diminishes the otherwise wholeness of Godís activity.
Our concern for the Sabbath seems shallow when challenged by Jesusí words. And our Sabbath day concern over appropriate activity seems trivial in the light of Jesusí redemptive activity. We soon learn that our self-righteous abstention from commercial activity is no justification for our abdication of what Jesus calls us to emulate as followers of the Way.
Following Jesusí example, what might we undertake, strengthened by the grace of the Sacrament, in bringing the reality of the rest of God, the shalom of God to sons and daughters of Abraham in need of restoration and peace? The Sabbath Day then canít help but become a day of celebration!
Copyright © 1998 James T. Irvine