Today’s story in Luke is another radical example of Jesus as lawbreaker, but more so, also being over and above the law.
Jesus breaks one of the Ten Commandments today, as the Jews of the time see it. He does so by raising serious questions as to what it means to “keep the Sabbath.” What do Scriptures demand of us? What is the Holy Spirit, through the life of Christ, leading us to in terms of Sabbath-keeping?
In the first vignette, the disciples pluck grain and eat on the Sabbath. When questioned, Jesus declares, “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” This is an extraordinary claim. The Son of Man? As in, the Messiah? “Aren’t you full of yourself, mister,” the Pharisees must have been thinking.
Have you read any C.S. Lewis books? I love Lewis’ book Mere Christianity, a simple overview of Christianity. There is also a common thread that runs throughout. Lewis describes the Christian walk as the “shocking alternative.” He declares that there is no middle ground for the Christian. Jesus comes to earth and does more than perform miracles. He is more than a nice guy. He is someone who declares himself as God’s son, as the Messiah, and as the Light of the World. That being the case, there is no middle ground. Either he is the Messiah, as he claims, or he is a nut-case. This is the dilemma. You can’t just think he was a nice prophet who was misunderstood. You either believe he is the Son of Man, or a crackpot.
This impact can be seen in our passage today.
The second vignette we have today is a more radical breaking of the Sabbath. Jesus heals a man with a withered hand. He then asks the crowd, knowing what they were thinking, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?”
We believe Jesus to be the Messiah. He is God. So he has every right to break the rules that he himself made. In other places he re-frames some rules – declaring that the Sabbath is made for people, not people for the Sabbath.
At the end of the day, we encounter a savior who is more than just a lawbreaker – he is a healer, a caregiver, and a person who stands over the Sabbath as one who is here to teach us what love and caring really look like.
He showered this world with love – and not just in healing withered hands, but in dying on a cross so that we all may taste life, taste freedom, and taste love in a fresh new way. It is ironic, but it is true.
This is our quest – to come to know this God/man who demands of us so much, and who has given so much as well.