Jack’s passing by, in no hurry. He’s sitting on a two-wheeled something and his feet are going around and around. What’s he doing?
He’s riding a bicycle.
True! But what’s he doing?
He’s going somewhere.
True, but what’s he doing?
(Did I tell you he had by-pass surgery six weeks earlier?)
Ah, he’s exercising rather than just riding.
True. (Did I tell you his cardiologist is his best friend and he was worried that Jack was acting like a “couch-potato”?)
So, he’s taking his concerned friend’s advice and wants to please him.
True again. (Did I tell you he has a wife and children who adore him and are afraid of losing him?)
He’s loving his family and purposing to be around for them.
Right on target and let’s move on.
No act is a single act. And, it’s especially important to remember that what a person purposes to do is an essential element of what he is “doing”. This means a “single” action is many actions.
Moving on: Luke 13:10-17
Bracketing out for now all critical questions I’d like to focus on one central truth and its implications that clearly rises out of the incident (only one truth among many). Do imagine you are actually there; see all this occurring.
- It’s the Sabbath and a Jewish woman turns up at the assembly.
- For eighteen years she’s suffered from some spinal deformation that leaves her bent double (the way slaves often worked in Pharaoh’s day—compare Leviticus 26:13).
- The Lord Jesus heals her,
- The woman praises God,
- The synagogue supervisor angrily objects and reminds everyone of the halachic ruling: if the illness is not immediately life-threatening the sick one is to wait until the Sabbath is over because the Sabbath is to be kept holy.
- Jesus rebukes him and those of his kind for hypocrisy,
- The crowd cheers!
- Jesus lays the poor woman’s pitiable condition at the feet of Satan as he did with all that that narrows, corrupts or hurts and cheats humans. (This point begs to be developed, but not here.)
Look at Him! What’s he doing? There are scores of rich and central truths embedded in what Jesus does on this occasion, some more fundamental than the one I wish to focus on. List some of them for yourself. His every thought, word and deed arises out of the grand narrative of the life of God as it relates to the human family.
He’s healing a poor sick woman. True! What’s He doing? Now you know the drill. He’s revealing God, He’s exhibiting the Reign (Kingdom) of God and so forth. I wish to focus on a single point.
Look at him here!
He’s keeping the Sabbath day holy!
The Jewish teachers/preachers read the same Bible Jesus read but they didn’t read it with the same heart or mind.
“Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six says you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work…For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth…and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” Exodus 20:8-11, NKJV
“Observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy…And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.” Deuteronomy 5:12-15, NKJV
Sensitive Jews asked a legitimate question when they asked, “How may I obey this command? What constitutes ‘work’?”
But it isn’t the only good question that may be asked. That question focuses on response to the commandment and particularly on, “What constitutes ‘work’?”
The fundamental questions include, “What God gave such a command and why?” The texts above tell us some truths about that God—He is the Creator of all things and the divine Provider of all that humans need, enabling them to rejoice; when He did what He did He did not need to do any more and He sat down and enjoyed looking at it. (I need hardly say that He continues to sustain all things—compare John 5:27.) He is also the Supreme Deliverer who rescued Israel from “the house of bondage.” See Exodus 13:14 and nine other texts I quickly counted where the phrase is used.
The Exodus 20 & Deuteronomy texts (among others) are the gospel that is heralded in the call to, “Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.”
Jesus was never opposed to obedience but in word and deed he ceaselessly spoke of “gospel obedience”. Compare Romans 1:5; 16:26, where the subjective genitive probably stresses the faith nature of obedience that is called for. It is obedience that arises “from” faith and the faith here is faith in Jesus Christ.
The Exodus & Deuteronomy texts called for a response to gospel truth—truth about the God who uttered the commands and made them law. Please read them again and note “why” God gave them. The rationale behind them focuses on God and not the obedient one and the obedient one is called to respond to the gospel in the command. “Do this because of who and what I am and what I have done.”
Mere obedience to the command as a command inevitably to legalism.
This bound woman that Jesus set free is a daughter of Abraham and that means she is a daughter of promise, a daughter of blessing. She has been bound by Satan; does she look like a daughter of Abraham. A daughter of promise? Does she look like someone who exhibits the meaning of Sabbath?
She looks very like the personification of blessed Israel who is yet bound and enslaved who then God via Jesus set free. Again, wounded the dragon, the serpent.
(I’m bracketing out any mythological borrowing by the psalmists or prophets but believe that the Dragon, the Serpent and Rahab are all used to refer back to the day when God freed, loosed captive Israel. Compare Psalm 74:1-17 where a burdened Israelite pleads for God to deliver them and bring them home as he had done when he destroyed Egypt and brought them across the Jordan. See also Isaiah 51:9-11 for the same thing and where God goes on and speaks of himself as creator as well as redeemer.)
In Jesus God is exhibiting the very meaning of the Sabbath in dealing with this daughter of Abraham, this enslaved Israelite. Note Exodus 1:1-11 where the blessed children of Abraham are cursed by the satanic Pharaoh and then 2:23-25 where God saw Israel’s troubled life “and acknowledged them” (supplying “them” though the text is objectless)—“and God knew…” He saw their trouble, knew they were Israelites (1:1), children of Abraham and He remembered His covenant with Abraham. Jesus looks at this child of Abraham, bound by the Serpent and set her free.
The synagogue said she should wait for healing.
Jesus said she had waited long enough!
The synagogue ruler said freedom could wait.
Jesus said it had been too long in coming now that He was here.
The synagogue ruler said freeing an Israelite on the Sabbath say was wrong
Jesus said there was no better day on which to free an Israelite on because that was precisely what keeping the Sabbath was all about!
The ruler of the synagogue would delay freedom as Pharaoh did.
Jesus would set her free immediately.
The ruler of the synagogue spoke in hypocritical anger and the freed woman spoke in praise of God.
The Holy Sabbath was a day for celebration and the people cheered as the woman shouted praise.
Is a Lord’s Day gathering to celebrate and praise or is it a funeral? Is it a gathering to narrow and bind or to enrich and set free? Is it to learn we must respond or is it to get to know the One to whom we are to respond and therefore to learn what true and full response would look like and sound like?
(Holy One, deliver us from religious lecturing and give us those who will faithfully confront us with your Holy Self in all your glory in the Lord Jesus so that in looking steadfastly at Him with unveiled hearts we might find ourselves being transformed and all aglow. This petition in Jesus Christ.)