Reading: Luke 14.1-6
On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely. Just then, in front of him, there was a man who had dropsy. And Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, ‘Is it lawful to cure people on the sabbath, or not?’ But they were silent. So Jesus took him and healed him, and sent him away. Then he said to them, ‘If one of you has a child or an ox that has fallen into a well, will you not immediately pull it out on a sabbath day?’ And they could not reply to this.
Today’s reading presents us with another occasion when Jesus goes to eat at the home of a Pharisee. Not only is Jesus eating with those who have openly criticized him throughout his ministry, but he is, once again, challenging those around the table on the subject of what should and should not be done on the sabbath.
People tend to react in increasingly negative ways when they are nagged. Most of us get to the point when we say: I heard you the first time! or Can we change the subject now? But, the need for those repeated reminders so often lies in our failure to get something done or, as in the case of the Pharisees, to change their ways.
The Pharisees in Jesus’ time were powerful people. Their teaching and practices were the foundation of liturgical and ritualistic Judaism. Their power and influence guided the way the majority of first century Jews lived out their daily lives. This, of course, meant that they would inevitably come into conflict with Jesus.
Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah, was bound to disappoint. Jesus came with a message that contradicted so much of what the Pharisees taught and did. One of those recurring points of contention revolved around the appropriate observance of the sabbath. From the beginning of time, we have been taught, there has been felt a need to follow the example of God himself and rest on the seventh day of each week. The Pharisees developed this into a total ban on any form of ‘work’, including that which might improve or even save a life. Jesus’ new teaching and way of conducting himself was seen as being in direct opposition to Pharisaic law.
Jesus’ primary mission was to the Jewish nation, God’s chosen people, but they were reluctant recipients of the Good News. Jesus came to open their hearts and their minds to the ways of God’s love, but those hearts and minds were bound by the rules of the Pharisees. Is there any wonder that Jesus nagged and nagged at those Pharisees – they had become a barrier between God and his people?
Today’s reading reminds us that Jesus is nagging us as well. Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to love – to love God and to love our neighbours, that is the whole of humanity. When did our words and actions of love last bring light and hope to others?