“They Were Watching Him Closely”
“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. 2Just then, in front of him, there was a man who had dropsy. 3And Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, “Is it lawful to cure people on the sabbath, or not?” 4But they were silent. So Jesus took him and healed him, and sent him away. 5Then 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?” 6And they could not reply to this. (NRSV)
ast Sunday our Lectionary had us deal with the incident in Jesus’ life when he healed a woman, on the sabbath, who had been crippled for eighteen years. The leader of the temple was indignant because Jesus had healed her on a holy day when they were to do absolutely no labor, even the healing of a desperate woman. My sermon pointed out that Jesus healed her, Anyway, In defiance of the Hebrew religious law against doing any kind of work on the Sabbath. Obviously their anger with Jesus was not that he healed the woman on the Sabbath, but that he was continuing to demonstrate messianic signals that had drawn a large following of people.
Today’s story, in the unfolding story of Jesus’ life which was rapidly coming to his death upon the Cross, points out how some who were concerned about his recent statements “were watching him closely.” Their plan was to entrap him into openly breaking the religious law again. Their motive was not finding the will of God, but ending the life of Jesus who varied from their expectations of exactly how a Rabbi should conduct himself.
Jesus’ response to them was again to openly break their narrow interpretation of the sabbath law. Jesus was on a mission that guided his life and actions. He was fulfilling God’s plan for his life that would lead to the Cross of Atonement. Jesus saw the accusations against him as being a necessary prelude to his sacrifice for our sins. If he had joined the Rabbinical culture he would have never been Crucified and society as we know it would not exist. Jesus’ plan was one and the same with God’s plan to make a remedy for the sickness of humanity. This is why Jesus went ahead and healed the man who was sick who had come to him in plain view of everyone present. Then Jesus intentionally provoked the Pharisees further by asking them if their ox was in a ditch on the Sabbath day, would they do work by pulling the helpless ox up out of the ditch. Of course he has won the argument for an expensive Ox could possibly die if left stuck overnight in a ditch. Jesus was fulfilling God’s plan for his life by moving his followers toward Jerusalem and the Cross.
Jesus’ divine destiny was unique and certainly none of us are called to intentionally provoke persons in order to inflame. We are to obey the laws of our democracy when they do not conflict with Christian principles.
Labor Day in our United States and in Canada is a Monday set aside to recognize the great freedom we have to labor; to work and build up our nation while making a living. We are fortunate to live in a time and place where we can follow God’s plan for our life, which includes the divine call to work. During Labor Day weekend we will be reminded in many ways, through the media of this natural process of daily life and we will be reminded of our American lifestyle. This encourages us to commit ourselves to what we feel is a part of God’s plan for our living of the Christian life.
And these “watchers,” who were trying to catch Jesus in even some small infraction of their oppressive legal system, perhaps caught a glimmer of the hope that someday society would enjoy the right to worship in freedom, and thus live in a free nation built upon biblical principles. Our laws and customs at least give the incentive to live our lives in the way that Christ calls us to live.
But far beyond what these few “Watchers” could envision, there would come a time very soon when every person in the world would have an opportunity to be redeemed in Christ. And it is in the theme of our Sacrifice Meal, Our Holy Communion, the Vicarious Atonement, that he allows us to partake of the body and blood of the sacrificial Lamb that takes away the sins of the world. Has he been allowed to take away your sin?
sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor