23One sabbath [Jesus] was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” 25And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? 26He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” 27Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; 28so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.” 3:1Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. 2They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” 4Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.
Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
What happens when someone breaks the law? Of course, sometimes it’s nothing. Sometimes the person is not caught, or suffers no consequences for one reason or another. The officer decides to issue a warning rather than a ticket. The judge dismisses the case. The teacher pretends not to have seen.
Sometimes punishment seems overly severe. A person is whipped with a cane, stoned to death, or hung on a cross…
In today’s gospel reading, the disciples were breaking the law. The law was clear, no work was to be done on the Sabbath, but they decided to pluck heads of grain off their stalks. They were breaking the law, and Jesus, their leader, seemed to be doing nothing about it, so the Pharisees confronted him: Why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?
Jesus first counters by telling that even King David sometimes did what was against the law. Then, though, he basically tells the Pharisees that they have it backwards. They were so intent on obeying the law, they somehow seemed to have forgotten what the law was for.
The Sabbath laws were made to ensure that people were able to take some time off, to rest. We’re not supposed to fill our days with labor 24 hours a day seven days a week fifty-two weeks out of the year.
The Pharisees didn’t get it, though. When Jesus got into the synagogue, there was a man with a withered hand, and they watched him closely to see if he would work on the Sabbath, whether he would heal that withered hand. When he healed the man’s hand, despite their obvious watchfulness, they immediately went out to conspire with others how to destroy him.
If Jesus had avoided that healing, or tried to hide it, what would that have meant?
Maybe it would have meant that some things are more important than God’s love. Some things are more important than God’s mercy. Neither of those things are true.
We know that God was working in Jesus. What we don’t always realize is that God works through us, too. Have you ever stopped to think about that? When we take the time to do something good, that God’s work is being done through us? When we take the time to listen to someone who is lonely, God’s work might be done through us. When we take time to clean up the mess that someone else neglected, or to help someone to alter from a dangerous path, or simply to notice the trees and the flowers and the deer and the sky…
What do we do as God’s people here on this earth? How does what we do work to further people’s experience of God’s love and mercy? Maybe we need to think about that a little more.
Always remember the freedom Jesus gives to us. Our sins—breaking the commandments—are forgiven, but not because Jesus died. They’re forgiven because God loves us. Jesus died because God loves us, and fearful people couldn’t get past their own misinterpretation of the laws, laws that were given to help us love, not only others, but ourselves.
Take some time to love someone today as the commandments teach us to love. Take some time to rest today, and show some of God’s love to others. Take some time to rejoice in God’s love, always, in Jesus’ name. Amen