In the Old Testament the sabbath was the Lord’s Day, a day of resting in the Lord. It was a day centered on renewing one’s relationship with God. Work was specifically not allowed. There are 39 types of activities prohibited on the sabbath by the Old Testament. The legal definition of work became important to avoid breaking the prohibition. Among the prohibited activities we find writing, reaping, planting, cooking, and carrying. There are exact definitions of each activity. For example, the prohibition of cooking includes: all forms of cooking and baking, boiling water, and applying heat to non-food substances such as using fire to melt metals or wax or firing ceramics.
With that as a background, we understand that when Jesus encounters a sick man at the Pharisee’s home on the Sabbath, his first question to the religious leaders and Pharisees is not unusual. Is healing considered work? Does the law of the Sabbath allow for healing? The Pharisees were trapped in their rigid, legal relationship with God and others could not answer. Their rigid, legal religiosity blocked the action of God’s love, healing, compassion, and empathy in their life and the life of their communities. It even prevented them from recognizing Jesus as the Lord of the Sabbath.
After the healing, Jesus asks a second question about a child or animal trapped on the Sabbath. Is a rescue effort considered work? Again, the Pharisees were so trapped in their rigid, legal relationship with God and others that they could not answer. Their rigid, legal religiosity blocks their own common sense.
Jesus is the living presence of God’s love, compassion, healing, and empathy for all of us in our daily lives. Jesus comes looking for a holiness that establishes a deep relationship with God and our neighbors. He desires to renew or heal that relationship within each of us.
How often do we respond to life’s challenges with religious rigidity and a lack of common sense? How are we blocking the action of the love a God in our lives and the lives of others?