It happened that when He went into the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees on the Sabbath to eat bread, they were watching Him closely. And there in front of Him was a man suffering from edema. And Jesus responded and said to the lawyers and Pharisees, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” But they kept silent. And He took hold of him and healed him, and sent him away. And He said to them, “Which one of you will have a son or an ox fall into a well, and will not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day?” And they could offer no reply to this. Luke 14:1-6
By the first century, the Pharisees and religious lawyers had developed a finely tuned system of traditions designed to help others avoid unholy “work” on the Sabbath – the day God set aside for rest and worship. In this passage, Luke once again depicts Jesus challenging the spirit behind those traditions. Jesus asks whether regulations that limit rescuing people on the Sabbath make sense. The leaders’ silence answers that question.
More than three decades ago my experience as a paralegal introduced me to a myriad of constantly changing local, state and national regulations. In 2011, a book entitled “Three Felonies a Day” revealed that unsuspecting Americans daily transgress obscure government laws containing severe punishments for violation. During the last 18 months we have experienced unprecedented creation of new regulations. Furthermore, we find ourselves surrounded with electronic devices recording many of our movements and conversations with the potential to testify against us about unforeseen mistakes. It’s impossible to keep up.
Sometimes regulations we live with seem burdensome…even ridiculous. But most of the time we understand boundaries (i.e. rules about traffic, food preparation, waste disposal, etc.) are necessary for living in reasonable safety and harmony in a densely populated world.
When a regulation presents an intrusion on godly freedom or an impediment to acts of kindness, Jesus reminds us: “These things I have spoken to you so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
The challenge Jesus presents to the Pharisees and the religious lawyers in Luke 14 gives us permission to question the spirit behind seemingly arbitrary human regulations. Here are questions you might ask when a rule seems a step too far: 1) How is this regulation beneficial to the well-being of my family and those in my community? 2) Does this regulation allow me to act compassionately?
Has a report of an existing, new, or proposed government regulation disturbed you? Go to a quiet place expecting Jesus to show you his perspective. Trust the Holy Spirit to guide you into any further thoughts, words, or action.
By Kathleen Petersen