The Rev’d Penny Body
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Reflection 6th September 2021
The Gospel – Luke 6.6-11
6 On another sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. 7The scribes and the Pharisees watched him to see whether he would cure on the sabbath, so that they might find an accusation against him. 8Even though he knew what they were thinking, he said to the man who had the withered hand, ‘Come and stand here.’ He got up and stood there. 9Then Jesus said to them, ‘I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?’ 10After looking around at all of them, he said to him, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He did so, and his hand was restored. 11But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.
The Scribes and Pharisees had been looking for an excuse to accuse Jesus – to catch him out – so they were watching to see if he would heal on the Sabbath.
There is a man present with a withered hand. When one of your hands doesn’t work as it should so many things in daily life become really difficult, if not impossible. Just getting dressed in the morning can be a challenge – and cooking, eating, anything that involves holding or manipulating an object. It might sound like a small part of the body – but the hand is a pretty important one. The man’s working options and his ability to care for his family if he had one – or find a wife if he hadn’t – would have been limited. He may even have been shunned in society because of his disability – his whole life would have been severely impacted.
Jesus knew what the Pharisees and Scribes were thinking and he asked the man to stand before him. I think it would have taken quite a bit of courage for the man to stand in front of everyone as Jesus called him.
Then Jesus asked the question “Is it lawful to do good or harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to destroy it” – and after looking around at them, he asked the man to stretch out his hand and it was restored.
The Sabbath was made for man – not man for the Sabbath we read. The Sabbath is a gift to us from God, who himself rested on the seventh day. A gift of a day to restore our senses and rest our bodies. To enable life to flourish.
Restoring the man’s hand to health was in so many ways restoring the man to fullness of life. Leaving the man in his condition would have condemned him to his continuing hard existence. And that was the difference between Jesus and the Pharisees and Scribes – Jesus came to heal and bring life – the teachers of the law were seeking to destroy – both Jesus – and by strict application of their law – the man’s life. As Jesus said in our gospel reading a week or so ago in another discussion about the law, quoting from the prophet Isaiah “They honour me with their lips but their hearts are far from me”.
God’s law of love is always about life. It is about encouraging, building up, growing together, healing, freedom, flourishing and so much more – and by its fruit we will know it. Amen.
The Collect for the 14th Sunday after Trinity
whose only Son has opened for us
a new and living way into your presence:
give us pure hearts and steadfast wills
to worship you in spirit and in truth;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen