You may have noticed by now that there seems to be a pattern by Jesus to heal on the Sabbath. I was talking with a gentleman in my congregation the other day, and he even noted,”Really?,” next to a passage where Jesus heals on the Sabbath…AGAIN! The point being, it infuriated the Pharisees and the Sadducees that Jesus would “work” on the Sabbath.
7 Sabbath Miracles
There are seven stories in the Gospels of Jesus healing on the Sabbath:
- Jesus sends a demon out of a man (Mark 1:21-28)
- Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law (Mark 1:29-31)
- Jesus heals a lame man by Bethesda Pool (John 5:1-18)
- Jesus heals a man with a shriveled hand (Mark 3:1-6)
- Jesus restores a crippled woman (Luke 13:10-17)
- Jesus heals a man with dropsy (Luke 14:1-6)
- Jesus heals a man born blind (John 9:1-16)
So what’s the deal? Is Jesus just really bad at keeping track of his days, or is there something more going on? There’s always something more going on with Jesus, he’s trying to point out a truth.
If you go back and look at God’s original law in Exodus 20:10-11, it reads:
10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.
Unfortunately over time the Pharisees began creating addendums to this law by saying, “You can not heal on the Sabbath, because that is work.” So in our reading from today, Jesus is about to challenge a synagogue leader on his understanding and definition of work.
Luke 13:15-16 (NLT) 15 But the Lord replied, “You hypocrites! Each of you works on the Sabbath day! Don’t you untie your ox or your donkey from its stall on the Sabbath and lead it out for water? 16 This dear woman, a daughter of Abraham, has been held in bondage by Satan for eighteen years. Isn’t it right that she be released, even on the Sabbath?”
17 This shamed his enemies, but all the people rejoiced at the wonderful things he did.
Jesus deemed the religious leaders hypocrites because they were more willing to help animals than people on the Sabbath. Think about it, what “work” did Jesus do? He literally touched the woman, that’s it. The reality is, the Pharisees and Sadducees hid behind their laws instead of accepting the responsibility in front of them. If you’re tired of meeting with needy, helpless people, who bother you on the Sabbath, make a law that says, “Sorry, can’t help you, come back tomorrow…oh, and God said, “Don’t work on the Sabbath. It’s his rule, not mine.”
Let’s not Fall Into the Same Trap
My caution for us today is to be careful not to fall into the same trap. We need to be careful not to add our own human rules to our worship on Sunday. Human rules like dress codes, behavior codes, and even language codes can make a church feel like what Jesus was fighting against.
We need to allow compassion to be our guide and for God, not man, to remove the barriers for people to find his love. Remember what Jesus taught in Mark 2:27-28 (NLT) Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!”