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Debates about the Sabbath

Gospel Reading: Lk 6:6-11
On a certain Sabbath Jesus went into the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees watched him closely to see if he would cure on the Sabbath so that they might discover a reason to accuse him. But he realized their intentions and said to the man with the withered hand, “Come up and stand before us.” And he rose and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” Looking around at them all, he then said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so and his hand was restored. But they became enraged and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.

While teaching in a synagogue, Jesus sees a person with a shriveled right hand and takes the initiative to heal him.

Such an injury prevents the man from pursuing a vocation. In other words, while not in mortal danger, the man is limited in what he can do. The scribes and the Pharisees watch Jesus. The Greek word used really means “to spy.” They want to level a charge against Jesus. In the Jewish view, a person who is not in mortal danger can wait to be healed.

“Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” Jesus’ question has an ironic edge, because he is looking at the Sabbath from a relational angle. In fact, the way he pursues the question almost suggests that a failure to act here would be doing evil. The leadership, on the other hand, is plotting evil. The action becomes a test. Will God allow the healing? Will he vindicate Jesus and reveal the answer to Jesus’ question? Jesus looks at everyone and acts. He asks the man to stretch out his hand, and the man gets healed. Rather than rejoicing, the scribes and the Pharisees get angry to the point of pathological anger.

Refusing to accept the evidence Jesus lays before them, they reveal hardness of heart and begin to plot against Jesus.

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Jesus is mighty in words and deeds. His deeds always reveal the “law of love” at work.

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SOURCE: “366 Days with the Lord,” ST PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: publishing@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.