Luke 14:1-6 NLT
“One Sabbath day Jesus went to eat dinner in the home of a leader of the Pharisees, and the people were watching him closely. There was a man there whose arms and legs were swollen. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in religious law, “Is it permitted in the law to heal people on the Sabbath day, or not?” When they refused to answer, Jesus touched the sick man and healed him and sent him away. Then he turned to them and said, “Which of you doesn’t work on the Sabbath? If your son or your cow falls into a pit, don’t you rush to get him out?” Again they could not answer.”
It’s really important that we keep our hearts from being so cold that we minister from a set of rules instead of responding in love to the suffering around us. This is exactly what Jesus was addressing in asking the Pharisee and religious leaders this question.
This man was clearly suffering. Jesus was known to have the ability to heal him. The Pharisee had made the sabbath, which was established by God as a way for mankind to rest in intimacy with Him, a rule and a standard to judge and criticize people who couldn’t live up to the bar they set.
They had become so religious in their interpretation of the Scriptures, that in their view it would be better that this man suffer in observation of the rules and standards of their version of sabbath, then for Jesus to miraculously heal Him. To them the healing would have violated the rules. Jesus knew better. He knew that alleviating suffering in this man’s life would draw Him closer to God, even if it broke the man made rules of the sabbath.
This healing is challenging for me, because unlike other instances of healing in the gospel, Jesus makes no call for the man to repent or turn from his sin. He simply heals him and sends him away. No strings attached. Jesus sees suffering and ends the suffering with nothing else to be required. I think this is one of those moments where Jesus is communicating through his actions more than His words. I think He is challenging the cold, critical hearts of His people. Why do we get so dogmatic about rules in such a way that we would let people suffer in order to keep them. Why do we allow our hearts to pervert God's words and law in a way where we actually separate people from His presence. I know what the counter argument to this would be. “John, rules are meant to protect and serve people ''. To this I fully agree. Though oftentimes we forget the meaning behind the rules and commands we know and then apply them in a way that defeats their intended purpose. This is exactly what the Pharisee had accomplished and achieved in their keeping of the sabbath. There is only one way I know that we can protect our hearts from this sort of deception. Jesus speaks about having empathy toward the man he is about to heal. He simply asks the Pharisee what if this was your suffering. Wouldn’t you want relief even if it meant breaking the rules. The sort of compassion where we ask ourselves what if this suffering belonged to us.
I want to be a follower of Jesus that is quicker to step in to alleviate suffering in others, then I am to call out and critique those who can’t live up to a certain set of standards. I want to allow God's words and commands to make me more empathetic toward the suffering of others. I think this approach as demonstrated by Jesus, will make us all better builders of God’s Kingdom in our day to day lives.