I finished the Gospels some time ago in my Bible reading plan. And yet, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write about them. I started to notice a pattern, however. I saw on full display the Lord’s caring heart. Jesus sure did a lot of miracles on the Sabbath, something the Jewish leaders were none too pleased about.
In Luke 13, he healed a crippled woman “bent double”. She was delivered from a spirit of infirmity that had plagued her for 18 years. Eighteen years!? Can you imagine? She didn’t’ even *ask* to be healed. Jesus, full of compassion for her suffering and shuffling, healed her. The Pharisees were indignant. They railed at Jesus for doing “work” on the Sabbath. Jesus, undeterred, went on.
In Luke 14, he healed a man of dropsy on the Sabbath. Dropsy, friends, according to the Free Online Dictionary is: 1. (Medicine / Pathology) Pathol a condition characterized by an accumulation of watery fluid in the tissues or in a body cavity.
In other words, he was swollen. His arms and legs were all puffy. Kinda like when you get swollen from water weight while you’re pregnant. I think I had about 20 lbs. of it myself. Having a baby was the best diet ever, as that weight melted off in one week! Anyway…
Jesus, alert to objections, asked the Pharisees and religious law experts, “Is it permitted in the law to heal people on the Sabbath day, or not?” (14:3). Cagey by now, they refused to answer. Jesus touched the sick man and healed him and sent him away. Then, he had some words for them: “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 (14:5).
In John 5, we get to the heart of the matter. A rather lengthy account ensues about Jesus healing a lame man who had waited patiently by the pool of Bethesda for 38 years. So long! Nearly four decades of waiting until the water bubbled up, hoping someone would help him get into the water.
Jesus started by asking him if he would like to get well. The lame man says, Sure, but I have no one to help me get into the water. He didn’t even know who he was talking to. Jesus didn’t mind. He said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” The man was instantly healed. He rolled up his mat and walked away.
Only a few steps later, the Jewish leaders caught up with the now-walking man. “You can’t work on the Sabbath! The law doesn’t allow you to carry that sleeping mat!” (v.9) The man told his story to the leaders and later, after Jesus admonished him to stop sinning or something worse might happen to him, told them it was Jesus who had healed him (v.15). Busted! The leaders started harassing Jesus for healing on the Sabbath, breaking the rules. Jesus replied: “My Father is always working, and so am I” (v.17). This did nothing to appease the leaders. Rather, they tried all the harder to find a way to kill him. He broke the Sabbath and made himself equal with God by calling God his Father.
Whew! I see two things here. First of all, Jesus was trying to get to the true meaning of Sabbath, that rest day Jews were instructed to observe each Friday night from sundown to Saturday sundown. It didn’t mean not working; it meant not striving anymore. You can prepare your heals ahead of time. You can make the time about rest and reflection. But it shouldn’t be a time to sit back and ignore the hurts and trials of others, rather a time to set free and heal. Jesus didn’t even look at who “deserved” to be healed or not; the lame man somehow got himself into his predicament, but received the grace of a free pardon anyhow.
In addition, Jesus appears to be rather blatantly thumbing his nose at the religious leaders. He healed so many times on the Sabbath. It simply was not an accident. And not just little cuts and bruises, minor concussions, broken arms from kids playing too hard. Oh no! Men and women who were sick and bent and crippled for ages and ages. Everyone would know them. Everyone would have seen them around town, years and years, and been used to their cries of “Unclean!” or “Help me!’ Deaf to them, in fact. They were practically invisible. They were non-humans. He wanted the Pharisees to really “see” their world, to notice and have a love for their neighbors.
Jesus saw all of them. He felt their pain, their despair. He wanted to help them. He alleviated their suffering. By doing so, they became visible for the first time in years. Their stories are forever memorialized in the pages of Scripture.
I am moved by this. How many times have we walked by people who are lame, deaf, sick with an “impossible” disease? Do we even think to pray for them anymore? Or are they “invisible” to us, too? What about those whose diseases are less visible, like bitterness, unforgiveness and self-hatred? Let’s tap into that “always working” Father of ours to lessen the suffering of those around us.