In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” Verse 17 (NIV)
My love for football came when I was in high school. There were a group of us from the high school team that got together on the weekends and played flag football for fun and exercise. One Sunday afternoon I came home from playing flag football and my parents grounded me because I was playing on Sunday. My argument was that I was not working, I was playing and there “is nothing against playing on Sunday in the Bible.” Maybe I got grounded for my attitude – in any case I was grounded, and I blamed the Bible.
In our text for today Jesus finds himself in trouble with the religious leaders for healing on the Sabbath. They saw it as “working” on the Sabbath, the day on which people were commanded to rest from all kinds of work. The Sabbath was meant to be a good gift to God’s people. In Mark 2:27 we read, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. But unfortunately, that sense was lost under a mountain of rules against activities that counted as “work.” For example, the man who is healed in this story gets in trouble just for carrying his mat.
When Jesus heals on the Sabbath, the religious leaders get angry because their rules have become more important to them than love for their neighbor. Here Jesus reminds us that mercy is more important to God than rigid legalism. Jesus has an opportunity to heal, and he takes it because the Father is always working to build his kingdom, regardless of what day of the week it is. He also heals the man because it was just the right moral thing to do and people are always more important than man made rules.
This challenges us today to consider any “rules” we follow that may limit our ability to serve God or to love those who God puts in our path. Are there places we are unwilling to go, people we are unwilling to help, or times when we make ourselves unavailable because of arbitrary rules we have put in place. If so, are we putting something in the way of showing God’s love and care for his creation?
Father, help me to know the difference between your good commands and my own interpretation that often overlooks the opportunity to love people who need a touch from you. Amen.