The Good Law of Jesus

Monday, September 10, 2012 by Food for Thought

FirstReading: 1 Cor 5:1-8
Psalm: Ps 5:5-6, 7, 12
Gospel: Lk 6:6-11

Why did the Pharisees and the scribes want to be enemies of Jesus? One of the reasons is that Jesus by his behavior really provoked them, really got under their skin. Look at today’s Gospel. The Pharisees are watching Jesus carefully, trying to catch him cure someone on the Sabbath. Brazenly Jesus confronts them. “Which is legal,” he asks them, “which illegal on the Sabbath, to do good, that is, to cure a person, or to do evil, that is, to withhold a cure?”

The Pharisees don’t answer – they can’t. Jesus has them put them in a predicament. They either agree with Jesus’ way of thinking, or they disagree and make themselves look foolish in the peoples’ eyes. Jesus provides the answer himself: “Stretch out your hand,” he says to a man with a withered arm. The man obeys, his arm restored to full health and this on the Sabbath.

In other words, Jesus challenged the power elite of Israel, directly, on their own turf, in the synagogue. He challenged them publicly and unambiguously, performing with blatant openness the very act they had wanted to catch him doing. Why did Jesus do this? Because the Sabbath
was given to men and women for their own good, and yet the Pharisees forbade that good be done on it.

When the law exists for the people rather than people for the law; when law is so structured that it no longer serves the good of citizens; when it is manipulated, controlled by the very few; when it imposes unconscionable burdens on the majority; when it perpetuates and institutionalizes poverty and oppression, the nation requires activists who will unmask the evil and confront the evil-doers – activists whose patron saint, of course, is Jesus of Nazareth.