“Donkey, Ox, or Woman”

On Sept. 1, Pastor Jim preaches on Luke 13:10-17.

10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11 And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” 13 When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” 15 But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” 17 When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

Every civilized society has rules. A world without rules is chaos. And yet, rules that become more important than people are burdens.

When Moses led the Israelites through the desert he, and God, gave them many rules, which as a group are called the “Torah.” There were 613 rules to be exact. This is why pomegranates were so important to the Hebrew people. Traditionally it was believed that every pomegranate contains 613 seeds. I’ve never counted them, so I can’t really vouch for that fact.

Anyway, even today on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, pomegranates are eaten as a sign of wisdom and repentance. It is an acknowledgment of the importance of rules.

Over the centuries scribes and priests made it their job to interpret the 613 verses—analyzing and adding to them. For example, if we are not supposed to work on the Sabbath, then what exactly is work? Unfortunately, in some cases the interpretation and adaptation of the laws became downright cumbersome. It became nearly impossible not to break the law.

In our Scripture for Sunday, Jesus is reprimanded for healing on the Sabbath. The pastor of the synagogue reminded Jesus of the law against healing or doing any other kind of work on the Sabbath. It’s always a mistake to argue the Bible with Jesus. Quick as a flash he reminded them that compassion compelled them to lead their barnyard animals to water, even on the Sabbath.  Why would they show compassion on a donkey or an ox and not do the same for a human being:  a daughter of Abraham no less?

We’ll think together about this passage on Sunday.