Monday, October 24, 2016

Set Free

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.  Ephesians 5:8

“Does not each one of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger and lead it out for watering? This daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound for eighteen years now, ought she not to have been set free on the sabbath day from this bondage?”  Luke 13:15B-16

Blessed is the man who does not walk
in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the way of sinners,
nor sit in company with scoffers.
Rather, the law of the LORD* is his joy;
and on his law, he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted near streams of water,
that yields its fruit in season;
Its leaves never wither;
whatever he does prospers. Psalm 1:1-3

In diplomacy, there is a concept called “saving face.”  While one might prevail in battle, negotiations or another conflict with another party or country, at the end of the day, the “losing” party is offered some concession so they do not go away empty handed. To save face means to keep your reputation and the respect of other people.

Jesus gives no face-saving leeway in the total defeat of the Pharisees on this Sabbath.  He so roundly beats them based upon customs and law, that they are humiliated and begin in earnest to plot against Jesus.

People like the Pharisees who are involved in a conflict and secretly know they are wrong will often not admit that they are wrong because they don’t want to admit they made a mistake. They, therefore, continue the conflict, just to avoid the embarrassment of looking bad.  To avoid this problem, we sometimes allow our opponents to make concessions gracefully, without having to admit that they made a mistake or backed down. Not Jesus.

Jesus has just witnessed the selfish prayer of the Pharisee in the temple who gloated, “God, I am so much better than these other people.  Look at all the good I do with my fasting and prayer.”  From this egotistical center, Jesus had to teach a strong lesson that God is the center, not the self.  Maybe that is one reason why Jesus felt it was so important to knock the Pharisees down a peg or three.

However, this is not an episode of Madam Secretary or The West Wing.  Jesus teaches that if the tradition and law allowed the untying of bound animals on the Sabbath.  Therefore, how much more important it should be that this woman who has been bound by Satan’s power be freed – even on the Sabbath -- from her affliction.  Furthermore, if she was indeed “bound by Satan,” then Jesus had an even greater reason for having a resounding victory in public – not just to teach the hypocritical Pharisees a lesson but to loosen the grip Satan had on the people.  The notes in the NAB point out: “The healing ministry of Jesus reveals the gradual wresting from Satan of control over humanity and the establishment of God’s kingdom.”

Rather than being imitators of Satan and the Hypocrites, St. Paul calls upon us to be imitators of Jesus in forgiving the sins of the crippled woman and in letting love in action conquer all.  Let no hypocritical Pharisees or advertiser or politician or entertainer deceive you with empty arguments.  

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