We’ve heard this story a lot. You know, the one about Jesus “breakin’ the law.” He heals someone on the sabbath. I heard the story again this week, and it annoyed me. Is there no rest from the whip of social justice? Do do-gooders get no time off for good behavior? That can’t be it. Jesus saves the whip for the money changers– they’re the ones who really piss him off.
Jesus is teaching on the sabbath, first of all. (That’s work in my book, but I won’t get sidetracked again.) A woman showed up, all “bent over” like she feels awful, and Jesus says, “You’re okay,” and touches her. She is healed.
A kind word, a touch– that doesn’t seem like nearly as much work as arguing scripture. He hardly does anything, he hardly moves, he hardly has to think. He just notices her, says something nice, and pats her on the hand.
I do as much with everyone at church every Sunday. It’s easy. “Peace,” shake hands. It’s our routine, in the church, and requires almost no effort. Half the time I don’t mean it, half the time I don’t think about getting the peace back. Once in a while, though, I do. There have been a few Sunday nights I looked at my right hand and insisted to myself that there was peace in it. Everyone had given me peace. And I had taken it. I was holding it, even if I couldn’t feel it.
If anyone worked on the sabbath, it might have been the woman who dragged her sorry ass down to the temple when she clearly wasn’t in the mood. She had a “spirit that crippled her,” a condition I think we’re all familiar with. Usually it shows up Monday morning. Sometimes on the weekend, too, though. She dragged herself down there, and she didn’t even ask for help. She just showed up. Jesus didn’t sit her down for six weeks of cognitive behavioral therapy, or serve her dinner and clean her house, or write her a check to pay her mortgage. He was just kind to her.
Jesus explains, “You all untie your animals and lead them to water on the sabbath, right?” Sure, they say. You have to. And it’s no work at all, letting them go get what they want and what they need. “That’s all I’m doing for this lady,” he shrugs. “I just untied her and let her go.”
Jumping in to advise with programs and supplies can be too much. Notice, and a kind word, can be enough. It requires no heroic effort to greet people politely, and give them a little encouragement. It inspires no drama. There is no martyrdom. Yet it is often enough.