Jesus & the Sabbath

Do we really need rules and regulations to live? I am sure that most if not all of you would agree we need rules and regulations to guide us to live as human beings. It is clear that the main purpose of rules and regulations is to provide guidelines so we know how to relate to other people and to the world around us. Rules and regulations are to serve mankind. But if rules are regulations cease to serve their purpose what is the use of them?

During the time of Jesus rules and regulations became a burden for some people. Especially for poor people. Among the rules and regulations of that time, those of the Sabbath in particular became a yoke for the poor - the helpless and the hopeless people. In today's Gospel passage, we hear of one such incident. When Jesus healed a lady who had been crippled for 18 years, the rulers of the Synagogue found fault with Jesus because he healed her on the Sabbath day. According to the rulers of the Synagogue, it was unlawful to do any work on the Sabbath day, even healing. But Jesus reminded them how they allowed people to untie their asses to give them a drink, though it was unlawful to untie anything on the Sabbath day.

Jesus showed them how they were more concerned with animals than people. The reason for this was that at that time animals were one of the main sources of income for rich people. The rulers adjusted the Sabbath law to preserve their wealth but were not concerned about the oppression of poor people caused by the law. Here I am reminded of what is happening at the moment in my country Sri Lanka.

Once some members of the Sri Lankan parliament presented a bill to implement legislation against so-called unethical conversions in Sri Lanka. This is mainly aimed at very poor people in Sri Lanka. Those who want this legislation are not concerned about poverty. They are concerned about religion. If this proposed legislation is implemented, it will be dangerous to help poor people, as those who offer help could be accused of trying to convert them to Christianity.

Here we have a very important message from Jesus, who said that the Sabbath is for men and not vice versa. In this regard two things are important. First, we shouldn’t implement rules and regulations which would oppress people, especially the poor and helpless. Secondly, if they are outdated and oppressive rules, steps should be taken to amend them to help poor people.

Also, there is a tendency to create rules and laws to protect the powerful and the rich. This tendency was prevalent even in the society in which Jesus lived. This is a dangerous tendency that could lead to chaotic situations. When existing rules, regulations and laws do not protect and preserve ordinary people they will try to take the law into their own hands.

We see this in many countries in the world. As Christians and human beings, it is our responsibility to work towards creating and amending rules, regulations and laws to serve ordinary people in our society.

Therefore, as disciples of Jesus let us commit ourselves to safeguard the rights of people in our society, as Jesus did.