Reflections for the Week of Sunday August 21, 2016 Fourteenth after Pentecost

Gospel: Luke 13.10-17. This incident tells of Jesus healing a woman bent double by a spinal disease on a Sabbath. The fourth commandment is to keep the Sabbath holy by doing no work on it. The Pharisees had ‘fenced’ this around with detailed rules as to what constitutes work, and Jesus was violating their rules. This is s highly significant story and Jesus’ conflict with the Pharisees over His healing on the Sabbath is repeated a number of times in the gospels. The real conflict is over the law versus the gospel. The law is very clear that no work should be done on the Sabbath (Ex 20.4-11; Dt 5. 12-15). This law is one of the Ten Commandments. Deliberate violation is punishable by death by stoning. But Jesus claims higher authority than Moses’ law. He claims to be the Lord of the Sabbath and says that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mk 2.27, 28). Jesus, God the Son, is correcting the law of the mistakes of interpretation as handed down in the “tradition of men”. He is saying in effect that, when God handed down the law to Moses for Israel from Mt. Sinai it was intended to show the Israelites God’s nature, a nature of love, so that they could be guided by mercy, grace, forgiveness, and love in their relationships with one another. But they didn’t get it, and added rules (the “tradition of men”) that prohibited mercy and doing good on the Sabbath. Jesus, the divine Son of God, was correcting their mistaken view of the law. What He is doing is giving the gospel, the good news of God’s love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness, as opposed to man’s misinterpretation of the law.

Paul contrasts the law as commonly interpreted in Israel in Romans 7 to the gospel in Romans chapter 8. Romans chapter 7 pictures the law as he, Saul (before his conversion) and Israel, had suffered under the law. In Rm 8 Paul says that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, and defines the gospel for Christians who have the Spirit dwelling in them. Condemnation was the judgment pronounced on Israelites who were unable to keep the law, and Paul refers to this understanding of the law as ‘the law of sin and death’ (Rm 8.2). The gospel which Christ brings forth is ‘the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus’ (Rm 8.2). The contrast between the law as understood by the Pharisees and the gospel as taught by Jesus is stark. It is not that the law has been made more lenient (cf. Mt 5.20,22,23); the law reflects God’s holy nature and hasn’t changed, but for those who are ‘in Christ’, adopted as sons of God (Rm 8.15; Gal 4.6), who have the law written on their hearts (Jer 31.31-34) and have the Spirit of God dwelling in them (Ezek 36.27), they are judged with love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness. Christians are the family of God and are judged compassionately by the loving Father. For those who are not ‘in Christ’, who are not adopted members of God’s family, they are judge severely because God hates sin. The distinction is made clear in the Parable of the Prodigal (better referred to as the Parable of the Two Sons) which Jesus tells to the Pharisees (Lk 15.11-32) wherein the older son who kept all the rules but does not love the Father and rejects his love. Other examples of Jesus’ merciful interpretation of the law is the story of the woman taken in adultery (Jn 8.3ff.) and the mercy that Jesus showed her. Jesus makes clear that God’s law, the law of Christ (Gal 6.2), is a law of love (Rm 13.10), summarized by loving the Father, who is love, and one’s neighbor as oneself (Mt 22.37-40).

Memory Verse: Love does no harm to a neighbor, therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law (Rm 13.10).

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