It’s Sabbath, and Jesus is being very carefully watched. The Gestapo and “Big Brother” are everywhere. They’re looking for an excuse, always trying to trap him. What an environment for such a loving, noble person to be in all the time. I don’t figure they’re particularly interested in really hearing what he has to say anymore. They’ve heard enough, and now the bitterness in them grows. It is interesting, though, that even though he may have been invited with motives to trap him, he went anyway.
Oh, another suffering man shows up. People suffer so much. There are so many things that can go wrong in a organism as complex as the human body. You feel for people when society either can’t or won’t help. Jesus certainly felt for them.
Jesus is so sly. He asks a hugely loaded question, the PERFECT question to ask (nobody could make this stuff up): “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” It’s a thing of beauty, I tell ya. Does religion trump people? Are rules going to stand in the way of human need. Instead of Jesus telling, he asks. Now they’re the ones being watched.
They had nothing to say. Ya think? So Jesus healed him. But he doesn’t stop there. Their view of God and religion and people was messing up so many people, Jesus just had to keep teaching.
“If your child fell into a well on the sabbath day, would you help him out?” What a brilliant, unanswerable retort! It’s not to say the rule (of Sabbath rest) is illegitimate, but that the humanitarian exceptions are legitimate. It’s logical but also visceral: suppose it was your child? You would have to be a cold-hearted Jaubert to let a child suffer because of the legalisms of the Sabbath. “And they had nothing to say.” So he let it go. Hopefully lesson learned (fat chance).
So he’s there at the house, and they’re all carefully picking out the places of honor, politicking for that precious post. Jesus isn’t stupid, and he notices the jockeying—how much they cared about themselves, their own honor and position. Since they were Pharisees, much like any business, politics, or military situation, there was an understood pecking order. Sometimes it does indicate that one man is “better” than another, but other times it’s arbitrary. The set up: Don’t get absorbed in your own self-importance to the detriment of other people.
Jesus says, “Don’t assume your own importance. It’s better to assume someone else’s. Remember the suffering man earlier today? “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” In other words, it’s better to be humble than humiliated. As Hafiz says,
Effacement is a golden gun.
It is not easy to hold it against my head and fire!
I needed great faith in my master to suffocate myself
With this holy bag full of truth.
V. 12: Then he says, “You know what? Forget the ‘old boys club’ and the rich catering to the rich, and doing things out of pride just to the exclusion of ‘lesser people.’ ” Instead, show some social concern. Think about others. Distribute wealth; share with those in need, and use your wealth to lessen the divide between the rich and the poor, not to increase it. Live with an open hand.