Honoring the Sabbath

Luke 6: 6-11
Col 1: 24—2:3 / Psa 62

Is it lawful on the sabbath, to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?
(Luke 6:9)

Heal me, Lord Jesus of my doubt,
Give me the grace to understand
That until I learn to stretch out,
My faith is like a withered hand.

On another Sabbath Jesus went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched Him closely to see if He would heal on the Sabbath. But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Get up and stand in front of everyone.” So he got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was completely restored. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus. (Luke 6:6-11)


It was obvious that Jesus was pointing the accusing finger at the Pharisees when He asked that question, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” because being omniscient, He knew the evil that was in their hearts as they plotted against Him. They were accusing Him of doing something “unlawful” on the Sabbath by healing, when in fact they were the ones guilty of violating this sacred day.

For all their obsession with the law, the Pharisees had confused legality with morality. Jesus had consistently shown them that they were wrong. Ignoring those in need of medical help for the sake of “keeping the Sabbath holy” is morally wrong. What may seem legal is not necessarily moral, and vice versa. Abortion may be legal in many countries like the United States, but our Church teaches us that it can never be morally right. Meeting for worship may be illegal in countries like China or Saudi Arabia, but they will always be considered morally good in any Christian country. In fact, in many cases, legality and morality are even at odds. Many judges and lawyers uphold the law for the wrong reasons, while many heroes and martyrs, like Ninoy Aquino, Evelio Javier, and John the Baptist give up their lives for the sake of justice.

Jesus performed many of His healings on the Sabbath to show the Jews and future generations of Christians that the Sabbath is made more holy by liberating those who are in bondage with sickness or evil spirits on the Sabbath. In the process, He also freed His followers from the bondage of Old Covenant customs and rituals, which the Pharisees and Jewish leaders had crafted to burden the people.

Jesus was the fulfillment of the Sabbath, and still is our Sabbath, because it is only in Jesus that we find true rest. Whenever we fail to “keep holy the Sabbath day” (going to Sunday mass) for some ‘legal’ reason, we are missing not only the essence of this ‘law’, but our Lord Jesus Himself. And perhaps that is why we are still in bondage.

Your laws, Lord, are good, wholesome, and a delight to obey. I will always strive to learn them, understand them, and obey them as I believe the psalmist who said, ‘How blessed are those whose way is blameless, Who walk in the law of the Lord.’ Amen. (Ps. 119:1)

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