Chains of Tradition

Luke 6: 6-11
1 Cor 5:1-8 / Psa 5

. . . which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?
(Luke 6:9)

As a Christian’s obligation
How to make holy the Sabbath best?
By showing mercy and compassion,
We honor it as God’s day of rest.

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 they were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus. (Luke 6:6-11)


The Pharisees were so intent on destroying Jesus that it no longer occurred to them that they were the ones violating the sacred law of the Sabbath. Even when Jesus had posed the question– “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?”– which had a very obvious answer, they still could not comprehend the glaring contrast between the good that Jesus would do and the evil that they had in mind. Ironically, it was the faith of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law that had shriveled because of inactivity and lack of love and compassion.

In an earlier week, the Pharisees had accused the disciples of Jesus of breaking the law of the Sabbath by picking grains to ease their hunger while they were walking along a field of wheat. Now in the synagogue they were accusing Jesus of the same violation when he made a crippled man whole again. Clearly, the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees and scribes lay in the interpretation of the law. God gave the law of the Sabbath to Moses to show His love for His people. “Keep holy the Sabbath day; no work must be done on the seventh day; (even) your male and female slave should rest as you do” (Deut.5:12,14). While the scribes and Pharisees interpreted this law by defining work in all its aspects, Jesus interpreted it by showing how God wants His people to rest, be restored and be transformed.

While it is important to respect and honor the traditional practices of the past, we must not allow ourselves to be chained and restrained by them, especially if these practices are overtaken by a more urgent need. If for instance we have to make a choice between performing our Sunday obligation and saving a neighbor’s house on fire, extending our help is an act of love that certainly takes a higher precedence. Rules and traditions are important to keep our life in order, but our relationships (with God, our family, our neighbors and associates) always take priority over them. As the saying goes, it is good to be right, but it is better to be kind and merciful.

Lord God, help me to discern what is most important in the performance of my duties as a Christian and as a member of the Church. Grant me the wisdom to know what is essential and what is merely burdensome; what is merely my own willfulness and what is really Your will that I should follow. In Jesus’ Name, I pray. Amen.

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