Summary: The Synagogue Ruler (Chief Pastor) got really wound -up when Jesus healed a crippled woman half way through his sermon, in the Synagogue and (in particular) on the Sabbath. Healing someone on the Sabbath was the problem. So, this sermon asks what the Sabb

I recently found myself having a conversation with a father and his son about the purpose of the Sabbath. The 12-year-old boy is preparing to write an essay and the rather provocative title goes something like this: 'religion provides fulfilment for some types of people and sport provides fulfilment for other types of people - discuss, in the light of the events of the 2010 football World Cup.’ Both father and son knew that the essay title was something of a sweeping statement but it did lead to some very interesting discussions between us. For example, we talked about the national organisation Christians in Sport, and we talked about the fact that I enjoy running, playing football and tennis, and watching cricket. I said that I try not to spit my life into different segments or compartments such as my religious life, my family life, my work life, my sporting life and my social life. My Life is everything that I am, everything that I do, and everything that God is doing in and around me.

Life is not split into my spiritual life - those things that I do ‘in church’ on a Sunday or Wednesday morning, and the rest of my life. No, it is all one thing; and as for the Sabbath, who is it for? Is the Sabbath for the church - a day once a week when nothing happens except for church services, in order to make sure that almost everybody goes to church? Is the Sabbath for God - a day once a week when religious people are meant to stop thinking about the stresses and strains of the previous six days, and instead give their attention to God? Is the Sabbath a day when the list of ‘Thou Shalt Nots' gets longer and longer, more prohibitive, more restrictive and even less enjoyable than the rest of the week with its own, slightly shorter list of 'Thou Shalt Nots'? Or is the Sabbath meant to be something else?

On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues (13:10). It was therefore a Saturday - the true Sabbath, not a Sunday.

Looking out into the congregation Jesus sees a woman who had been crippled, bent over 18 years and could not straighten up at all (13:11). When Jesus saw her he called her forward (13:12); and although the Bible doesn't say it we almost get the sense of an individual 'altar call' directed at one particular member of the congregation during the sermon! Jesus was teaching. A crippled woman was present. When Jesus saw her he called her forward and said to her, "Woman, you are set free from your infirmity" (13:12). Now, in our context, we might get concerned if the preacher stops halfway through a sermon to do something else; but when this event happened it was the fact that Jesus was healing someone on the Sabbath, the special holy day, that caused intense friction and indignation. The ruler of the synagogue, the host of the worship event, the 'Rector' or the senior pastor was not happy. There are six other days for that sort of thing! But Jesus, not standing on ceremony, challenges the synagogue ruler.

I mean think of it like this. I know this is a Wednesday morning Communion service, but what if this was Sunday Morning. You know, real Church! (Note to the Reader: Said with tongue-in-cheek!!!!!) If I stopped half way through the sermon and said, "Right guys, let's stop here and go out into the community looking for the sick and the elderly so we find out who needs there garden digging, or their lawn cut or there shopping done, or a meal cooked what would you say. What would you think? It's Sunday remember - the day you go to Church. Or is it?

You untie your donkey on a Sabbath to let it drink water, so why not untie the cords of illness that have bound this woman for 18 years on the Sabbath as well? His opponents were humiliated but the ordinary people were delighted with the wonderful things he was doing (13:17).

On one occasion Jesus said, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (2:27). In the 10 commandments given to Moses God says, “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” Work for six days but not on the seventh (Deuteronomy 5:12). The Sabbath is for rest and recreation, re-creation! So the young lad preparing to write his essay wanted to know how I rest on the Sabbath when for me it is a day of work. I told him my day of rest is a Tuesday. I might have breakfast at the pub, I might go for a swim or walk, or watch a film or read a book. Last week I played 10 pin bowling with my children on my day off, my Sabbath day of rest. I played sport!

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