Thursday 01 July 2021

Bible Book:

When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame. (v. 17)

Luke 13:10-17 Thursday 1 July 2021

Psalm 8


The unprecedentedly perfect relationship between purpose and practice that Jesus embodies underpins much of his sensational impact in Galilee. It explains why he was such a disruptive influence on the established religion and its leading practitioners and why his ministry was so astonishing to those who witnessed it. Jesus’s single-minded pursuit of the kingdom of God and his unconstrained expression of God’s Holy Spirit flowing from within the very core of his being, was unlike anything his contemporaries had ever seen or experienced. Here was God incarnate at work in a manner that displayed a perfect synergy between divine purpose and human practice. With no if’s, no but’s and no maybe’s, God’s urgent desire to let divine love transform humanity knew no bounds in the ministry of Jesus.

 And this put into sharp relief the unmistakable discontinuities between the practice of traditional religion within which Jesus grew up and his re-interpretation of its purpose and his re-expression of its practice in his life as a peripatetic teacher and healer. This fault line runs through the gospel accounts of his life and is especially apparent in this story. Is it tradition and order that take precedence, or is it the people the religion is designed to serve, people such as the disabled woman who enters the worship of the synagogue on this Sabbath day? With Jesus, anything that gets in the way of setting the people free is given short shrift.

The rules prohibit healing on the Sabbath. Jesus knows this and heals the woman anyway, who promptly praises God. In so doing he provides us with a classic demonstration of God’s presence, purpose and priorities. What a fabulously persuasive moment this is, for everyone that is except the leader of the synagogue, who is aghast at such impertinence. The holy day should not be polluted with human need. God should be allowed to be God on the Sabbath.

Which paradoxically is precisely what Jesus is doing. Letting God be God. The world has moved on, the stakes couldn’t be higher, and the morass of religious and political regulations, inconsistencies and hypocrisies is no longer fit for purpose.

This is the painful truth which puts his opponents to shame. Deep down they recognise that Jesus is what they are not. That is a desperately hard place to be, because shame is a crippling emotion. Yet in this very moment of harsh reality they could have crossed the fault line and embraced the new normal that Jesus represented. The opportunity was there, but they failed to take it. Instead they dug in, pushed back and plotted his demise.

History has a way of repeating itself. During times of social upheaval and rapid cultural transition the traditional Church has so often been left behind as new innovations, movements and fresh expressions of what it is to be radically Christian have gained traction. And they have done so not least because the Holy Spirit was so manifestly at work within and through them. The birth of Methodism, in all its flavours, is testimony to this. The same is true in Luke’s story and is still true today; people do rejoice at all the wonderful things that God is doing.

To Ponder:

  • The Church is shamed when we knowingly oppose Jesus with our self-centred attitudes and curtail and constrain his kingdom purpose: what needs to be given short shrift today?
  • In your own life what hypocrisies might God want you to address?
  • What fresh kingdom priorities is God needing you to put front and centre right now?


Come Holy Spirit, wellspring of my soul’s delight, and so fill me with the love of Jesus that I may respond with grace as you reshape my life by challenging me to engage more fully with his priorities.


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