Sermon – Pentecost 12 – September 1, 2019
Luke 14:1-6 – “Is That Even Legal?”
Is That Even Legal?
Have you ever asked the question “Is that even legal?” Maybe you’ve asked this question when it comes to people smoking marijuana in a campground, asking a doctor to murder them, or paying for something by dumping a Becel jar full of coins on the table. Surprisingly, the first two things are legal but paying for something with an excessive amount of coins is not. (Currency Act R.S.C., 1985, c. C-52)
Jesus Asks, “Is it Legal?”
At the beginning of our reading from the Gospel of Luke this morning we see Jesus asking the Pharisees and Lawyers He’s out for dinner with that same question “Is it legal?” Jesus asks the men who studied God’s laws immensely and led God’s people in faith and in life if it is legal to do something. You would expect these people who Jesus is dining with to all have a definitive answer to this question; after all, this was a topic that they spent their lives studying and advising others on; they always were answering the question “is it legal?”
Strangely, these people who should have the answer to Jesus’ question remain silent. They don’t say a word! Not a peep. They simply wait for Jesus to answer the question himself. Jesus does answer the question. Not with words but with action.
What’s the context for “Is it legal?” (edema)
Of course, there is context for Jesus’ question about something being legal. A man comes up to Jesus with a problem. Our text says this man’s problem is “ὑδρωπικός”. To translate for those of you who don’t speak Greek, our text says this man has “dropsy.” Google calls the word “dropsy” “an old-fashioned and not very technical term.” So to translate for those of you who don’t know dropsy is it’s “edema” or simply the swelling of somebody’s body as it fills with excess watery fluid. Normally the body swells with this watery fluid around the ankles and, in ancient times, was usually caused by somebody who spends too much time on their feet or had some other medical condition.
I’m sure many of you have had some exposure or experience with edema in one form or another. Some conditions that aren’t as serious now, were very serious back then. This condition would have eventually been fatal for this man, not to mention painful! While Marion was pregnant with Caleb, she had a form of edema, and if nothing else, it forced her to squish her feet into the biggest pair of shoes she owned. After taking off the sandals she still had indents from the straps of the sandals where they fastened on.
Healing as Work
When this man with this condition appears before Jesus, Jesus asks these men “Is it legal to heal on the Sabbath or not?” To heal or not to heal, that is the question. The kind of healing Jesus is talking about is a miraculous thing. He is talking about the kind of healing that requires his touch and prayer and takes away lifelong chronic conditions like when He healed a man born blind.
The issue is that, on the Sabbath, they were commanded to honour the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. For the Jews, they understood this to mean that they were forbidden to do any work. Have you heard about this? Even today where there are heavily populated areas of Jewish people living, they prepare the Sabbath day’s meals ahead of time and have things like elevators that stop on every floor to avoid a Jew doing “work” by cooking a meal or pushing an elevator button on the Sabbath day.
The Ten Commandments were given as a guide for loving God and loving others, yet Jesus performing a “healing” would be considered work and this would be in violation of their understanding of honouring the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Even Jesus understood the commandment in this way because He too regularly observed the Sabbath like all the other Jews around Him.
However, when it came to this situation, we find a serious problem, a dilemma. What does a person do on the Sabbath? Do they heal because it is loving God and neighbor by caring for their neighbor, or do they avoid loving their neighbor because they must not do any work?
In a different Gospel and in a different circumstance, Jesus is posed with this question, too, and answers it declaring “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Here too in our text today, we find Jesus definitively answering this question in His actions by healing this man on the Sabbath and sending him away in peace, healed from his condition.
This man who Jesus heals and sends away is a very relatable character – We know almost nothing about him. We do know that he suffered from a life-threatening ailment, he found himself before Jesus, and he was healed and sent away in peace by Jesus.
Life Threatening Condition
First, this man suffered from a life-threatening condition. How many of us suffer? How many of us have aches and pains, medical conditions, growing pains and growing old pains? Even if you aren’t suffering from something specific right now, you still suffer with the life-threatening condition of mortality. We are all sinners and the punishment for sin is death. If you don’t think you’re a sinner, let’s see you live forever to prove it. We have all been given the death sentence.
BUT, like the man who found himself in front of Jesus suffering and dying we too, like the man, are healed. We are touched by the waters of Holy Baptism and healed of our life-threatening condition – our death sentence has been lifted.
Appears Before Jesus
Second, this man appears before Jesus. This text simply says “behold, there was a man before Him.” This man isn’t credited with having come to Jesus at the right time or the right way and isn’t shown to have anything to give to Jesus or any amazing words to speak. He is simply found in Jesus’ presence; broken, and suffering from his condition. Just as passively as he appears into Jesus’ presence, he is taken by Jesus, healed and sent away.
We too bring nothing in our hands to Jesus worthy of giving for being healed. We bring no beautiful words to speak that earn us escape from death. The words of the Gospel are simply spoken to us and we find ourselves in the presence of God. We find ourselves in the presence of the almighty with all our brokenness. Here as we sit in His presence, God takes us where we are and forgives our sins by His command to forgive one another in His name. By Jesus’ authority alone, I forgave you all your sin at the start of this service. Later we will again be given His body and blood to eat and drink – to be touched by it – and we will be forgiven; we will be healed. At the close of the service you, like the man, will be sent off in peace – peace knowing that God has forgiven you all your sin. He has made you whole and lifted your death sentence and you will have never-ending life.
Each Divine Service on Sunday morning is like a mini encounter for us like this man had with Jesus.
Following Jesus’ example, we do not avoid loving and forgiving each other’s sin on the Sabbath. Our Sabbath day, as Luther says it, is when we hear preaching and God’s Word and gladly hear and learn it! Our Sabbath day is when Jesus comes to us over and over again and heals us and shows us love.
Healing That Enables
It is this constant love, constant forgiveness, and constant healing that empowers us to love others. It is these encounters with Jesus that enable us to love others above ourselves, to forgive others (especially the one’s in the pews that are hard to forgive), and to tell others about the healing we have in Jesus’s death and resurrection on the cross at Calvary for the forgiveness of all of our sins. We are filled to overflowing with God’s love and forgiveness for us hard-to-love sinners who only bring our wounds to the table. We never run out of God’s love and forgiveness no matter how much we receive it and share it.
More than Legal
Wrapping up going back to our initial question, “Is it even legal?” Is it even legal for Jesus to heal the man on the Sabbath? Is it even legal for us to be forgiven our sin every Sunday? If you haven’t figured out the answer so far, you may be a lost cause, (kidding!) It is a resounding ‘YES’! Not only is it legal, but it is an amazing act of love. Not only is it legal, but it fulfills the entire Law which is summed up to love God and neighbor. Not only is it legal, but it is what God does for you and me over and over again.
May that peace from God, that you are healed, keep and guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.