A brief note on Luke 13:10-17
I relate to the leader of the synagogue. I like things done in decency and order. I'm conservative like that. For much of my life, I suspect that if I had been there, I'd have taken his side. Really, what difference would another day make?
But I have changed. My conservatism is still here—far too much—but something else is happening. It's as though I used to stand looking at my part of the world from the top of Mt Lofty, but now I'm standing on St Mary's peak. The whole place looks different. (I guess it would be like the views from Mt Rainer and Mt Whitney, if you live in the USA.)
I've been reading my post from 2013 on this text. In that post, I imagined the bent-over woman was the auntie of the leader of the synagogue. She had raised him after the death of his mother. He cries out to Jesus after the healing, " And Auntie Marge… what now. Yes—standing up straight—always a reminder—a sign against us of how we could not honour God in this place. What have you done to us! You make me weep. Six days in the week you had… and you still break the Sabbath!"
And Jesus replied to him like this: "Mate, sit down. Don't you see what God is saying! Marge is more important than the rules! Marge is more important than the commandments. If I didn't heal her then, right when I saw her, what would God have said to me? [Wouldn’t God say] Jesus… what are you doing? There's a woman there hurting. She loves me. She's given the leader of this synagogue her life… and you're not healing her yet because it’s the Sabbath!? Jesus… the Sabbath was created for Marge and her nephew! It's there for their healing and restoration!"
In my 2019 post I quoted Bill Loader: " What is God really like? What if God’s chief concern is not to be obeyed, but something else? What if God’s chief focus is love and care for people and for the creation? Then the focus moves from God’s commands to God’s people and world." And then I said
There is an absolute clash of world views in this story. Each is dumbfounded by the other. How can you break the Law like this? There are six other days! You could wait. How can you insult God like this? The leader of the synagogue is not being petty. His God has been insulted, ignored, and belittled by what Jesus has done. It is sacrilege.
Yet how could you make her wait one more day!? Can you not see her agony? Healing is here! God wishes her well! Why withhold the blessings of God? What kind of God do you believe in?! Jesus cannot believe what he is hearing.
We still worry about serving "God" instead of being simply compassionate. The two world views still compete with each other. The "issue is alive and well," Loader says.
When I think about this in terms of my understanding of world views, I can see that Jesus cannot persuade the leader of the synagogue I have imagined; there is too much of a break between the world view of the two. Even their common ground of compassion is not enough of a bridge. The leader's worldview is concreted into the idea of pleasing God. God may not be the one of the gods of Babylon, but is still, at base, a god who needs to be appeased. Jesus' God is the Prodigal Father who overlooks and forgives all our failures, wanting only that we will find our reality and comfort in relationship with God.
The leader is where he is because his worldview is partial. Despite his people's centuries of listening to God, they do not fully understand where/who/how God is. That's because they are limited, finite people who can never fully understand. By definition. Or else they would be God.
So there's a sting in the tail of this story. Because maybe I've shifted from Mt Lofty to St Mary's Peak where the view is higher and different, but I'm still limited. I'm not God. My church culture, and therefore my being, is still mostly concreted into appeasing God.
This story is not really about the leader of the synagogue. It's about me. Because, all the time, Jesus is waiting for me to see that I don't get it. That there is still a clash of world views between him and me. Maybe I've moved. I hope I have. Things certainly look different. But I'm still on a very low mountain when it comes to seeing and understanding the whole of Creation.
If I am not dumbfounded by what Jesus is doing, or calling me to do, it means, by definition, that I'm not paying attention. If I'm not terrified by where the Gospel is calling me to go, it means, by definition, that I'm not listening to the right Gospel. Because the Kingdom of God, the fullness of Creation, call it what we will, is greater than anything I can imagine. And it will always challenge me and show me my deficiencies.
(August 16 2022 )
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