This is part of a series looking through Luke’s Gospel with a short reading every day. The Bible passage can be read here.
If you are in the habit of watching wildlife documentaries you will have seen footage of Killer Whales or as they tend to called now, Orcas. They are intelligent and ruthless hunters, the ultimate apex predator, capable of taking out even a Great White Shark when deemed necessary. They have many methods of hunting but one of the most famous is practised by Orcas on the beaches off Península Valdés, Argentina, where they deliberately beach themselves by swimming up onto the beach at high speed in order to grab Elephant Seals or Sea Lions before thrashing back into the sea. It is very spectacular and illustrates well, their devastating power.
One piece of filming that has remained in my memory was of two male Sea Lions battling for dominance on a beach. They are huge creatures in excess of nine feet in length, weighing up to a third of a ton and their battles can be brutal. These particular males were embroiled in a real fight but failed to notice what was going on just off shore. A huge male Orca, probably approaching 10 tons in weight with a dorsal 6 feet high exposed above the water was charging in towards the Sea Lions. One of the battling males saw what was happening behind his opponent, turned and fled in fear. The other one took this as his moment of victory and started to chase after the terrified creature. The moment of victory was extremely brief as in an instant the Orca was upon him in an explosion of white water and brutal force.
In case you’re wondering, you have not accidentally arrived at wildlife blog. The point I’m trying to make, in an admittedly longwinded way, is that sometimes we can be looking at the wrong thing, like the unfortunate Sea Lion or, more importantly for us, like the synagogue ruler in today’s passage. Messiah was present, he was in the synagogue, and what’s more, he performed a miracle, setting a woman free after eighteen long years, and the woman began to praise God. What was the problem? Small minded hypocrisy was the problem. Jesus exposed the emptiness of their rules; it was ok to look after an animal, but to meet the needs of a suffering human being, well that must be work and so Jesus must be breaking the Sabbath.
We’ve been here before;
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness.” (Matthew 23:23)
These attitudes recur many times in the Gospels – must be important then. When our list of dos and don’ts become the focus instead of Jesus, we are looking in the wrong place.
There is another question that hangs over this incident, why didn’t Jesus heal the woman on another day? He knew it would cause problems. The answer is simple and it reveals one of Jesus’ personality traits. He is prepared to place himself in harm’s way in order to meet the needs of people who cannot help themselves. He did it here where the teachers of the law would soon be planning how they could silence him for good, and of course, he did it on the cross where he placed himself in harm’s way to save people like me.
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:2-3)