We need rules. From the first day man took a breath, God set a rule in place. There was fruit from one tree that was not to be eaten. It was a boundary that was set for perfection and protection.
Today there are rules that build us, but there are also rules that can break us.
The Sabbath was meant to build us. It was to be a time to rest from the pressure and rigor of work. It was the time to take some deep breaths and find joy in the face of God. Instead of looking at trees that needed to be cut, you could look at trees that needed to be appreciated. You didn’t have to see the sea as a work place but as a vast place that roared the vastness of eternity. When you stopped your work, you could reflect on the unstoppable God.
But the Sabbath had ceased being rest and had become work. A line had been drawn in the sand and nearly every mundane task was marked as a Sabbath maker or a Sabbath breaker.
No longer did the day of rest bring rest, it brought bondage.
“On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, ‘Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.’ Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, ‘There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.’ The Lord answered him, ‘You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?’ When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.” Luke 13:10-17
Jesus saw the woman nearby. Most likely she couldn’t see Him. For eighteen years she had been doubled over and her view was the dirt, the filth in the streets from the animals that walked over them and the feet of those who ignored her. Her eyes took her to the lowest place of the city.
But Jesus saw her. He called her over, spoke and laid His hands on her. Immediately she stood straight and looked into His face. Glory bubbled out of her. After eighteen years she would be able to rest from the confines of looking down.
But the synagogue ruler refused to see her Sabbath rest. He saw his Sabbath rule. He was angry. “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”
Every step she had taken was work. Every breath she had taken was work. Every word she had spoken was work. But suddenly her work was ended, and she was free to laugh again. She could speak again. She could breathe again. She could rest.
There are rules that build and there are rules that break. Jesus certainly knew the difference.