By Rick McVicar
After eating grains in a field on a sabbath, Jesus enters a synagogue, again on a sabbath, where he meets a man with a withered hand (Mark 3, NRSV).
We do not know whether the two events occur on the same sabbath or not. Do the grains eaten by Jesus and his disciples serve as breakfast before going to the synagogue (Mark 2:23)? Whether or not this is breakfast, picking grain on the sabbath offends some Pharisees, who for some reason are in the grainfield alongside Jesus (2:24).
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Likewise, healing a man with a withered hand also violates sabbath law, especially in a synagogue. Yes, indeed, Jesus tells the man to “stretch out your hand” so Jesus can heal it (3:4). The consternation of religious leaders angers Jesus, causing him grief. Here we have Jesus feeling raw human emotion. Make no mistake, Jesus is fully human in Mark’s Gospel.
These two passages show Jesus returning the observance of sabbath to its original intent, spelled out in Genesis 2:1-3. Sabbath refers to the seventh day of creation in a poetic origins story. After taking six days to create the heavens and the earth, God rests. To commemorate the occasion, sabbath is set aside as a day of rest for Jewish believers.
Jesus, however, eats and repeatedly heals on sabbath days. Contrary to religious leaders, Jesus does not consider these essentials to be opposed to resting. That is because Jesus associates rest with nurture. Resting is not just lying around sleeping all day. If that were the case, there would be no worship on sabbath.
At this juncture, I would like to take a theological leap. I think Jesus associates rest with healing because at the end of creating for six days, God needs healing as well as rest. Creation wears Got out to the breaking point.
Right now, I think the same thing is happening to God because of climate change. Climate change is not just tearing us apart. It is wearing out God. God now must relive those six days of creation, full of who knows what kinds of birth pangs.
Let’s help God out by observing some long-deserved rest not only for ourselves, but for creation as well. May we rest our consumerism for at least one day a week, please, for the sake of God’s health as well as our own.
As for the man with the withered hand, Jesus’ healing is an act of justice, breaking the bonds of unjust and systemic religious law. Jesus’ healings are not just acts of love, they are acts of justice, liberating those who are physically, mentally and spiritually disabled.
Click on image to go to Eco-grief YouTube video.