"Jesus, You're Out of Order!"
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Delivered By
Pr. David Fleener
Delivered On
August 25, 2019 at 10:30 AM
Central Passage
Luke 13:10-17
Pentecost 11C

Pr. David Fleener

Sermon: August 25th, 2019—Pentecost 11C

Luke 13:10-17


You’re Out of Order, Jesus!


         Why couldn’t Jesus have waited until tomorrow?


         I wonder this when I read stories like this one. In all four Gospels, Jesus heals on the Sabbath. He deliberately angers the religious leaders, challenging their interpretation of the Sabbath. This is on top of everything else he did that ticked them off. For example, earlier in Luke, Jesus visits the home of a Pharisee named Simon. A woman anoints Jesus’ feet with oil, washes them with her tears, and dries them with her hair. While Simon silently judges her, Jesus points out Simon’s lack of hospitality in comparison with the woman’s abundant hospitality. He also tells a parable where he urges the faithful to use the “dishonest wealth” of this world for the sake of the Kingdom of God, closing with the challenge, “You cannot serve both God and wealth.” Luke tells us that the religious leaders “sneered” at that. One wonders then, if Jesus was already angering the religious leaders—some of whom might have been his natural allies—why he would be so brazen about healing on the day of rest? Why poke the bear?


         The religious leaders seem to have the Word on their side. From their point of view, Jesus is out of order. The Scripture is very clear. In Exodus, God commands creation—humans and animals alike—to rest on the Sabbath because God rested that day. Jesus, therefore, ought to rest from his vocational work as well. There are six other days, after all, on which this woman could come to be healed. The leader of the synagogue points that out to the crowd. Why be healed on the Sabbath when there are other days for that work?  


         Because there is more than one rationale for the Sabbath in the Torah. This second reason comes from Deuteronomy 5:15. Rather than explaining the Sabbath as interwoven into the fabric of creation itself, Deuteronomy is concerned with what it means to be human. The Scripture reads, “Remember that you were a slave in Egypt, but the Lord your God brought you out of there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. That’s why the Lord your God commands you to keep the Sabbath day.” The Sabbath is tied to liberation. To being the free human beings that God created us to be. God freed the enslaved Israelites as a direct rebuttal to the lie that human worth is measured only by what humans do—that humans ARE what they do. Liberation is a work that properly belongs to the Sabbath because to be free is to experience genuine rest. It doesn’t matter what kind of liberation it is, whether from slavery, sickness, spiritual powers, or addiction. Liberation brings rest which affords proper human dignity to each person. Jesus makes this clear. “Hypocrites! Don’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from its stall and lead it out to get a drink? 16 Then isn’t it necessary that this woman, a daughter of Abraham, bound by Satan for eighteen long years, be set free from her bondage on the Sabbath day?” If it is lawful to untie farm animals to preserve their lives, why isn’t it lawful to unbind a fellow human being?  Why not liberate her so that she can rest in a way she hasn’t for eighteen years?


         Jesus “pokes the bear” by healing on the Sabbath because its integral to his mission to bring that same kind of wholeness and liberation to all people. It can’t be separated from his other works. Jesus’ ministry—from his baptism in the Jordan to his resurrection—is a unified whole. One piece can’t be excised for the sake of religious politics. It all goes together. The liberation Jesus gives goes hand-in-hand with making certain people, especially powerful people, angry. Why? Because Jesus frees people precisely by destroying every idol we create out of God’s good gifts—idols we create to get and maintain control. The particular kind of idol that enslaves us is relatively unimportant. It can be anything turned against God’s good purposes, whether it is a certain interpretation of the Sabbath or our expectations for how church ought to be. Or who should be here. Or who is welcome. Or what the pastor ought to talk about. Or how the young people should act. For example, Jeremiah was young, yet God chose him to be the bearer of God’s word to a recalcitrant Judah. Jesus smashes all these idols as an act of liberation. Jesus acts “out of order” so that we can experience God’s greater order in being the humans we were created to be.


         And in experiencing that greater order, we are open to Jesus’ healing. To being truly free. We are free to experience the love of God in completely unexpected ways and people. We are even free to experience God’s liberating, healing love in congregations and communities where others might see only decline and loss. We can be bold enough to proclaim that God is at work here—here in Blackford County, here in Hartford City, here at Zion Lutheran Church. God formed this community of saints out of a group of German Lutheran immigrants 153 years ago, and will continue to watch over and guide this congregation, no matter what happens. Remember this: Big, growing, churches may have charismatic, dynamic worship leaders. They may have great music. They may have phenomenal ministries and small groups. They may have all kinds of programs for children, day care, pre-school and afterschool. But all the Christian community has always needed is the healing, liberating, idol-smashing Word of God in Jesus the Messiah. And that you have. You’ve always had that. You will always have that.


         Jesus’ mission of liberation and healing continues here with you, even as you enter a different chapter of your life together as a congregation. Things will be different. Things will change. Things will seem out-of-order. Things that you never expected will happen. But God is faithful. And God will work through those unexpected things, like an out-of-place healing on a Sabbath Day, to keep you rooted in God’s amazing grace.


         Let us pray.


         Lord Jesus, thank you for the people of this congregation. Thank you for the last nine years we’ve spent together. As we embark on new journeys in our respective ministries, free us from our chosen idols to experience your healing that makes us more fully human, even in the most unexpected ways. Amen.


© 2019, David M. Fleener. Permission granted to copy and adapt original material herein for non-commercial purposes with appropriate credit given.