S (Scripture): John 7:20 The crowd answered, “You’re possessed by a demon! Who is trying to kill you?” 7:21 Jesus replied, “I performed one miracle and you are all amazed. 7:22 However, because Moses gave you the practice of circumcision (not that it came from Moses, but from the forefathers), you circumcise a male child on the Sabbath. 7:23 But if a male child is circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses is not broken, why are you angry with me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath? 7:24 Do not judge according to external appearance, but judge with proper judgment.”
O (Observation): To what “deed” is Jesus referring? This points to Jesus healing the paralytic at the pool at Bethesda, on the Sabbath (John 5:1-9). This was a big no-no, according to Jewish law. So this healing already has the Jewish authorities on edge.
Add to that his “teaching, with authority” in the early part of John 7, and you’ve got a bunch of ticked off church leaders!
So what is Jesus pushing back on here? Here’s some research on circumcision, which is allowed on the Sabbath:
The Rabbis counted 248 parts to a man’s body. So absolutely binding did rabbinic Judaism regard the command of Lev 12:3 to circumcise on the eighth day, that in the Mishnah m. Shabbat 18.3; 19.1, 2; and m. Nedarim 3.11 all hold that the command to circumcise overrides the command to observe the Sabbath.
Jesus’ re-interpretation of the commandment regarding Sabbath seems to be: If the human-made law would allow circumcision to suspend the Sabbath, which deals with 1 part in 248, why not let the whole body be healed on the Sabbath? Jesus points out the err of the Levitical law. Another big no-no : )
A (Application): . Riding home from church services one Sunday, my 6th grade son asks: “Dad what is circision…um…circocision…(trails off)?” I say, “Do you mean circumcision?” He says, “Yeah, that’s it.” They had a lesson about Abraham in Sunday School, apparently. I told my son what it meant. … So that conversation happened : )
Anyway…the place where God is moving me today is not about circumcision…but about our ways of messing things up…about a God who chooses to love us and work in us and through us, in spite of our ineptitude.
We make lots of rules in the church that miss the mark. And the problem is that a lot of our rules today are “unwritten rules.” A seminary professor of mine said we would learn some traditions of the congregation we would serve, but some traditions would just sneak up on us. He called this “tripping over the norms.” Well, I’ve tripped a fair number of times.
So what do we do about the rules and the norms? I say we continue to call one another back to the center. Part of being Lutheran Christians is that we are semper reformanda (always reforming). This goes back to Martin Luther, one of the many reformers who helped to pave the way for Protestantism (for better or for worse : )
Simon Sinek has a TED talk and a book titled “Start with WHY”. This is brilliant. Jesus started with WHY. Why have Sabbath? Why have a law that affects just one part of the body, and not the whole, on the Sabbath? Why have these human-made laws?
I’m not against rules and norms, but I do think we should always be asking: Why is this rule/norm in effect? Does it point us to Christ? Does it celebrate the grace and mercy God has shown to each of us???
What are some rules and norms in your church, or your family, or your workplace? Do you know why they exist? Some good questions to ponder today.
P (Prayer): Lord, bring us back to the center…always…to your grace and mercy. Call us to repent and believe. Set us free to represent you in this world. Amen.