To read the texts click on the texts:1 Cor 5:1-8; Lk 6:6-11
This is the second Sabbath controversy story in the Gospel of Luke. Already at the beginning we are told that the day is a Sabbath and that Jesus goes to the synagogue to teach. In this context, his teaching is not only in words but also in deeds by means of a situation from life.
Only Luke of all the three evangelists tells us that it was the man’s right hand that was withered. This was the hand normally used for work, gesturing and greeting. The man would have had to do all of the above with the left hand, which ordinarily was not to be used in public. The scribes and Pharisees are also introduced into the scene, so that there are four parties: Jesus, the man with the crippled hand, the scribes and Pharisees and those who were in the synagogue. While the crippled man sees Jesus as a potential healer, the scribes and Pharisees pose an obstacle to the healing. Jesus makes a public example of the man. All will see what he is about to do. Before the healing, Jesus asks a question, which poses two sets of antitheses: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it.
Sabbath observance is defined positively, not in terms of what one will do, but in terms of what one must do. The question brings out the dichotomy that existed in their own lives, because though they would not want a man to be healed from his illness on that holy day, they would have no qualms about discussing the “best way to deal with Jesus” on that same holy day. They preferred the law to life and love.
We might tend after reading this story to condemn the Pharisees and scribes. However, we too often behave as they did. We might attend a Eucharistic celebration and wish everyone in the church the peace of Christ, eat the same bread and yet come out of the church continuing to keep feelings of resentment and anger against our neighbours in our hearts.