Poor Jesus. Honestly, sometimes when reading Gospel passages like this one can’t you just feel His sigh before He answers? Jesus is God and possesses patience beyond our understanding, but He is also human and gets frustrated and upset like any of us. If I had to place myself in this scene, I think there may have been some exasperation in Jesus’ voice at this line of questioning the Pharisees go with.
Pharisees: Let’s test Jesus and try to catch him in his words.
Jesus: Oh Israel, when will you ever learn? What did God say to Moses? Why?
Pharisees: He said it was fine.
Jesus: No, it was permitted because of your stubbornness and hardness of heart, which, by the way, is fully on display for all to see today. When will you learn to see with God’s perspective, an eternal perspective?
It’s not that Jesus is opposed to laws or rules. Jesus gave us the Beatitudes, the Great Commandment. He instituted the Eucharist within a specific ritual and situation. Jesus, the God of the Universe, is in the business of creating order out of chaos. But, and it’s a big but, He is not in the business of rules for their own sake.
Laws, within God’s perspective, are the things which allow us to become our most free and authentic selves. Bishop Robert Barron of the Los Angeles Diocese likes to use a baseball analogy. You can’t freely and fully play the game of baseball if you don’t know the rules of the game. A 6 yr old playing tee ball knows the basics, but there is much about the game they cannot do or accomplish because they are not using the full rule book. Professionals who have studied the game, practice it daily, discuss the nuances and intricacies, these are the ones who play it with full freedom and enjoyment.
The laws of baseball, and the laws inspired by God’s plan for the world, are there to be in service of us, not the other way around. What had happened in Israel was that the rules were becoming of greater importance than the encounter with God they were intended to create. Instead of bringing greater unity to the community, they had become tools of division, of inequality and judgment. Look at the Pharisees’ question. “Is it lawful…” the subtext here are things like, “Who is excluded?” “Who should be punished?” “How can it be more difficult for x, y, or z persons to have access to the synagogue and temple?”
This isn’t why Jesus came. Jesus did not come to earth to save a few. He came to save all. He didn’t come to make it harder to enter heaven, He came to throw open the gates for those who would come pass through them. This isn’t to say Jesus came to abolish all laws, He tells us specifically this isn’t the intent either. Rather, He is the fulfillment of the law, returning it to its proper place in service of our relationship with God, not in place of it.
Kate Taliaferro is an Air Force wife and mother. She is blessed to be able to homeschool, bake bread and fold endless piles of laundry. When not planning a school day, writing a blog post or cooking pasta, Kate can be found curled up with a book or working with some kind of fiber craft. Kate blogs at DailyGraces.net.
Feature Image Credit: submitted by author from canva.com