Good morning! I hope that you had a pleasant weekend.
Can you believe that we’re now in the season of advent? This is the season when we look forward to the return of Christ whilst also remembering the miracle of his birth-the son of God, God himself no less, being born to a young virgin in a quiet, undistinguished town in the Middle East. There will be much more of that in the coming days. Today we continue looking at the teaching of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel:
9 He left that place and entered their synagogue; 10a man was there with a withered hand, and they asked him, ‘Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath?’ so that they might accuse him. 11He said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has only one sheep and it falls into a pit on the sabbath; will you not lay hold of it and lift it out? 12How much more valuable is a human being than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the sabbath.’13Then he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and it was restored, as sound as the other. 14But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.
I have trackers on quite a number of items. My house keys have an AirTag. My car key has a Tile. Since I’m particularly paranoid about losing my medical pack, which I have to take everywhere with me, it actually has two trackers-an AirTag and a Vodafone Curve! It’s probably overkill, but since it’s so important to me I’m taking no risks.
Today’s verses are about the Sabbath, the Jewish day of rest, which many people in the time of Jesus (and indeed many today) went to great lengths to avoid anything that could potentially be regarded as work. God, after all, had rested on the seventh day of creation, and given the order that we should do the same – rest and keep the day holy.
Jesus does not teach that the Sabbath should be left unobserved-that his followers shouldn’t rest and keep it holy. But he refuses to fall into the traps laid by his enemies. Yes, the Sabbath is important, but more important is the welfare of all people.
Jesus points out that if someone only has a single sheep and it falls into a pit, they would of course lift it out. That single sheep is of great importance-the person who it belongs to will have come to love and treasure it, since it was the only sheep they had. If they lost their only sheep, they would lose the sheep that may have provided them with milk, with wool, and ultimately, with meat.
A human being is even more valuable than a sheep. If someone would do good to a sheep, why would they not do good to help out a fellow person?
Elsewhere Jesus tells similar stories to show how great his love is for humanity. He describes himself as the Good Shepherd. In this case, though, he seems to me to be teaching about the inherent value of human life, and how we should love, respect and help our fellow people whenever and wherever we can.
It’s perhaps easy to do this with our friends and family, but what about other people? Is there an element of selfishness within us that puts our needs before others? Do we take every opportunity to help the homeless person we see every day? Do we respect other people’s space as we continue to battle COVID-19? Do we dehumanise the migrants risking their lives as they brave small boats to cross the English Channel?
How would Jesus treat people in these circumstances? What would he do? Can we strive to follow his lead? Can we see the value in each and every person and do our best to support them-on the Sabbath day, and, of course, on every other day of the week too?
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