jesus was so predictable.
the teacher seemed to be wandering aimlessly through the grainfields just outside of the city. his disciples knew better – he was taking the shortcut, off the beaten path, avoiding the crowds on their way to the synagogue. the rhythmic movements of their legs brushing against the stalks of grain as they cut through the field created a kind of tune in the cool spring air. WHOOSH. WHOOSH. WHOOSH. each step inched them closer, slowly, to their weekly gathering and time of celebration.
but as usual, the synagogue had already come to them.
‘aha! your disciples are breaking the Sabbath laws!’
peter rolled his eyes. john rolled up his sleeves and gave his brother that ‘let’s-call-fire-down-from-heaven-on-these-pharisee-mongrels‘ wink. the pharisees were standing at the edge of the field, and had been watching them. watching jesus.
andrew cracked the bulgar grain in between his clenched teeth. he and matthew had skipped breakfast earlier that morning and were hungry. the two of them had been picking at the heads of grain along the way to the house of worship, and were enjoying the freedom provided by this rabbi. ‘Sabbath snacks’ were becoming a weekly tradition.
‘picking grain is work, and forbidden in the Torah!’
peter again rolled his eyes, this time with a little more emphasis.
he hoped this time the religious leaders would notice. he’d been itching to smack one of them for as long as he could remember. one of the younger teachers of the law quickly pulled out a scroll, searching feverishly for the citation near the middle of the exodus story. it was one of the ‘big ten.’
everyone in the field knew it by heart, but there was a little added ‘GOTCHA’ factor when one could point to the parchment and prove themselves right.
jesus responded graciously. he was so predictable.
‘remember david and his friends, when they entered my father’s house? they ate the holy bread of the priests, which was unlawful. or here’s another example :: when priests work on the Sabbath, why aren’t they blamed? they are innocent because they’re going about the work of my father.’
andrew swallowed, cracking a sly grin. jesus led the group one stride at a time along the dusty path as he continued,
‘there is something bigger than the work of the temple happening — right here, right now. if you ‘teachers’ of the law understood what is meant by the words of the prophet hosea on behalf of God ‘i’m after love that lasts, not more religion’, you wouldn’t condemn the innocent. the Sabbath was made for us, not the other way around.’
putting his arm on andrew’s shoulder, jesus and his disciples walked into the synagogue. their synagogue.
jesus entered the room and scanned the crowd. as was custom, in the middle of the room sat benjamin, ready to worship. he always arrived before anyone else. waiting, and praying.
benjamin. ‘the son of the right hand.’ the name was fitting – his left one had been caught in an olive press some years ago, and had the mangled appearance of a withered prune.
an eerie hush descended upon the room as jesus took notice of what had been damaged. the pharisees watched anxiously as jesus walked up to the misfit. every Sabbath, week after week, benjamin showed up expecting a miracle. today, they were hoping, was his ‘lucky’ day. jesus was so predictable.
the young scribe broke the silence, parchment at the ready.
‘thanks for the lesson in the field, o great rabbi. but is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?’
subtle elbows found their ways to the ribs of the elders. this time they’d trap him for certain. if there was one thing this insubordinate jew couldn’t turn down, it was an opportunity to restore that which had been ruined.
jesus muttered some things about a sheep falling into a pit on the Sabbath and then something about pulling it out. he was right, sheep were of value.
‘how much more valuable is a man than a sheep? this one is made in the image of God, the other is a sign of sacrifice. the law of the Sabbath is to get in on the good God is up to. love trumps law.’
with that, jesus fixed his eyes on the withered hand. slowly, the eyes of God made their way up to those made in his own image.
‘stretch out your hand.’