On more than one occasion, Jesus enacted justice in ways that went against cultural norms. For example, He healed people on the Sabbath. The timing may not seem like such a big deal, but in that time strict rules were in place about the type of work one could do on this sacred day.
Healing a Man with Dropsy
The Pharisees and religious leaders watched Jesus carefully. One Sabbath they saw Him heal a man with dropsy, a condition of “swollen limbs resulting from the accumulation of fluid in the body’s tissues, especially the legs” (Luke 14).
Seeing their watchful eye, Jesus asked them “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” (Luke 14:3). They answered not a word.
So, He continued by referencing an Old Testament exception to the rule of no work on the Sabbath: “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” (Luke 14:5). Again, they were silent.
Healing a Blind Man
On another Sabbath, Jesus and His disciples came across a blind man.
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” they asked Him (John 9:2).
Jesus, contrary to what is sometimes taught about sin, assured them that the man’s blindness was not a result of wrongdoing. His blindness served another purpose: “that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3).
Jesus took some dirt from the ground and made mud with His saliva. After anointing the blind man’s eyes with it, He sent him to wash in the pool of Siloam.
Not long after, people begin to talk: “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” (v. 9).
Some said it was the same man. Others insisted it couldn’t be. But the man himself proclaimed: “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight” (John 9:11).
In response, the Pharisees insisted, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath” (John 9:16).
As experts on the law, they knew all the rules by heart, and following them was a top priority. Yet, though they appeared righteous, Jesus likened them to “whitewashed tombs”—beautiful on the outside but full of uncleanness (Matthew 23:27).
The Pharisees demonstrated concern for the law, but not for their fellow neighbor. In their desire to obey all the rules, no matter how small, they forgot the two most important ones—love God and love others (Matthew 22:36–40).
Jesus wasn’t afraid to point out the hypocrisy in valuing justice for your oxen, but not your fellow man. Jesus didn’t force people to wait until the next day.
Jesus sought to pull people from the pit of injustice immediately. And if that happened to fall on the Sabbath, so be it—because sometimes to right an injustice, a rule must be broken.
Are you tempted to put off helping another person when the timing is inconvenient? How might Jesus' example of immediacy spur us to action?
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