I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or destroy it? (v. 9). This jarring question Jesus asks the Pharisees rings through the synagogue and the ages. Jesus knows that it’s simply not enough to feel compassion for the man with the withered hand. True goodness involves complete healing. If doing good means pushing the cultural and religious boundaries of the moment, so be it.
Jesus’ question lingers, and reminds me of something Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.” The year 2020 brought us face to face with many of our country’s shortcomings. Perhaps none became so clear to so many as the realities of racial injustice that have been perpetuated for far too long. Many are finally reckoning with their complacency in systems that have held down their siblings of color for generations. They are learning that feeling compassion and empathy is not enough.
It’s simply not enough to be non-racist. God calls us to be an active part of the courageous change involved in the process of complete healing. If doing good pushes on the cultural and religious boundaries of our time, so be it.
There are moments in our faith and in our history when merely feeling compassion is not enough. In the climax of today’s text, Jesus pauses to glare into the eyes of each Pharisee. In a moment of righteous defiance, he offers an act of goodness and healing. I’m convinced that people of faith are currently called to go and do likewise.
What mission or ministry in your community calls you to move beyond feeling compassion to take up the compassionate work of healing?
Holy God, you know how much our hearts desire justice. Teach us how to do justice, and not just hope for it. Amen.