I still remember the game. We were two soccer teams that were fairly evenly matched, with perhaps a slight edge to us. It was a bright sunny day, and it was a well contested game. One of our forwards had an extremely powerful kick when shooting on goal (as a goalkeeper, I know from personal experience). He lined up a shot from the edge of the goal box and one of the other team’s defenders made an absolutely textbook slide tackle to strip the ball away from our guy. The problem was, our forward was already in the process of shooting and couldn’t stop. So as the ball slid out of his strike zone and the defender’s shin slid in, we heard a loud crack that sounded almost like a gunshot. And then the screaming began. The ball was immediately kicked out of bounds so trainers could attend to the downed defender. This is one of the gentleman agreements in soccer. When someone is legitimately down and hurt, you put the ball out of play, stopping the action, and allowing for the injury to be tended to. Now we could have played on, seizing the man advantage, and that would have been fully within the rules of the game. But that was never a consideration. Someone needed help and needed it immediately.
And there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him. – Luke 13:11-17, NASB
So did this woman. She had needed help for 18 years. So why did Jesus pick the Sabbath day to heal her? I’m reminded of the movie Braveheart when Mel Gibson’s character is asked what he’s going to do. He responds that he’s going to pick a fight. And that’s what Jesus was doing here, too. The rules and procedures which had come into being on top of what the Scriptures said was proper behavior were too much. And Jesus wanted to shine them with a light which would reveal how empty and worthless they were. So He went to pick a fight, He chose to heal on the Sabbath so the question about “work” would be raised. He got what He wanted. The synagogue leader immediately questioned Him and tried to rebuke Jesus. He pointed out that Jesus could have healed on any of the other days. And that’s when Jesus slaps Him across the face with His words. In a nutshell He was saying, “You take care of your animals better than you take care of your people!”
What rules, procedures, or processes do we have in our churches and para-church organizations which prevent us from properly helping people? What about in our personal lives? What stops us from ministering with the grace and love with which Christ asks, nay, commands of us? We can get so caught up in committees and Robert’s Rules of Order and other mechanisms that while we’re trying to process through how to get help for a need, we fail to meet the need. It shouldn’t be that way. Our methods should not hamper us from reaching people, whether that be feeding them, getting them medical attention and supplies, digging wells for fresh water, donating usable clothing to those in need, or simply figuring out how to get a couple of kids to church for each kids’ activity. And they definitely shouldn’t cause us to be restricted when it comes to sharing the Gospel with others. But too often we hide behind these processes and procedures. They are the excuses we lift as to why we can’t help. And I don’t just mean in our churches, either. I can only assume that Jesus, who directly confronted such convolutions, is anything but content with His people.
As God’s people we need to get into the habit of obeying the Spirit as we are compelled by Him. I’m not saying having procedures are bad. Most of the time they are implemented for good reason. But if our methods are keeping us from the work that the Spirit calls us to, we need to fix those methods. Those methods aren’t what save people. Those methods aren’t what help people. Those methods aren’t what meets the needs around us. God does these things! Let us not lose sight of that. It’s too easy to substitute methods for God. We control methods, but we don’t control God. So we fall back on what we control. I think this is a major problem in our churches today. We need to get back to the way it was done initially by the early Church: we see a need, we figure out how to meet it, and then we go and get it done. This is the point Jesus was making when He picked this fight. Let us listen when the religious leaders of Jesus’ day didn’t.