“One day as Jesus was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem, and the power of the Lord was with him for healing.” – Luke 5:17
This first sentence from our reading today introduces the Pharisees onto the scene. The name ‘Pharisee’ means “The Separated One”, and they worked hard to separate themselves from the people in order to keep the 613 rules and regulations. Many of the Pharisees and the Scribes saw these rules as a matter of life and death; and equated them with deadly sin.
In the Book of Jeremiah 17:21-24 it says, “…carry no burden through the gates of this city on the sabbath, keeping the sabbath day holy and abstaining from all work on it…” Over time, the Pharisees defined what it meant to ‘carry no burden’ as anything that weighed more than a piece of dried fig. One could not ‘lift a finger’ to help another human being unless it was life-threatening; they could help someone from getting worse, but could do nothing that would actually help a person get better. One can imagine how difficult it would be to live under such a demanding law.
How does this contrast with Jesus in this Gospel narrative? First, the men carried the paralyzed man to Jesus on a stretcher. The man’s condition was not life-threatening, so for them to bring the man to Jesus, they broke the law. They used their hands to move the tiles in the roof to get close to Jesus. Jesus heals the man, and tells him to pick up his mat and go home, which was advice against the law.
In the eyes of the Pharisees, Jesus was a law-breaker and taught others to do so. The hatred the Pharisees developed for Jesus was sparked on different levels; on the surface, they could blame him for not keeping the law regarding work on the sabbath. This claim only masked what went on deeper down in their hearts; they could see Jesus’ way of being with the people contrasted so much with theirs, that they lost esteem with the people. The seed of envy could have also driven their hatred for Jesus.
As we continue to journey with Jesus in this Lenten time, as we make our approach to Jerusalem, making our ‘way of the Cross’ with him, let us learn from his attitude of dealing with those who opposed him. Let us be attentive to his attitude of prayer before encountering the opposition. Like Him, we must gaze upon the Love of God to help us overcome man’s hatred. To bask in the peace of God to find strength for the daily struggles and strife around us. May we find contentment in being a disciple in this way that when a spiritual battle approaches, we may not be perturbed, but only trust more in Jesus, whose feet we are called to follow.
May God bless you.