One of my favorite songs is "Breaking the Law" by the legendary, English, heavy metal godfathers, Judas Priest. It's the first track off of their brilliant, 1980 album "British Steel." The song is catchy, bursting with energy, and perfectly defiant in only the way good rock-and-roll can be. And every time I hear the first verse, I inevitably think of Jesus. (N.B. Lead singer Rob Halford is a devout Christian, so there may be something to that.) It goes like this:
There I was completely wasting, out of work and down
all inside it's so frustrating as I drift from town to town
feel as though nobody cares if I live or die
so I might as well begin to put some action in my life
Breaking the law, breaking the law!
Breaking the law, breaking the law!
Jesus was out of work. He left his traditional carpenters job for the life of an itinerant preacher, and he drifted from town to town. It got to a point where nobody cared if he lived or died as he went to his own death on the cross. And in the interim, he put some action in his life...and the life of so many others. Enter our Gospel reading for this Sunday, Luke 13:10-17:
Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, 'Woman, you are set free from your ailment.' When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, 'There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.' But the Lord answered him and said, 'You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?' When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.
Besides the miraculous healing of this woman who had been crippled for eighteen years, Jesus does something else completely remarkable here. He breaks the law. To perform such "work" on the Sabbath day was strictly forbidden, with severe punishment for those who broke this law. But which is worse, healing a desperately sick woman who had suffered for so long, or defying a religious and cultural norm?
The authorities and religious professionals were wildly offended. But Jesus immediately called them out on their hypocrisy. Moreover, "the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things he was doing," kind of like people at a Judas Priest concert in 1980. This is some powerful stuff all around.
The Gospel reading this Sunday not only comforts us with the healing power of Jesus in our lives and world. It also challenges us to examine those structures, norms, and habits that keep us from acting like Christ toward others. Jesus pushes against the stifling norms of his culture in order to let the power and love of God shine through. And as we hear about Jesus curing this woman on the Sabbath-and thus breaking the law-we are allowed to
ask ourselves what is holding us back from living most fully into the love of God in Christ toward one another. Jesus is pretty rock-and-roll.
Ever in Christ,
P.S. And while Jesus may not be breaking into banks by the sheer force of his rock-and-roll prowess, Judas Priest do so in a highly entertaining way from this vintage 1980 video to "Breaking the Law." It's Friday....Rock out by clicking here.