Skip to content

“Into the Wilderness” (Mark 1:9-15)

February 27, 2015

What comes to your mind when you hear the word “wilderness”? You may think of the wilderness canyon in the Arizona area as an Arizona whitewater rafting trip through the Grand Canyon is considered one of the finest wilderness experiences in the world. This is a fun part of wilderness experience. But for most of us wilderness is a place of desert, or waterless place, or without vegetation. For some people wilderness is a time of pain, or failure, or illness, or doubt, or despair, or trial. That is not a fun part of wilderness experience. So most people don’t want to go into the wilderness, and they want to get out of the wilderness. But we have to go into the wilderness because it is part of everyone’s life. The question is not why we are going to the wilderness, but what we learn from the wilderness experience.

The gospel passage from Mark tells us Jesus’ experience of wilderness. Jesus went into the wilderness and tempted by Satan for forty days (Mark 1:13). Mark doesn’t explain why Satan tempted Jesus. Mark only briefly mentions that the Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness and Satan tempted him in the wilderness, whereas both Matthew and Luke describe the three-fold temptation in details. Today’s gospel passage from Mark uniquely shows us an interesting geographic movement of three events: (1) From Galilee to Jordan, (2) From Jordan to the wilderness, (3) From the wilderness to Galilee. Jesus came from Galilee to be baptized by John in Jordan (Mark 1:9). Then he went into the wilderness from Jordan to be tempted by Satan for forty days (Mark 1:13). Finally, he came back to Galilee from the wilderness to proclaim the good news of God (Mark 1:14). Jesus is not the same person after his baptism in Jordan and his temptation in the wilderness. Notice that he was baptized by John in Jordan and was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, but he himself began to proclaim the good news of God in Galilee.

The temptation in the wilderness along with the baptism is an inevitable course for Jesus to begin his public ministry. Wilderness was a school for Jesus. Maybe, wilderness is a place of testing for Jesus. This reminds me of the wilderness experience of the people of Israel. It is a school for them to learn how to live as free people. In this way, wilderness is a place of testing for them. There is a Jewish saying about the reason why the people of ancient Israel had to spend forty years wandering in the wilderness. It says, “It took four days to take the Jews out of Egypt. It took forty years to take Egypt out of the Jews.” They are not Pharaoh’s slaves any more, but they became God’s people through the wilderness experience.

In her Lenten message, Bishop Dyck (“Well of the God who Sees You”) tells us Hagar’s experience of wilderness from the book of Genesis (Genesis 16). For Hagar, the wilderness is a place where she encounters God’s presence and a time of blessing as God made a covenant with her in the wilderness saying, “I will go greatly multiply your offspring” (Gen 16:10). And God doesn’t leave Hagar alone in the wilderness. Though Hagar had to go back to Sarah but she is not the same person anymore. I found the Bishop’ message very powerful and relevant to the new understanding of the wilderness; the wilderness is a “well of the God who sees you.”

I have several wilderness experiences in my life. One of them is the time to complete two master degrees and a doctoral degree in the U.S. I went through a lot of difficulties, struggles, and money problems for ten years. But I am grateful that I went into that wilderness because I’m not the same person any more. I learned a very important life lesson that it always takes time to be a new person. So it is an exciting thing to go into the wilderness.

What is your own wilderness experience? What did you learn from it? I want to invite you to come to the wilderness school for forty days of Lent. Learn about yourself by self-examination and repentance! Learn about the world by prayer and fasting! Learn about God by reading and meditating on God’s holy word! Remember the truth God will be with you as you are taking the holy classes in the wilderness school! Indeed, wilderness is a place of encountering God and a time of blessings! Amen.

Ash Wednesday Meditation: Taking Our Own Cross” (Matt 22:37-40)

February 20, 2015

As we begin the Lenten season of this year 2015, some people are planning to give up something for Lent. Ask anyone who grew up Catholic what they’re doing for Lent, and they’ll probably tell you what they’re giving up. The notion of giving something up some for the 40 days of Lent seems to keep up with the penitential character of the season. There is an interesting writing in which someone presents 102 things to give up for Lent that includes something essential, such as giving up greed, or laziness, or gossip, but it also presents such pointless things as giving up snacking between meals, or drinking more than one cup of coffee, or eating meat, or texting and driving, or being a backseat driver (see 102 Things You Should Really Give Up For Lent by Christina Mead). I ask myself the same question: “Which is better: To give up something for Lent or do something new for Lent? William Lawrence answered, “The answer would be both” (Pastors debate value of Lenten sacrifices by Heather Hann). As I impose ashes on your foreheads, I want you to reflect on the meaning of cross. Traditionally, the cross is a sign of mortality and repentance. So the words used traditionally to accompany this ritual are: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gen 3:19). But the cross is a symbol of Christian life.

Recently, Steward UMC hung up a new banner inside the sanctuary which demonstrates our mission statement in the three taglines: “Worship, Connect, Service.” The banner also shows our love language in which we practice the love of God and the love of neighbor based upon Matthew 22:37-39 and John Wesley’s sermon “The Almost Christian (1741).”

In Matthew 22, a lawyer asked Jesus, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Then Jesus answered him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Mat 22:37-39). Notice the fact that the lawyer asked Jesus a question (singular), but Jesus answered both the love of God and the love of neighbor (plural). Jesus reinterpreted the central message of Torah, combing the two passages of Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. In his book, 40 Days Living the Jesus Creed (Lenten Devotion), Scot Mcknight expresses it as “The Jesus Creed” which describes Jesus’ double commandment to love God and to love others.

I believe that one side of love either the love of God or the love of neighbor is incomplete. So both love of God and love of neighbor will complete what the Torah teaches us. I call this the cross love. Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan will be a good example for the cross love. The priest and the Levite knew and observed their Torah, especially the purity law (Leviticus 21:1-4). In effect, they were doing what the Torah said. But that wasn’t enough for Jesus.

In his sermon, “The Almost Christian (1741),” John Wesley draws out the distinctions between two types of Christians, the high-minded hypocrite (the “almost” Christian) and his new conception of the “altogether” Christian. As I read his words, I was struck by how true his words are for us today. We live in a society filled with “almost” Christians. So Wesley encourages us to become “altogether” Christians. The “altogether” Christian is the one who has faith in action: the love of God and the love of neighbor.

We give up indifference, violence, injustice for Lent, but at the same time, we take up the charge, the challenge, or we lift up the healed. We do something good things for Lent. The Rev. Clayton Bulice suggested that fasting should be more about doing something good than doing nothing by citing the true meaning of fasting in Isaiah 58:6.

Today, I will impose the cross on your foreheads by saying the love of God and the love of neighbor. We are reminded of the water and oil used to mark our forehead with the sign of the cross of Christ, the children of God. It is a reminder to us that we are forgiven, redeemed, given new and eternal life through Jesus Christ. The ashes mixed with the oil remind us that we are both sinner and saint. May the power of the cross of Christ that marks our foreheads today strengthen us as we take our own cross! Amen.

Self-Denial (Matt 16:21-28)

September 16, 2014

If you ever go to a bookstore you may be able to find a section called “Self-Help,” but not “Self-Denial.” Our economy and the marketing images around us are based upon self-interest. So the idea of self-denial seems like a counter culture in American life. What does self-denial mean? Self-denial is not about self-hatred or self-harm, but it is about learning what is important in our lives and to put God at the center of our lives, even when that costs us (see “Self-Denial During the Lenten Season,” Rev. Tom Pumphrey, rector at The Episcopal Church of St. Peter & St. Paul in East Cobb). Self-denial is not a theme in Lenten season, but it is part of the Christians life. I believe that self-denial is the central concept in which we define what it means to be a Christian and one of the mystical ways to become Jesus’ disciple. But we often forget the significance of self-denial, and we are once again reminded of the meaning of self-denial from today’s gospel passage.

When Jesus says that he “must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering, be killed, and be raised,” Peter rebukes Jesus, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you” (Matt 16:21-22). In early Christian and rabbinic tradition, the Messiah refers to a royal figure who will bring victory over evil in the last days. So Peter’s confidence in this response depends on this concept of the Messiah (Don Hagner, Matthew 14-28, WBC). The problem is that his confidence comes out of his self-interest. Jesus rebukes Peter’s rebuke, saying,

Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things (Matt 16:23).

Rebuke is a very strong word that was used to drive out demons. Jesus speaks to Peter addressing him as “Satan.” It doesn’t mean that Peter’s response was inspired by Satan, but Peter’s response itself expresses the temptation of Satan. Now Peter, “the rock” (Matt 16:17) becomes in effect a “rock of stumbling” (Matt 16:23) by addressing self-interest as we hear that Peter set his mind on human things.

Peter’s response reminds us of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. Jesus was tempted by the devil three times, and each time Jesus denied his interests setting his mind on divine things. Jesus temptation neither shows Jesus’ triumphant self-assertion, nor it demonstrates his exercise of power and authority, but it highlights the “paradoxical divine way of love” which is self-denial (Hagner, Matthew 1-13, WBC, p. 70).

Jesus invites Peter, saying “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me” (Matt 16:24, CEB). So to deny yourself means to say “No” to yourself and “Yes” to God. Jesus himself shows us his obedience to the divine will when he was praying in the garden, “Not my will but yours be done.” Millions of Christians in the world have prayed for centuries when they repeat what we call the Lord’s Prayer, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10). In Jesus’ time, the cross was a symbol of pain, shame, and death, but Jesus changed this concept of cross by showing God’s love on the cross. You have probably heard people say “we all have our own cross to bear.” I have friends going through some heartbreaking life situations. We live with difficulty of marriage and family. The concept of bearing one’s cross seems to be a way of describing any form of suffering. But that is not what Jesus is referring. Jesus invites us to bear the love of God and love of neighbor. Jesus invites us to become witnesses to God’s love on the cross as the cross represents God’s will. So when you bear or pick up the cross, it means you testify God’s love and mercy and take this wonderful message into your life.

When was the first time in your life that you decided to deny yourself and taking up your cross? It may be when you were baptized, or it may be when you experience Jesus’ love, or it may be when you changed your life. Whatever it is, I will call it as a turning point. But self-denial and taking up the cross is not just one time event, but an ongoing happening in your life journey since you are called to become Jesus’ disciple.

Do you remember what you vowed to God when you were baptized? You made vows to renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, repent of your sin, and resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. Each time in your life focus on God’s will! The path of discipleship is the path of joy, not a path of suffering. Here is the good news that Jesus will “repay everyone for what has been done” (Matt 16:27). Jesus will repay for self-denial and taking up the cross. Do you remember who else said that? The Good Samaritan, “When I come back, I will replay you whatever more you spend” (Luke 10:35). Jesus promised us that if we deny ourselves and take up our cross, your sacrifice will return to you. God gives you back, much more that you could sacrifice. God will continue to overflow his blessings upon you. Amen.

Welcoming the Little Ones (Matt 10:40-42)

July 3, 2014

A VIP is a person who receives special welcomes due to his or her important status. So the VIPs receive high-quality service at the VIP lounge at airports and the VIP hotel rooms. Even though you may not a VIP in a public place, however, you can be a VIP for someone whom you love or for a place that you belong to. Your husband or wife should be the VIP for you. Your children or grandchildren should be VIPs for you. Your friends should be VIPs for you. Who are the VIPs in your life?

There are three characters appeared in today’s gospel passage: a disciple, a prophet, and a righteous person. And they are the VIPs in the Kingdom of God. What is the common central message that we can hear from these three figures? A disciple, a prophet, and a righteous person are not job titles, but they are a special group of people. They may be messengers who deliver God’s message to the world. But they are the people who are called to usher in the Kingdom of God. By the Kingdom of God I mean God’s vision which is beyond our reality.

Jesus says, “Whoever welcomes a disciple, welcomes me. Whoever welcomes a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous” (Matt 10:40-41). Jesus invites us to the life of disciples, prophets, and the righteous. Jesus calls us to the group of VIPs in the Kingdom of God.

What is the life of these people? Jesus answers the question by giving an example for the life of these people. It is the welcoming of little ones: “Whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple- truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward” (Matt 10:42). The term “little ones,” does not merely refer to children, but it actually refers to the insignificant people. In Jesus’ ministry they are sinners, women, children, the Gentiles, those who were possessed with demons, those who were sick, and those who were poor. In his ministry, Jesus showed us the way of discipleship. He embraced these insignificant people, and made them witnesses to God’s good news. Even Jesus’ disciples were insignificant. By welcoming these people Jesus dreamed of the Kingdom of God.

One of the central prophetic messages in the Old Testament is to love the insignificant person in the ancient society; they are orphans and widows. A righteous person in the Bible is not a good person, but it is the one who fears God and walks with God like Noah. Boaz was a righteous person who kept the Torah which contains the love of God and love of neighbor. By observing the Torah, in particular, he welcomed the Moabite woman Ruth. Like the righteous person Boza, Jesus invites us to join in this group of people who welcomes the little ones.

The little ones in the Bible are also the strangers. Indeed, they are the patriarchs and the people of ancient Israel. Abraham was a stranger in Canaan; Jacob also was a stranger in Haran. The people of Israel was a pilgrim people (Deut 26:5-15), especially during the Exodus journey when they received manna from God in the wilderness (Exodus 16-17). Because of their experience of being strangers, they are encouraged not to forget the message of welcoming.

Welcoming means embracement. It does not simply mean receive someone to our homes and to our church, but it is to embrace strangers as brothers and sisters. It is usually understood as the term “hospitality” which represents the relationship between the guest and the host. Jesus’ washing the disciples’ feet can be a good example of hospitality. In this way, hospitality is more than the good caring. As Jesus made his disciples VIPs, Jesus challenges us to accept the little ones.

We can find these little ones in the Bible. David was one of them. He once was an insignificant person, but God lifted him up, and made him the greatest king. Bethlehem was a “little among the thousands of Judah.” This lowly, ordinary, insignificant place God embraced –a place in which we have the opportunity to see God among us. We also learn God’s inclusive love from Jesus’ genealogy, which includes four non-Israelite women. God does great things through unnoticed people and in insignificant places.

Who are the little ones in your life and in our community? Broadly, they may be immigrants or racial minorities. Socially, they may be the sexual minority. They may be a physical or mental handicapped. Economically, they may be the low income families. Jesus invites us to love these people. What does it mean to love these people? It means that you should accept these people as your brothers and sisters. Make them VIPs for the kingdom of God.

You accepted and embraced me as your pastor. You showed me God’s inclusive love by making me as your friend. You made me a VIP for your life. Here is the good news that Jesus promised to give us a disciple’s reward, a prophet’s reward, and the reward of the righteous. I am so glad that we will NOT receive the reward of the world, such as wealth, or success, or achievement, but blessings that come from God. It is the reward that we can see God in the little thing and in the insignificant persons, and it is the blessing that we make disciples in the midst of our lives- opening our lives to witnessing God’s actions in the world. Amen.

Jesus’ Invitation to the Life of Witness (Luke 17:11-19)

October 17, 2013

We have heard another well known Jesus’ parable from the Gospel of Luke, “Jesus’ Cleansing Ten Lepers.” Now, we see two different groups of response from this parable, the nine lepers and the one leper. What are the similarities and differences between the nine lepers and the one leper? All ten lepers are forbidden to come near people, and all ten lepers are eager to receive the blessing. And then all ten lepers are healed.

Here are the differences between two groups. First, only the one leper came back to Jesus and praised God with a loud voice (Luke 17:15). Second, only the one leper prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him (Luke 17:16a). And third, only the one leper was a Samaritan in which he was described as a foreigner (Luke 17:16b). I have heard many sermons about gratitude with this passage because of the second point of difference that I listed above. The three types of difference between the nine lepers and the one leper, however, clearly point out our Wesleyan tradition, that is, sanctifying grace or holiness. Whereas the nine lepers remained in being justified by grace, the one leper expressed not his gratitude but Jesus’ mercy and grace praising God with a loud voice. What does this mean by the expression “praising God with a loud voice?” It means he became a witness to the mercy and grace that God has given to him.

Jesus’ last words in the parable express Jesus command of being a witness: “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well” (Luke 17:19). In the early chapter in Luke, Jesus heals another leper. In this healing story, we can also see Jesus’ invitation to be a witness. Jesus said, “Go and show yourself to the priest, and as Moses commanded, make an offering for your cleansing, for a testimony to them” (Luke 5:14). The point is neither Jesus has power to heal nor Jesus does not violate Mosaic Law for healing the leper, but Jesus invites the leper to be a witness. Notice the word “testimony” which presupposes the Mosaic Law of purification of lepers. Leviticus 14 prescribes a detailed ritual for the cleansing of a leper who has been healed from the disease. The leper must be examined by a priest and would wash his or her clothes before returning to the community. But the leper himself now became “a testimony.” The one leper who praises God in today’s passage from Luke also became a witness as Jesus commands him, “Get up and go on your way.”

How about the nine lepers? They experienced healing and received gift, but they didn’t respond to the mercy that God has given to them. So we need to hear Jesus’ question, “Where are the nine lepers?” (Luke 17:17). Jesus does not condemn the nine lepers, but rather, he invites them to the life of joy and celebration. Jesus invites them to the life of witness and testimony.

This parable of ten lepers gives me to think about John Wesley’s theology on grace. On Aldersgate Street, John Wesley experienced God’s justifying grace (Justifying Grace). Wesley knew that once a person had been justified by God’s grace, he or she spent the rest of his or her life being sanctified, or perfected, by grace (Sanctifying Grace). In the 1800s, American preachers inspired by Wesley’s understanding of sanctification, or perfection—started a holiness movement. Holiness isn’t just personal, it’s social. The holiness movement played important roles in the abolition of slavery and in efforts to secure equal rights for women.

We often find ourselves failing to express God’s mercy and gifts. Yet God invites us to the life of witness by giving us grace and mercy. This is the life of faith in which one grows and equipped as disciples. One of the best testimonies that are presented in our hymnal is John Newton’s Amazing Grace: “Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come; ‘tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home. The Lord has promised good to me, his word my hope secures; he will my shield and portion be, as long as life endures.” I like the last stanza, “He will my shield and portion be, as long as life endures.” It reminds me of Wesley’s theology of salvation. Salvation is not a past event but rather is an ongoing process. May God bless us as we continue to respond to God’s love and grace!  Amen.

From Grumbling to Joy (Luke 15:1-10)

September 16, 2013

We live in a world of grumbling with so many kinds of conflict, hatred among people of different faiths, conflict among nations, and polarizations within our community. The problem is that grumbling leads us to separation and division so it is very hard to celebrate the life of community.

The central theme of two parables from today’s gospel passage is joy and celebration. God celebrates the repentance of ONE sinner. Both the shepherd and the woman in the parables rejoice when they find the lost sheep and the lost coin. And more than that, they call everyone together, friends and neighbors, to share in this rejoicing. It is a community celebration! How then do we build our community? We can build our community by finding something to celebrate as a community.

I’m sure that you may have heard many sermons from today’s passage, focusing on the theme “lost and found,” but it is a prophetic message which turns away from a life of grumbling toward a life of joy.

Who are the Pharisees and the scribes? In general, they are loyal in worship and people of prayer; they are generous people so they give their money to the poor, they honor the scripture and study it seriously; and they are people of strong faith. However, they are judgmental (Luke 5:21), hypocritical (Luke 11:41), indignant (Luke 13:14), and grumbling (Luke 15:2). In today’s gospel passage portrays, in particular, we can see that the Pharisees and the scribes have a problem with joy, and especially they have a problem with the joy that Jesus generates, joyfully eating and drinking with sinners and making celebration with tax collectors (See Thomas G. Long, “Is There Joy in God’s House”).

In contrast, the shepherd values the lost sheep, not the ninety-nine having carried the lost sheep home, giving a party inviting his friends and neighbors: “Rejoice with me, because I found my lost sheep.” (Luke 15:6) The woman values, the lost coin, not the ten, giving a party inviting his friends and neighbors: “Rejoice with me, because I found the coin that I had lost.” (Luke 15:9) In both parables, joy comes from finding the lost coin, and joy has to do with friends and neighbors.

This comparison between two different groups is well expressed in today’s passage:

  • A group of grumbling and a group of joy and celebration,
  • A group of the righteous and a group of the sinners,
  • A group values the ninety-nine sheep and the ten coins and a group values the lost sheep and the lost coin,
  • A group of those who need no repentance and a group of those who repent.

Likewise the Pharisees and the scribes, the world tends to focus on the ninety-nine sheep, while God cares for the lost one. The world tends to grumble, while God celebrates. The world values power, wealth, money, success, and achievement, while God values grace, love, forgiveness, and weakness.

Jesus came to save the lost (Luke 19:10). Who are the lost ones in our community? It may be you or someone in our community. Notice that Jesus loves the lost one more than anything else. God turns our lives away from grumbling toward joy, from the hatred toward the love for the lost, from complaint toward the joyful friendship, and from hoarding toward sharing with one’s friends and neighbors. It is a life of discipleship which begins with repentance and embodies the love of God and the love of neighbor. Discipleship turns away from grumbling and toward a life of joy.” (Art Loss, “Luke 15:1-10,” Interpretation, 61/4 [2007]: 422-424)

Remember the Israel’s experience of forty years of wilderness? It symbolizes a spiritual school which teaches us to live as a joyful people from a grumbling people. There are so many things that the people of Israel have to make complaint: no water to drink, no food to eat, and they are sick of manna. But God invites us to the world of amazing grace, joy, and celebration as God invited the people of Israel. God actually REJOICES with the angels in heaven! Let us rejoice and celebrate for God is working to build our community! Let us give thank to God for God is searching for the lost ones! Amen.

Keeping the Sabbath Holy (Luke 13:10-17)

September 5, 2013

“It’s always done this way.”
It is an expression of our custom, habit, and tradition. Yes, we live in a world so accustomed to follow traditional rules that are largely tied with tradition and custom. But we often forget that we have to disobey and resist tradition and custom when they become an unjust law. A large number of Americans identify themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” (“Spiritual, But Not Religious” by Robert C. Fuller). Why? They don’t feel that religion can help finding a path to God since religious practices, such as worship service, the holy communion, baptism, prayer, and Sabbath, became institutional. Today’s gospel passage challenges us to rethink about our custom and our institutionalized religion.

Jesus challenges the way how people keep the Sabbath by healing a woman on sabbath. The word “sabbath” appears four times in this passage. It means sabbath is the key term in order to understand the message of the passage. Here is the question: how do we keep the sabbath holy? Notice a wonderful literary composition between Jesus and this woman, concerning the sabbath. First, Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the sabbath (Luke 13:10), and a woman, who was bent over for 18 years, came to the synagogue on the sabbath (Luke 13:11). Second, Jesus healed this woman on the sabbath (Luke 13:12), and this woman stood up straight and began praising God on the sabbath (Luke 13:13)

Now, the story of healing on sabbath illustrates the conflict between Jesus and the leader of the synagogue. The leader of the synagogue became indignant, saying: “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.” (Luke 13:14 NIV) It sounds like what the Torah commands, regarding the sabbath. What is the problem of this religious leader? For eighteen years, they saw this woman on the sabbath, but he couldn’t see her condition and her needs. She has been walking around looking at passing feet. She cannot see the smile on the faces of people. She cannot see the green of the meadow. “The leader of the synagogue wants to make the issue Jesus’ violation of the sabbath, but Jesus returns the focus to the needs and dignity of the woman.” (“The Gospel of Luke” in NIB) Jesus challenges the religious community to think about what keeping the sabbath really means. In his article, “When Compassion Trumps Law,” Ryan Wilson explains the conflict between Jesus and the leader of synagogue in the following way:

Jesus dodges the whole issue of healing on the Sabbath and focuses on the issue of meeting human need rather than the issue of healing. Jesus focuses on releasing someone from bondage and suggests that in doing so, he honors the Sabbath and keeps the fourth commandment.

This woman (1) “stood up straight” and (2) “began praising God.” The expression “stood up straight” symbolizes restoration, and the response “began praising God” represents celebration and worship. Jesus called her first “Woman” (Luke 13:12) and second “a daughter of Abraham” (Luke 13:16). This name calling from a woman to a daughter of Abraham signifies transformation. So transformation is another meaning of keeping the sabbath.

For Jesus, Sabbath is a special day of restoration and celebration instead of the day of rest. Let’s look at the case of Zacchaeus (Luke 19). Even though this story has nothing to do with the sabbath, it is a story of transformation from a sinner to “a son of Abraham.” Zacchaeus celebrates his transformation/restoration by sharing his possession with the poor. Like Jesus, there are some people who tried to recover the meaning of law and tradition. It has been called “civil disobedience” (non-violent resistance): Martin Luther King Jr., “One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” Gandhi: “An unjust law is itself a species of violence.”

The good news is that we are invited to keep the sabbath so that we may celebrate the restoration and transformation. This is how we keep the sabbath holy. Amen.