I have never understood the live export of animals. For as long as I can remember people have been protesting against animals being transported by ship, recounting the number of animals that die in transit. I don’t understand why animals can’t be slaughtered in the protective environment of our abattoirs, according to the various religious expectations, and the meat shipped to other countries for distribution.
Not long ago there was great concern regarding the slaughter of cattle and sheep in countries to which live export takes place. The outcry was, rightly, overwhelming and led to the suspension of the live export of animals to that place.
And yet, when we come to the hear about refugees escaping whatever situation they find themselves, by boat, they are denigrated constantly as illegals, developing policies to ‘stop the boats’ using the excuse that they are saving lives. I am really disappointed at both of our major political parties, especially the Labor Party, for moving away from the original policy in response to what was seen as inhumane and led to their overwhelming election in 2007, on the basis that this caused the boats to come in the first place.
I have to confess, when I am watching movies, I am often more distressed about the horrible things that are happening to animals at the hands of humans than I am at the portrayal of the horrible things happening to humans at the hand of humans. Having said this, however, I still find it very difficult to watch movies that portray injustice in human society.
Sometimes I wonder about society and think that they care for animals more greatly than they care for human beings.
It is this latter statement that leads to Jesus cry of hypocrites toward the leaders of the synagogue regarding the healing of the woman who had been bent over for a very long time (which is what 18 years means).
‘You hypocrites!’ exclaims Jesus. ‘You would not make your ox or donkey be tied up and unable to find water or burdened with work on the Sabbath, then why would you allow this humane being be tied up in illness and burdened so much to be bent over?’
The key in the story is the word ‘hypocrite’. We so often use it loosely to refer to someone who doesn’t practice what they preach. At a superficial level this is correct, but it is the lack of critique of what someone says they believe for all aspects of life that leads a person to not practice what they preach. In fact, they may not even know they are not practicing what they believe because they haven’t applied the belief to every aspect of their life. They have under critiqued.
And this is what makes so much sense to the crowd that is listening to this interaction between Jesus and the leaders of the synagogue that led them to rejoice at the wonder of his teaching. For the same reason, this is why the leaders of the synagogue felt ashamed.
But this isn’t the only point of the account. It highlights the very nature of how Jesus understands the nature of his ministry as apocalyptic prophet.
The message of Jesus is basically the kingdom of God. But his way of proclaiming that is both teaching what the kingdom of God will be like and bringing about a revolution that will make the kingdom of God a reality in the present.
By healing the woman, bent over and crippled, he is describing the nature of the kingdom of God as a state where people find release from what burdens them. In her actual healing, this, obviously, becomes a reality for her. However, in the context of those who were gathered in the synagogue at the time and day that this took place, there was a revolution. Those who witnessed it rejoiced at what Jesus had done and it confronted those who opposed it to shame. Those who looked on were not going to allow anybody ever again to continue to be burdened with their difficulties even if it meant breaking the traditional understanding of what it meant to keep the Sabbath.
In reality, the point of the Sabbath, according to Jesus, was for our benefit, for our being released from the burdens of our work, not to be burdened by it. There was no better day to heal this woman than this Sabbath day. This was the reality of the kingdom of God not a kingdom of rules.
It is our task, in the proclamation of the gospel, that we think about what this gospel means for every part of our life in a way that brings about the reality of the kingdom of God in our midst.