From Luke’s Gospel:
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.
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Luke 13:10-17 – November 7, 2012)
Doing that which is right in the face of an opposition which has tradition and law on its side. That’s what this gospel story is about. This is not simply another story of Jesus’ healing someone.
This healing occurred on the sabbath, a day when one was not supposed to do work. Treating the sick was considered work. Jesus’ worked on the sabbath. The synagogue ruler was outraged. But Jesus made a comparison. Untying knots was also considered work, but on the sabbath one would do that to untie a farm animal so that it might drink; can one do less for a human being? The synagogue ruler, and the tradition and the law which he represented, were silenced.
President Andrew Jackson is reported to have said, “One man with courage makes a majority.” In an essay entitled Civil Disobedience in 1849, Henry David Thoreau wrote, “Any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one.” They might have used Jesus in this story as an illustration.
A majority of one is not an isolated individual. The person who is committed to standing for and doing that which is right, even in the face of tradition and law, demonstrates a commitment to a way of thinking and feeling, a spritual depth that influences the consciousness of others. By the force of its truth, Jesus compassion for the crippled woman shamed his opponents and converted the crowd to his way of thinking, to his way of being. A person does need not to be the Son of God to do this; he or she needs only to be a majority of one.
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Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.