Why do you have to keep making trouble, Jesus?
Gospel: Luke 13:10-17
The leader of the synagogue was irate, outraged, indignant:
A rabbi should know better! There is a proper way of doing things! There is a place and a time! The law allows for emergency healings on the Sabbath—BUT NOT THIS! NOT NOW! NOT HERE! That woman had been living like that for 18 years! She could wait another day! And this certainly did not need to happen here, in the synagogue, right in front of all these people! He’s way out of line! He’s disrupting good order! He’s going out of his way to make trouble!
And the leader of the synagogue was right about Jesus.
Well, sort of.
Change makers are inherently trouble makers. By trying to change things they are going to disrupt the status quo. And that looks like trouble to those who benefit from the “way things are.” They will resist change. To the shouts of “Now!” they will answer, “Not yet.” To those pointing out trouble in the world, they point back and say, “YOU are the trouble.”
During the civil rights era, several white clergymen wrote a letter to Martin Luther King, Jr. urging him to withdraw support from boycotts, protests, marches, and sit-ins---which they felt caused “racial friction and unrest.” Their 1963 letter complained that “a cause should be pressed in the courts and in negotiations among local leaders, and not in the streets.” In 1964 according to the American National Election Studies, 63 percent of Americans believed the civil rights movement was moving “too fast.” Meanwhile, 57 percent of Americans in this year called the protestor’s actions “violent.” Another 58 percent believed the protests were “hurting their own cause.”
It had already been 344 years of bearing these burdens. Couldn’t they wait one more day to be set free?
Much like the leader of the synagogue, we hear these questions asked in the face of every change movement. Why can’t they protest without bothering us? Why can’t they wait for change to come about gradually? Why can’t they be more patient?
Because as another famous protestor* said nearly 500 years ago, “How soon ‘not now’ becomes ‘never.’”
This wasn’t the first time Jesus very publicly disobeyed the law, thumbing his nose at “business as usual,” publicly embarrassing the authority figures of his day. This would not be the last time, either, because for Jesus the time for setting free was always now. Restoration will not wait. Freedom for the oppressed will not be delayed until those in power are ready for it. Anyone bothered by the disruption will just have to learn how to deal--or maybe even, come to see things in the new light of God’s freedom.
Like it or not,
Jesus is bringing the Kingdom, now.
*That’s Martin Luther. And if you didn’t already know…following a trip to Germany, Rev. Michael King, Sr. was so inspired by the reformer he changed his name and young son’s name.