Jesus knew the rules. Just because he broke them didn’t mean he didn’t know them. In the story we read from Luke on the 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, that’s clear.
As he arrived at the dinner, he discovered that he wasn’t the only special guest. In front of him as he walked in was a man who was retaining fluid. It’s not clear where. It could have been that his ankles were swollen, or his abdomen. He wasn’t well.
And, like the story of Pinocchio’s nose which grew when he lied, this man was believed by some to be swelling because he had sinned against God.
So when would a man who was under judgment be invited to a Pharisee’s house? It sounds like a trap. Someone invited this man with an obvious physical ailment to be in front of Jesus when Jesus walked into a party on the Sabbath with everyone watching.
“Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” Jesus asks. He knows what the Pharisees believe. He’s been running into their complaints for a month of Sabbaths. And he knows that they won’t answer him.
He walks to the man, close enough to touch him. And then he grabs his hand or puts his arm around the man’s shoulder or holds his face between his hands. Jesus takes hold of the man.
And heals him.
No prayer. No commentary. Jesus HEALS the man. And sends him out.
The man who showed up to be a trap for Jesus was freed from the trap by Jesus. And freed from his symptoms as well.
Jesus gives the Pharisees a chance to assess his behavior. “If you have a child or an ox in the well, will you pull it out?” They sit silently. No one wants to become part of the trap themselves.
So the first thing about a picnic that Jesus plans is this: He’s not going to let us decide who he’s going to judge. Don’t invite people thinking that Jesus will shame them. Don’t invite people intending to point out what’s wrong with them. Because Jesus is good at setting people free.