Epiphany 5, Saturday, Year B

Inspired by Matthew 12:9-14 

“[Jesus] left that place and entered their synagogue; a man was there with a withered hand, and [the Pharisees] asked him, ‘Is it lawful to cure on the Sabbath?’ so that they might accuse him.” Matthew 12:9-10 (NRSV) 

A question sometimes asked of Christians is, “Can God create a rock so heavy that even he cannot lift it?” Whether we answer ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ we disprove his omnipotence and acknowledge a limit to God’s power and ability. C.S. Lewis called the question ‘nonsense,’ stating in Mere Christianity, “His omnipotence means power to do all that is intrinsically possible, not to do the intrinsically impossible. You may attribute miracles to him, but not nonsense.” Others have likened the question to asking if God can create a square circle, an equally nonsensical question.

The Pharisees asked Jesus a question that was nonsensical in its own way. Is it lawful to cure a man’s suffering on the Sabbath? While such a question is not a paradoxical impossibility, it does call into question the nature of God. Does God care more about the law than human suffering? Is it acceptable to disregard the law given to Moses by God?

The law was given for a reason, and it was not to be taken lightly. But the reason the law was given was to benefit humanity, and Jesus knew that. The Pharisees asked the question in such a way that it would most likely be answered with ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ both of which were wrong. But Jesus answered in his own way, which upheld both the importance of keeping the law and respecting why the law was given in the first place.

God’s nature is one of love and mercy. He gave us the law to guide us in those principles, but we should never doubt that love and mercy undergird all that God does.

Let us pray. Omnipotent God, all things are possible for you. Grant us the wisdom to not get caught up in nonsensical questions about your abilities, that we may instead become better acquainted with your loving nature. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.