|Outside the Box...Photo: Diego PH|
John 5: 9-13: The lectionary text this week tells the story of Jesus thinking ‘outside the box”. The Sabbath is a Holy Day where no work is performed, including healing! But Jesus did it anyway because he knew it was the right thing to do and he didn’t want to be bound by a law that was going to make this man suffer….so he decided to make an “Executive Decision” and help someone in need. We have all done this at one time or another and had to suffer the consequences. And we probably knew we were doing the right thing, even if we were going to have to pay the price for our convictions.
In this story, Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath Day. The ‘powers that be’ are outraged that he made this decision without following the rules established by their scripture. Jesus saw someone suffering, and instead of waiting, he did the right thing and offered immediate aid and comfort. He did what he had to do in the moment.
Those who did not understand what Jesus was about, and what he was trying to do, were upset that he broke the rules. Were he in a business environment today, people would say Jesus “thought outside the box”, and came up with a solution to solve this man’s problem. Jesus was often known for his radical problem solving and his revolutionary ways of thinking outside the box. Too often, we hear that if we play by the rules and follow conventional wisdom, we will succeed. But once in a while, someone comes along that does not play by the rules. And we are sometimes outraged and offended by this behavior. And deep down, many of us know that the maverick way is one that we envy just a little bit.
We have all wanted to just cut loose and go off and do our own thing. But we don’t most of the time. And at times, we are told that we cannot do this or that because it’s not done, not acceptable, etc...And we agree. But we know that there are some things that are worth going ‘all in’ on. With Jesus, each day he preached his message, he was going all in on the word. He was challenging people, irritating people, and at times confronting the conventional wisdom. That was his challenge to us. As Christians, we must often think outside the box.
One of the phrases that we heard some years back was: What would Jesus Do? What would Jesus Drive? What would Jesus say?....Well, we know what he would do and think and say from the Gospels (all except driving cars!). Jesus would challenge conventional wisdom, he would upset the apple cart, he was the Steve Jobs of his day, the one who thought outside the box. And we hear his message of radical love and caring for others, of listening and acting on this love, of challenging others to take up the cudgel and follow him, and of spreading the radical message of “Love one another’ to all corners of the Earth.
Do you remember the lines from Jesus Christ Superstar: “If you’d come today you could have reached a whole nation. Israel in 4 BC had no Mass Communication.?” I have always loved these lines because it speaks to the heart of what we are about in our own modern world dilemma. We live in a world of Mass Communication, and yet many times we still end up feeling isolated and alone in a world where we are more connected than ever before.
What irony that we can still turn to the Gospels and find our solace and strength in a message delivered to a relatively small group of people in a rustic setting two thousand years ago! We can learn to ‘think outside the box’ in a creatively modern way when we read the story of Jesus’ life and teaching. He was the one who taught us that thinking outside the box, and doing the right thing is not a modern concept. It comes from within, and it is a central part of the Christian theme of loving and caring for others. We cannot discriminate, bind up our wounds and then hide our heads in the sand. We must engage and help those in need, whether they are friends, immigrants, rich, poor, straight, gay, or even when they are hostile to our message. That is the hardest part of the simplest of messages-Love one another. It’s still a radical message.
*Can you think of a time when you 'broke the rules' and went outside the boundaries to help others? Or had to think "outside the box" when you were in a jam?....