Is 38:1-6,21,22,7,8;Isaiah 38:10-12,16;Mt 12:1-8
The LORD is God, the creator of heaven and earth and all that has life upon the earth is from him and for him. Indeed everyone the LORD protects has life. Everyone is a contingent being. Without his gift of life we have no life. Because of the LORD we are saved and we shall not die. Even when we face life-threatening disease and the dangers of nature, we have nothing to fear. When we join the prayers of our ancestors and say, “I shall see the LORD no more in the land of the living. No longer shall I behold my fellow men among those who dwell in the world”. Even at such moments of honest desperation, the LORD is near. When we fear that our life, like a shepherd’s tent, is about to be struck down and borne away, we have hope and cry out, “Save me LORD”. When we fear that our life is being folded up, like a weaver who severs the last thread, we cry out in hope, “Save me LORD”. Such is the faith of our ancestor, King Hezekiah, even in the face of the prophecy of Isaiah. Such is the trust of the Lord’s disciples when they are hungry and violate the Pharisees’ interpretation of the Sabbath law. Even now we turn to the Lord. The Lord Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath, and he provides all the nourishment we need for the journey to life eternal.
The son of Amoz, the Prophet Isaiah, has what appears to be only bad news. The King Hezekiah is mortally ill and the prophet warns him to put his house in order, “for you are about to die; you shall not recover”. This prophecy of Isaiah has its desired effect. Hezekiah turned his face to the LORD and prayed. The Word of the LORD bore fruit. It did not come down from heaven and return to him empty. It came back to him full of faith and honest prayer. Would that the Word we hear at every liturgy had such an effect. Would that we wholeheartedly and with weeping turned to the LORD for mercy. The LORD who is faithful to his servant David continues to be faithful to us who claim the New David as our Savior and Lord. We share in the kingly identity of the True Son of David. By our baptism we too are heirs to the promise the LORD made to our father in faith. Even though kings and the powerful of the earth threaten our peace and our very lives, we have the LORD as our refuge and our strength. The LORD rescued Zion from the hand of the king of Assyria and his servant Hezekiah from the infection of his boil. Still the king is unsure, and he questions the prophet who has brought him good news. He asks, “What is the sign that I shall go up to the temple of the LORD”? Not only does the LORD promise fifteen more years and to shield him from his enemy, the LORD provides a sign for his fearful heart and trembling spirit. The LORD in kind and full of compassion, slow to anger and rich in patience. In his great mercy the king watches the sun move backward from the ten steps it had advanced. The LORD of life is the LORD of time. Nothing is impossible for the LORD! Indeed, this same faithful LORD reaches out to our fearful hearts and provided us with the timeless encounter with the Sacrifice of the Cross. The once and for all sacrifice of Christ is available for all of time, and in every need it is the one sufficient sign of boundless mercy and live-giving love.
The Lord Jesus points to his self-sacrifice upon the cross as the boundless mercy that the Lord desires. As the Father beholds the execution of his sinless Son, he sees the revelation of his own mercy in the flesh of his only begotten Son. Precious in the eyes of the LORD is the death of his faithful Son. Too costly is the gift given in the broken body and poured out blood of the Lord Jesus, yet this gift is freely given. Without hesitation and without regret, the gift of salvation is given upon the altar of the cross. No one forces him to give himself up to ignominious death and blatant injustice. Like a lamb he is led to the slaughter, and he offers no protest. Indeed, the only cries heard in the street, along the way of the cross, are the shouts of his executioners and the weeping of the powerless women. The hunger of his disciples along this journey is a symbol of every human hunger. Their picking and eating of the grain does not live up to the demands of the Pharisees and they use this offense to attack the merciful Jesus. He defends his followers and reminds his opponents of the mercy of God evident in their own scriptures. He asks, “Have you not read?” Did you miss the mercy bestowed upon David and his hungry companions? What about the strict violation of the priests in the temple who work on the Sabbath by performing their duties to serve the spiritually hungry? If you could see this mercy, then you would be able to see that here before you is someone greater than the temple. If you could understand the mercy of God, then you would not condemn the innocent and powerless who hunger for the mercy of God. Then the Lord Jesus makes the claim that will follow him all the way to his crucifixion: “For the Son of Man is the Lord of the Sabbath.” Perhaps the next time someone offends our religious sensitivity, we will have mercy because we know the Lord of the Sabbath, who has from eternity known mercy from the Father of Mercy.