In the Ten Commandments, the Sabbath was essentially a social safeguard against enforced over-working; it was clearly designed to ensure that the weakest and most powerless, in particular, found rest for at least one day a week. It is strange that, today, we almost mock it as an anachronism. It is possibly more necessary that everyone finds rest today, than ever. When shops in the UK were closed for an Easter Sunday some years ago, many people commented on how pleasant it was to be able to eat together as families, without needing to ‘feed the retail monster’!
The Jewish authorities had turned God’s plan for merciful rest into a monster too. Virtually anything you could do that involved movement could be construed as ‘work’, and was therefore forbidden. It was not the Law of Moses that did this, but man’s traditions heaped upon it. In their eyes, having a good walk through the grain fields at harvest time, whilst legitimately helping yourself to a ‘cereal bar’ was deemed ‘harvesting’, and therefore ‘work’! Jesus refused to bend to this travesty of the commandment and made some pointed rebuttals from the scriptures. So, eating, resting, walking, doing acts of mercy and generally enjoying yourself with your friends and family are absolutely fine!
Demonic forces sometimes cause physical illness. Jesus drove out the demon from a man who was both blind and mute, after which he could see and speak. The cynical and adversarial Pharisees immediately put this down to Jesus being possessed by a bigger and more authoritative demon, Beelzebub. Jesus made a couple of telling points: (1) If that were the case, then Satan is now fighting himself; and (2) The Pharisees also claimed to practise exorcism – so did they also utilised stronger demonic powers?
Jesus then turned on their deliberate cynicism. Whatever the outcome, it was certain that the Pharisees would twist their interpretation of the events to condemn Jesus. Cynicism is a corrosive, toxic and self-defeating. It masquerades as wisdom and experience, but it is neither. It ‘drips’ with negative prophecy that is later self-fulfilling. It is a strange fact that a person is often quite proud of being cynical – and certainly would rather be thought cynical than naïve. Jesus’ main point was that a certain type of spiritual cynicism will guarantee you never to benefit from God’s grace and mercy. The sin or blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the refusal to see any action or evidence as being from God – always a more mundane and cynical explanation is given. The atheist ‘community’ is particularly well-stocked with cynics!
Indeed, how could you be forgiven, if you reject the one means that God has provided for forgiveness to occur. By failing to recognise God at work in the process of your redemption, you miss his Messiah completely. Interestingly, you can offend Jesus all you like (and still be forgiven) but rejecting the Holy Spirit’s work in your life is an eternal death sentence. However, if you are worried that you may have committed the unforgivable sin, then by definition you haven’t since you are responding to the conviction of the Holy Spirit in your soul.
With Jacob getting richer and Laban poorer, this in-law relationship was never going to go the distance, and God stepped in to call Jacob home (to Canaan, not Heaven!).
Unknown to Jacob, Rachel stole her father’s idol-gods because, presumably, she thought that they had some power over fertility; Laban catches up with the fleeing household and demands justice – which he would have taken with the sword had God not stopped him. The in-laws finally come to a settlement and agreement not to harm each other. Jacob’s father-in-law sets off home without his ‘gods’ whilst Jacob moves on with the Lord to fulfil the calling on his life. We begin to recognise in this day’s readings that at last Jacob had come to a deeper relationship with the Lord and was beginning to trust him to protect and prosper his family. At last, the Lord was in a position to fulfil those covenant promises that he had made to Jacob.