Saturday After Ash Wednesday | Isaiah 58:9b–14; Luke 5:27–32
I hate to tell you, but yesterday’s hard-hitting passage from Isaiah continues today, although it does now turn toward the positive. Here Isaiah tries to describe what a just people and country would look like if they fasted from the right things. He uses lovely words like light, guidance, abundance, renewed strength, watered gardens, repairers and restorers, nurturance, and delight, “a spring that never fails,” and even “riding on the heights of the earth.” But it all depends on fasting from unkindness and choosing justice. It is this very passage speaking of “repair and restoration” (tikkun) that our Jewish brothers and sisters use today as their call to social justice.
The same refrain from yesterday also continues in Jesus. He is again accused of eating with the wrong people at the house of another wrong person, Levi the tax collector. Anybody who cooperated with the Roman oppressors was by definition and social position a “sinner.” Jesus is “cooperating with evil” and “complicit” in their sin, a good patriot or churchgoer would say both then and now. Yet Jesus reminds them that their definition of “holiness as separation from” is entirely wrong (see Leviticus 11:24). Jesus has a different agenda and strategy, even though this wrong “law of holiness” continues in all immature religion to this day. Jesus has come to transform people, not to exclude them. He has come for the seeming losers, and not to create a country club for the supposed winners.
“If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation, and malicious speech, if you bestow your bread on the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted, then light shall rise for you in the darkness, . . . and God will guide you always, and give you relief in desert places.” —Isaiah 58:9–11
“The healthy do not need a doctor, but sick people do. I have not come to coddle the comfortable, but to set trapped people free for a new life.” —Luke 5:31–32