What did Jesus have to say about the Church and Disability Ministry?

Luke 14 (Part 1)

Let me give you a little background of what is going on here in Luke 14. This story takes place on one of the final few Sabbaths that Jesus has before going to die on the cross. On this Sabbath Jesus is invited to a gathering at the home of a prominent Pharisee. This would have been one of the Synagogue/Church leaders. Many other Church leaders would’ve been there too. At this point Jesus and his disciples had broken at least 7 different Sabbath laws. This was something that really frustrated the Church leadership. They wanted to catch Jesus in the act so could convict him of doing something wrong. In order to do this they secretly invite a man with a physical disability to this gathering. They know that Jesus being the compassionate man that he was would heal him. Healing on the Sabbath was illegal. Jesus however was aware of their plan to trap him and he takes this opportunity to teach the leadership of the Church a vital lesson on God’s view of the Church and disabilities. 

Let’s start in verse 1, “One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. There in front of him was a man suffering from dropsy. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?’”

Jesus put the ball in their court. He knew that they could not say yes because it would be a violation of their own laws. He also knew that they couldn’t say no either because they would be viewed as heartless. So they said nothing.

Jesus was determined to deliver a message to the Church Leadership of his day about God’s view on the Church and Disabilities. He wanted to make it clear about who belongs and who does not. 

Jesus reacts to their silence by embracing the man with the physical disability. Verse 4 says, “taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him away.”

Jesus does two things here that would have offended Church leadership. Strike #1 against Jesus. You see the man would have been labeled as “unclean” and he was not to be touched. Jesus did not have to touch the man. There are countless Scriptures of Jesus healing people without touching them. For Jesus however in this instance it was important for him to touch the man with the physical disability. The NIV says that he “took hold of him.” Other translations say that he “embraced him.” I love that! Jesus was making his point loud and clear in front of Church Leadership. Strike #2 because this would be considered work on the Sabbath.

The first point that Jesus wants the church and all of us to learn is this… People with disabilities are to be embraced by the Church. (Point #1)

There is a buzz word in the disability community. That word in “inclusion.” Inclusion is a good thing don’t get me wrong but if you follow Jesus’ example mere inclusion doesn’t go far enough. You see there is a difference between “inclusion” and “belonging.” The difference is that “To be included you simply need to be in the room.  To belong you need to be loved and missed when you aren’t in the room.” (John Swinton) Do you catch the difference? The church needs to lead the way and not just follow the directives of government. In order to do this we must embrace people with disabilities.