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Three characters are on stage: the bent-over woman, the healer who did a little bending of the Sabbath rules, and the one responsible for enforcing those rules who got all bent out of shape by this incident.
There was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up. When Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said, "Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity." He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.
But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, "There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day."
The Lord then answered him and said, "Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it? So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound--think of it--for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?" When He said these things, all His adversaries were put to shame; and all the multitude rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him.
Luke 13:10-17 NKJV, condensed
Sabbath Day Activity
The ruler of the synagogue made a good point. How many hours are there in a week, and do we need to use the holy day for things we are able to accomplish on the other six days! If Jesus healed one person, many more would come for healing and pretty soon there would be a circus atmosphere in the street outside the synagogue. The beauty of performing miracles on the Sabbath day is also in the eye of the beholder.
And why does Jesus have to be rude to his opponent! Why is he calling the ruler of the synagogue a derogatory name, in public for all to hear? So he disagreed with Jesus. Does that make him the bad guy, a hypocrite? Jesus was just as harsh to this man as he was kind to thewoman he healed. But I'll try to give Jesus the benefit of the doubt, something I wish he would have done more often when speaking to the Pharisees.
Here in this text is the perfect setup for Jesus to do what he had come to earth to do. At the beginning of his ministry Jesus said, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me to preach the gospel to the poor; to heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, and set at liberty those who are oppressed." Who fits this description better than the woman with an exaggerated curvature of the spine. It was clear for everyone to see; this woman illustrated the mission of Jesus perfectly. She needed to be set free.
The woman didn't initiate the healing. Jesus did. He saw her and immediately had compassion and needed to act on her behalf. Jesus said, "Come!" She obeyed and the next thing she knew his gentle hands were on her. She lifted her head and straightened up, a free woman. It's not clear what she suffered from. Whatever it was she had been looking at the ground instead of the heavens for 18 years. The text called it a spirit of infirmity, which may mean it defied diagnosis. Just one of those horrible situations where no one knows what it is, nor how to help.
As soon as the woman was standing up straight, the head honcho at the synagogue got all bent out of shape because it wasn't necessary to do this type of work on the Sabbath. So he attempted to defuse the situation by saying there will be no more healings until after sundown. Thus he defended the honor and holiness of the Sabbath day. Tomorrow is only a few hours away, they could come back then and be healed.
Of course, Jesus had a counter argument. He pointed out the necessity of taking any livestock that were tied up and unloosing them, so they could be led to water every day, including the Sabbath. So Jesus wanted to know how that was different from untying a person from the bonds of Satan on the holy day? Would the respectable men of the synagogue want to go on record as treating their animals better than their women! At the end of this exchange, some were shamed, while others rejoiced.
Maybe this whole scene was meant as a reminder that the commandments were set in place by Moses who led Abraham's children out of slavery in Egypt and into the freedom of the Promised Land. The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate deliverance--from sin, from the darkness of falsehood and hypocrisy, from the bonds of Satan. Note the terminology of this healing; it was not associated with any other of Jesus' miracles. The one in bondage was set free, released, untied. The crooked was made straight. She had been a captive; now she was free. This Sabbath was the day of her liberation.
Obviously more is required of us than just following the rules. People can get twisted into knots by living within the narrow boundaries of unbending constraints. The attempt to keep one day of the week sacred to the Lord can become a prison, just like it was for the ruler of the synagogue. Everyone on the scene wanted to keep the Sabbath day holy. But the question was how to do it?
The last phrase of our text gives some insight. The multitude rejoiced with the untied and straightened-out woman. Is this not a great way to keep the Sabbath day holy--with praise and thanksgiving for the wonderful works of God and the joyful celebration of our freedom from the chains of evil. Shame on those who do not participate; peace and joy will be on those who do.
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: Describe a day that was for you truly sacred. Or a day of joy without any conflict.
Think of this woman's ailment either physically or symbolically, and discuss what may have been at the root of her condition. What are some things which could have made her live with her head bowed toward the ground, and unable to face anyone? If she reminds you of anyone you have known, explain how so.
Do you identify with the ruler of the synagogue in any way? If so, how are you like him? If not, how do you react emotionally to him? When have you been bent by unbending rules or traditions?What did the crippled woman and the ruler of the synagogue have in common?
Do you ever wonder what these stories of Jesus would sound like if they were told from the viewpoint of his opposition? In this case the roles of the hero and the villain would certainly be reversed. Retell this story as you think the ruler of the synagogue told it to friends.
Jesus was careful to remind everyone of her status as a daughter of Abraham. She was one of them, and her life was sacred, too. Why was it necessary for Jesus to state the obvious? How do you respond to Jesus placing the blame for her physical disability on our adversary, Satan? Are you relieved or troubled to hear this?
Notice that this healing took place before any discussion about whether or not it was the right thing to do. Is that how things work at your place of worship? When is it right to act first and deal with the repercussion later? When should we discuss and come to an agreement before taking action?
If we, like Jesus, are to do the beneficial works of God, how likely is it to cause conflicts and division? What are the powers that bind? And how do we free people from them? Is it normal that we should expect both protests and rejoicing?Why was Jesus adamant in performing miracles on the Sabbath day even though there was always conflict with those who said it was unlawful for him to do so?
What powers hold you captive and restrict your movement, make you unable to meet others face-to-face and prone to judge the world by the mud at your feet rather than by the stars in the sky? <Prev Next>