Scripture: Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him. Luke 13:10-17 ESV
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Observation: Recapping Yesterday’s Daily Focus, having covered aspects of readiness regarding his return, some present in the crowd shared with Jesus another example of the signs of the time: the news that Pilate murdered Galileans offering sacrifices to God and consequently mixed their blood with that of their animal sacrifices. But Jesus sees through the crowd’s underlying judgmental attitude toward those who suffer such ill fate. So Jesus dispels the notion that those who face a tragic end of life have brought this upon themselves because of their sinful behavior and cites another heartbreaking incident of the loss of lives to emphasize the urgent and ongoing need to repent.
Today’s reading follows yesterday’s story and Luke’s account of The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree (covered in our survey of Matthew). The incident takes place in a Galilean synagogue on the Sabbath. This story is Luke’s last account of Jesus teaching in a synagogue, for Jesus’ ministry will continue in public spaces and conclude in the temple as he nears the end of his mission. And similar to the man with a shriveled hand (Luke 6:6-11), Jesus spots a woman with a deformity (severe kyphosis) that diminishes her well-being. Jesus compassionately calls her over to him and pronounces she is freed from her disability (v.12), lays his hands on her, and she immediately stands upright and glorifies God (v.13). And as with the man with the shriveled hand, a jealous synagogue ruler admonishes Jesus for “working” on the Sabbath. This time, though, Jesus calls out the ruler and his elders for their hypocrisy and contends that the crippled woman is far more of value to God than a donkey that receives their attention on the Sabbath. Unsurprisingly, the religious leaders feel shame, but the people rejoice.
Takeaway: There are at least three takeaways in this story. First and foremost, Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath. The Father and Son instituted the Sabbath for our benefit so that we might set aside one day a week to refresh our souls, minds, and bodies in loving fellowship with them. Still, as Jesus implies here and in the other conflicts with the religious leaders, we must not take control and legislate the spirit of this command. We need to follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit in how and when we observe Sabbath rests.
Secondly, our loving Father and his Son care deeply about the wellness of all aspects of our being: mind, body, and spirit. Being bent over, this poor woman saw God’s creation upside-down, unable to worship and enjoy her Creator and his creation to the fullest extent. Yet, she faithfully continued life in corporate worship to the best of her ability and thus positioned herself to have a close encounter with her Savior and receive complete healing.
Lastly, this incident marks the only occasion recorded by the four Gospel writers where Jesus touches a demon-possessed person. The ancient world saw many diseases rooted in demonic possession. In contrast, modern medical advancements operate from a materialistic worldview (diagnosing and treating patients based on a physiological basis). As Christians, we must fully integrate both—allowing room for the spiritual element to our diseases. Indeed, from our Christian worldview, mind, body, and spirit are inseparable. Nevertheless, we must be careful not to go on a witch hunt and judge others or ourselves when suffering from a physical ailment. Instead, let’s offer full-orbed prayers for any who suffer from physical disorders that also address their spiritual and emotional well-being.
In sum, this story reveals the heart of the Father and Son. They care deeply about their spiritual family. And even though some might wait eighteen years or to their last breath to find healing, one day, all God’s children will receive new bodies free of the ill effects of sin when Christ returns and makes all things new. Meanwhile, when we hold fast to this eternal hope and prayerfully rest in Christ, we will find relief here and now to press onward and upward.
Prayer: Father God, thank you for your Son who bore our sins in his crucified body to heal our souls. Still, we struggle to rest in him when we suffer from diseases. So would you please help us to set aside periods of Sabbath rest to draw near you in full-orbed prayers for ourselves and our loved ones that address the temporal concerns but focus on the eternal outcome? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling