Jesus healing women

The healing of the woman on a Sabbath, bent double with a spirit of infirmity (Luke 13:10-17)

Of course, the synagogue leader knew the Sabbath rules, and he could not let this be. He was in high dudgeon, filled with righteous indignation at what had just happened in his synagogue. But rather than confront Jesus, he turned to the worshipers for support.

Just as an aside, conflict aversion is nothing new. People have had a hard time knowing how to deal with conflict ever since Adam and Eve ran for cover rather than face their Lord. Somehow, it seemed safer to the synagogue ruler to launch his invective at his congregation, rather than try to face Jesus with his acrimony.

There are six days for work,” he said, quoting from Exodus 20:9 (and I hear his voice quivering with rage, his face all mottled red, his finger raised and pointed.) “So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.” Implying the bent woman had come for purely mercenary purposes, rather than for the spiritually honorable one of worship, and seated herself in a highly visible spot, so Jesus would see her and feel compelled to heal her. The synagogue ruler assassinated her character, and cheapened what Jesus had just done.

Can you envision the sudden stir, the rise of murmuring voices, the startled, and perhaps frightened, looks. Think of a time when you experienced something exciting and wonderful, and then suddenly the rug is ripped out from under you. The fall is even harder, and hurts even more, then.

Jesus’ well-reasoned response:

  • You Hypocrite.” That may seem like the Lord reduced Himself to the same level of name-calling and character assassination. Except, consider. With a swift move, Jesus word cut straight to the core of the religious ruler’s problem.

* A person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie stated beliefs.

* A person who feigns some desirable or publicly approved attitude, especially one whose private life, opinions, or statements belie his or her public statements.

Hypocrisy at every level: the way he lived his life, the way he interpreted God’s word, the way he related to God, and even in the moment the way he dealt with the issue at hand.

  • Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water?” Jesus was riffing on the longer version of the law the synagogue ruler had quoted, this time from Deuteronomy 5:14, “but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do.

Everyone knew this law did not mean animals were to be deprived of water and food, or they might sicken (and in that hot desert climate, they might even die of heat exhaustion). One way or the other, a person would find a way to obey the letter of the rabbinical Sabbath laws and still get his animals watered on a Sabbath day.

  • Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?” Every Jew in Jesus’ day knew well the works of Isaiah. His was an often quoted book of scripture. In Isaiah, chapter 58, God had described the kind of Sabbath He wanted His people to celebrate. It’s worth reading the whole thing. But, here are the highlights Jesus was inferring:
to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke. Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood.

Apparently, more people than just the synagogue ruler had taken umbrage over this woman’s healing. But now, Luke said, in the face of Jesus’ words, they were humiliated. Everything Jesus had said was absolutely right and true. They were in the wrong.

This was only one of many occasions when Jesus tackled wrong thinking about the Sabbath. In another incident, Jesus had referred to Israel’s levitical laws. It was necessary for the priests to perform their regular duties especially on the Sabbath in order for the people to be able to worship and serve God. They were guiltless before God since they were obeying Him, though they did back-breaking labor all day long on the Sabbath.

Jesus was God’s Son, greater than even the service of the temple, and Jesus was also greater than the temple itself, since the temple was just a shadow, a precursor, to the Great High Priest Who would sacrifice Himself, the Lamb of God, once and for all, for the sins of the world.

The day Jesus died the great curtain in the temple that divided the Holy of Holies from everyone else would be torn in two, so that all could freely come to God through Christ. The Lord Jesus had the authority to allow His disciples to do things like pluck and eat grain on the Sabbath as they were serving Him, following Him, and doing His will.

Jesus also had referred to the prophets, quoting from Hosea 6:6, God saying, “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”

And, the Pharisees would have remembered the second half of that verse, “I desire the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” Mercy is better than rituals, don’t condemn mercy; and knowing God is better than going through religious motions. Any religious law that is contrary to mercy, contrary to taking care of people, contrary to bringing us closer to God, into a more intimate knowledge of God, should give us pause.

God wants love, not legalism.

Finally, Jesus, throughout the Gospels, declared Himself Lord of the Sabbath. His interpretation of what was lawful carried infinitely more weight than the scribes and Pharisees.

All passages taken from the New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.