Luke 13:10-17 (NIV) On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.
Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”
The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? 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?”
When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.
The conflicts between Jesus and the religious leaders over Sabbath rules continues. Even though Jesus healed on the Sabbath on several occasions, breaking the Sabbath rules that the rabbis had enacted over the centuries before, He never broke the Sabbath the way that God designed it. He did not pursue His livelihood on the Sabbath. But He did consciously act on God’s agenda.
In this case, it was God’s will to heal this crippled woman who had come to the synagogue to worship Him and to hear Jesus teach. She had not come to be healed, and indeed had no expectations that a healing was in store for her. She had been profoundly crippled for eighteen long years, and had simply resigned herself to the fact that she would be crippled like that for the rest of her life.
As usual, Jesus did not heal her in a corner, which would have been safer for Himself, but which would have brought no glory to God the Father. Instead, He called her to the front of the synagogue, proclaimed her free of her infirmity, and placed His hands on her. The wholeness flowed through her and healed her instantaneously, and the now upright woman praised God for her healing.
The synagogue ruler was not indignant that Jesus had healed the woman, but that He had done so on the Sabbath. But Jesus pointed out to him and to the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who were there that, according to their own definitions, they themselves did “work” on the Sabbath every time they fed and watered their animals. They untied them, freeing them from the constraints that prevented them from obtaining the food and water that they needed, and led them out to where food and water could be obtained. In a very real sense, what Jesus had done was similar, unbinding the woman from her long-standing disability that was severely limiting her life and her ability to get what she needed on her own.
Jesus’ answer stymied His critics. He was simply right, and they were simply wrong, and they knew it. They had no comeback, so they merely sat in silence as the people around them rejoiced over what Jesus was accomplishing.
Father, we can still get mired in our own rules, and end up limiting what You can do through us because it doesn’t fit with our preconceptions of who You are and how You operate today. Help us to broaden our minds, to listen carefully to Your voice and, when You speak, simply obey without invoking a lot of rules and limitations. Amen.