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 leader 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 your 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. – Luke 13:10-17
The subject of today’s passage is a sabbath saving that is getting the religious leaders all riled up. Jesus is teaching in a synagogue so presumably most of the audience were Jewish religious leaders and those they were leading. I think it is safe to say that these leaders are failing the “Meribah test“.
The main focus of the story is “a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years.” It is not clear what her specific ailment is but it clearly is making her life miserable. Jesus sees the woman and chooses to miraculously heal her on the spot. Her response was perfect “immediately she straightened up and praised God.” I am sure Jesus felt great love and compassion for this woman, but there also seems to be a meaning behind this miracle. It is more than mere magic meant to impress the religious leaders. Jesus was trying to get them to look inward and examine the meaning and motivation for their many traditions and rules.
The specific rule at issue here is not working, or healing in this case, on the Sabbath. The religious leader puts it this way “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.” That takes some level of boldness and blindness to not see that they have just witnessed something wonderful. All they saw was a rule being broken. The rule was more important than the relationship with this young man who was claiming to be the Son of God. All they really needed to do was what the woman did, straighten up and praise God.
Jesus calls them out “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water?” He was reminding these religious leaders that they would not hesitate to give their animals life-giving water, but they were neglecting to do this for the people they were leading. They were so focused on the form and formality of their God following that they lost sight of the reason for following, relationship.
This was a common theme in the old testament. The people were constantly trying to replace a relationship with God with alternate altars of their own choosing. The healing and restored relationship between this woman and God was far more important than anything that was on the official “church bulletin” and agenda for the day. Don’t get me wrong gathering together, worshiping, and sharing with others is an important part of our journey as God followers. We just need to avoid it becoming the destination.
This is a new song that Jesus is sharing with these conveyors of the “old treasures“. Upon seeing and hearing of this new way of working out our relationship with God the leaders chose to ignore the obvious weather change and spiritual squall that had rushed into the room. They were “humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.” It is unfortunate that they chose humiliation over humility. If they had humbled themselves and sought the savior in front of them the could have learned far more than they had planned on that Sabbath.
The Sabbath was intended to allow God followers to set aside their everyday labors and daily concerns so they could focus on God. I think from God’s perspective the sabbath has always been a bit of a compromise from the everyday relationship He desires to have with His people. He wants us to be “all in” for Him everyday and in every facet of our lives. This does not necessarily mean going to church three times a week, although for some it may mean that. I think what God is seeking from us while we are seeking for Him is a dynamic dance and an intimate embrace of God and His love for us in all that we do and all that we are. That sort of relationship is so much more than setting aside a Sabbath. It is also much harder.
Prayer: God help us to pursue a deep and daily relationship with You in everything we do.