By Toni Ford
In the 13th chapter of Luke, Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem when He encounters four different situations involving questions that need to be answered for the Jewish people and the religious leaders. The situations themselves, along with His answers, give us a deeper understanding of Jesus, His ministry and His heart for people. Time does not allow us to examine each situation, so I would encourage you to take the time and read through the entire 13th chapter of Luke this coming week.
Out of the four scenarios, the healing of a woman on the Sabbath in the synagogue is my favorite. The way Jesus handles this situation with the religious leaders and yet His compassion to heal this woman at the same time is a beautiful picture of His ability to firmly speak truth to one group of people while at the same time showing incredible love, mercy and compassion to the woman who needs His healing touch.
A synagogue service no one ever forgot. Jesus is teaching in the synagogue on a Sabbath when He sees a woman who was bent over and could not raise herself up. Luke 13:10-13 gives us the background: “One Sabbath day as Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, he saw a woman who had been crippled by an evil spirit. She had been bent double for 18 years and was unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Dear woman, you are healed of your sickness!” Then he touched her, and instantly she could stand straight. How she praised God! Apparently, this woman’s physical condition had caused her to be crippled and bent over for 18 years. Imagine never being able to look up at the sun or the stars and your only view being the dust at your feet and yet continuing to go to the synagogue week after week to worship God! I am pretty sure that if I had been crippled for 18 years, I would not be as faithful as this woman. Surely, she had prayed multiple times for God to heal her, and although her prayers had not been answered, she did not become bitter or resentful. Then after 18 years came this one particular day when Jesus came to Jerusalem, entered the synagogue and started teaching. He sees this woman in the crowd and asks her to come forward, not to humiliate her but ultimately to heal her! Jesus first spoke the Word over her and then laid His hands on her, at which point she was instantly healed! Scripture tells us that the woman immediately gave glory to God!
Blinded by tradition. The woman’s first response was to praise God, but the religious leader’s first response was one of anger. Luke 13:14 says, “But the leader in charge of the synagogue was indignant that Jesus had healed her on the Sabbath day. ‘There are six days of the week for working,’ he said to the crowd. “Come on those days to be healed, not on the Sabbath.” He did not have the courage to express his anger towards Jesus, so instead he scolded the congregation. This religious leader was blinded by his own tradition, rules and laws that brought bondage to his mind and heart. He was not upset that Jesus healed the woman but rather that He healed her on the Sabbath. Don’t misunderstand; the Sabbath is a command and principle that God intends for us to obey even today. He does not give us commands to make our lives miserable but rather His commands are beneficial for us, and as we obey them, blessings follow. So honoring the Sabbath in itself is not wrong, but the religious leader only saw the command itself and not the heart or meaning behind it. Therefore, tradition led the religious ruler to all the do’s and don’ts rather than to the heart of Jesus and the true meaning of the tradition. The leader was so bound by tradition that he ended up rejecting the Son of God.
True freedom is found. Luke 13:15-16 tells us Jesus’ response to the religious leader: “But the Lord replied, “You hypocrites! Each of you works on the Sabbath day! Don’t you untie your ox or your donkey from its stall on the Sabbath and lead it out for water? This dear woman, a daughter of Abraham, has been held in bondage by Satan for 18 years. Isn’t it right that she be released, even on the Sabbath?” Jesus’ response to the religious leader was not with gentleness but rather with great authority. Jesus’ reply was simple yet so profound when He asked the religious leader the difference between helping an animal on the Sabbath and helping a suffering person on the Sabbath. Jesus knew that Satan desires to place people in bondage, but true freedom comes from trusting Christ, which is exactly what the suffering woman did – she trusted in Christ to heal her. The Sabbath God wants to give us is not just some law for us to follow. Rather, Jesus wants us to give us a “heart rest” that only comes through His grace. The woman was so obviously healed that all the people rejoiced in Jesus’ victory!
Jesus, today I thank you for teaching me balance between your principles for my life and people as a whole. Thank you for being a beautiful example of both truth and grace. Please continue to teach me these truths in my day to day life experiences with others. I do give you all the glory and say thank you, Lord!
If you would like me to join you in prayer please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to pray for you!