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.
So first I want you to count the number of times the word Sabbath is repeated in the passage above. There’s a point being made here.
Now take note of the scene unfolding here and the cast. Jesus is up front teaching. There’s a woman who is physically deformed. There’s the synagogue leader, and finally, the crowd. Though they are not explicitly mentioned, we can be sure his disciples were present, which brings me to my next point.
Something we all too easily forget is the big picture of what is constantly happening in the gospel accounts. Jesus is making disciples. The overwhelming way we tend to read the Gospels is through the lens of salvation, and rightfully so. What if the Gospels are also meant to serve as Jesus’ discipleship manual? What if Jesus actually intends to disciple us through our reading of the Gospels? Isn’t that what the big idea of the Father telling us to listen to him on Transfiguration Mountain is all about?
Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit, disciples us directly through our close and careful engagement with the gospel accounts.
Back to the scene at hand. Luke, a medical doctor no less, presents us with an impossible situation—one no doctor could solve. This woman had been bent over from the waist down for over eighteen years. Note Luke’s diagnosis: crippled by a spirit. What this tells us is the woman was a person of no status. She would have been regarded as a lost and worthless person who was probably getting what she deserved. She would have been virtually invisible to the society around her.
Here comes the discipleship lesson for the day: When Jesus saw her . . .
Truth is, if Jesus hadn’t seen her we would probably not be talking about her. She would not have been mentioned. Jesus is actually creating an unforgettable moment here. Whatever Jesus was teaching at the time, he just changed the lesson plan.
He called her forward and said to her . . .
Jesus brought this unnamed woman of no status to the very front of the room’to the place of honor. He exalts the humble.
“Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.
Remember that early synagogue scene in Nazareth, the one where he read from Isaiah 61 about the captives being set free and the poor hearing good news and the oppressed being released? You remember this. It was when Jesus rolled up the ancient scroll, sat down, and spoke the sentence heard round the world: “Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Well, that scene back there is this scene in action. Now the fireworks start going off.
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.”
This is a shame tactic. The synagogue leader was trying to humiliate Jesus. This is the part where Jesus humbles the exalted.
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?”
Let’s just say Jesus gave him the smackdown. There’s so much more to say about this, but I’ve got to close.
I think the final point I’d like to make relates back to the point on how Jesus makes disciples. We have no idea what Jesus was teaching that day as he stood in the front of the synagogue. There is a massive lesson afoot here in the form of a conflict over how to interpret the Bible. It’s the same battle we saw between Jesus and Satan earlier in the wilderness. The big difference? Jesus becomes his interpretation. He is the Word made flesh. This is the big lesson for disciples and disciple makers. They may not remember what you said, but they will never forget what you did. Your life is the lesson.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a son/daughter.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a saint.
Sometimes you can be right and still be wrong. Ever seen a situation like that? Been in one?
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