Once again Jesus is teaching in a synagogue and while He was teaching, He saw a woman crippled by a spirit –her back was bent- and it seems to me that Luke implies that Jesus interrupted His teaching, His sermon or Bible study and called this unnamed over and said something this woman was waiting to hear for a long time, Jesus said: “Dear woman, you are healed of your sickness!” and then He touched her. Immediately she was healed, immediately she could stand straight. If Luke’s story would end right there we could imagine that everybody in that synagogue should be happy for her; 18 years of being bent over had ended, now she was able stand straight, as she was created to be; 18 years of looking down had ended, now she can look up to everybody’s eyes and faces, not the their feet as before; now she can praise God looking up to heaven, not to the ground. But, sadly, Luke continues with the story saying that the leader of the synagogue was upset. Upset because his beloved law had been broken; upset because his beloved tradition had been broken.
The law Moses received from God says that no one had to work on Sabbath. Sabbath was the day of the Lord and that is why no one could be healed on Saturday, because healing is a “job” that doctors do, and according to the interpretation of this leader, Jesus did a “doctor’s job” on Sabbath. Therefore, He broke the Law that this man loved so much.
Tradition was broken in more than one way, first, Jesus talked to a woman in public, that shouldn’t be; second, it was broken because He touched her, that also shouldn’t be; third, He called her to the front of the synagogue and that is a place reserved for men only. It’s interesting what happen next, the leader of the synagogue did not complain directly to Jesus, he did not question Jesus for what He did, he did not face Jesus, he talked to the crowd: “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.” In Spanish we have a saying “I say it to Peter, so John can understand it.” Jesus knew this leader was talking to Him; He knew this leader was talking to the crowd so Jesus could understand, and we all know Jesus’ answer: “You hypocrites! Each of you work 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 eighteen years. Isn’t it right that she be released, even on the Sabbath?”
This is not the first time Jesus does this on Sabbath, and every time He did it, He found the same reaction, He faced the same confrontation. So, why did He do it time after time? It’s not that Jesus loved trouble, it’s because He had a message and those leaders were not getting it. Jesus wanted them to understand that human dignity and human needs are more important that any law and any tradition. Law -seems to me, Jesus is telling them- is only ink over paper written by a group in power. This can change from time to time; traditions on the other hand are men made customs they can also change from generation to generation, but this woman, as every woman and man in the world, are created to God’s image, they are God’s creation; every woman and man are God’s pieces of art. Jesus made this clear when He called this woman “daughter of Abraham” -this is the only part in the whole bible – I am almost sure ,that we find this expression. We find “son of Abraham” or “sons of Abraham” very often, but not daughter of Abraham. By calling her that, Jesus is lifting her up to the same level of any men present in that synagogue, including the religious leader.
Luke says that Jesus was teaching, but he doesn’t say what He was teaching. I would like to think that maybe He was teaching about freedom, about how the children of Abraham were set free from the bondage of slavery, and suddenly He saw this woman restrained, captive “by a spirit of infirmity” -says the King James Version,- and He, -Jesus- felt the need to practice what He preaches; maybe He saw the opportunity to show them that God’s freedom is not just an ideal, or a right just for some, but instead, it is something that belongs to everybody including a cripple woman that many in that synagogue -I am sure- looked down because of her condition.
When the leaders of Israel spoke about freedom they always thought in freedom from Egypt and Rome, but Jesus went beyond of that conception of freedom when He said to the woman, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Freedom in the Bible is not only the ability to go wherever we want to go, or the ability to say and do whatever we want to say and do. Freedom in the Bible is the opportunity we all get from God to be what He planned for us to be; it’s the opportunity we all have from God to live as God planned for us to live, free from any infirmities and fear.
For eighteen years this woman lived a life God didn’t want her to live; for eighteen years she lived in a condition God didn’t want her to live in. How do we know this? we know it because Luke says, this was the work of a spirit, a spirit of infirmity in King James Version. It was Satan’s work. Jesus said: “This dear woman, a daughter of Abraham, has been held in bondage, by Satan for eighteen years.” Satan and the Evil he represents was the one responsible for this woman to walk with her back bent; Satan and the evil he represents was the one responsible for this woman to lack the ability to look up to heaven, he and only he was responsible for this woman to have the inability to look in the eyes of her fellow sisters and brothers of Israel. However, that Sabbath in the synagogue, she heard Jesus’ voice, and everything changed; that day in the synagogue Jesus not only restored her body but also her identity, she, the leader of the synagogue and everybody present that day were reminded of who this woman was, she was no longer the cripple woman people saw; she was a daughter of Abraham. Therefore, she was and belonged to God’s people.
What Jesus did that Sabbath in Galilee was the reason he came. He came to proclaim good news to the poor. He came to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind; He came to set the oppressed free and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Luke 4:18 and 19.
Today our world is full of spiritually cripple people, people Satan and the evil he represents hold in bondage and restraints because of the sin they practice. They need an encounter with Jesus; they need a touch from Jesus, they need to know that Jesus is alive, and He is ready and willing to release them. They need to hear that the lifestyle they are living is not the one God wants; it’s not the one God planned for them. They need to hear that there is something better and they can find it only by Jesus’ side, only by walking, obeying and trusting Jesus.
They need to hear that drugs cripple our spirits; they need to hear that alcoholism cripples our spirit; they need to know that relationships out of the matrimony cripples our spirit. But they also need to know that Jesus can set them free. They need to know that “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” As Paul reminds us in Romans 10:13. This is great news for those in bondage. However, it is also a challenge for those who serve and follow Jesus. Paul continues saying: How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? The gospel we have, the gospel Jesus has entrusted in every one of us is the instrument He will use to release and heal all those who need healing. But they must hear that from us.
Back to Church Sunday is a great opportunity we all have to invite someone to come to church and listen to the Gospel and feel the love and freedom only God can give. Remember how will they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? We must tell them, we must be the new John the Baptist, we must prepare the way of the Lord. We, the Body of Jesus must continue with the ministry of the Messiah. The ministry of proclaiming the good news to the poor; the ministry of proclaiming freedom for the prisoners, and recovery of sight for the blind; the ministry of setting the oppressed free; the ministry of proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor. And all this begins with a question, would you like to come to church with me