Reading – Luke 13:10-17
Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, ‘Woman, you are set free from your ailment.’ When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, ‘There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.’ But the Lord answered him and said, ‘You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?’ When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.
As we continue in this middle section of Luke, we move from teaching to action, as Jesus heals a woman who is bent double. The language is both that of oppression, bound by Satan / needing freedom, and of illness, a body that is bowed down and needs releasing and being made strong again.
There are the usual bystanders, the angry righteous one who says this should not be happening on a Sabbath, and a watching crowd who are amazed, at least in part maybe because Jesus has got one over the Synagogue leader?
How should we read this for today? We can see connections but are they appropriate ones to make.
Some questions we might ask:
- How do we view the Sabbath day? Do we treat it as sufficiently holy?
- Are our churches places of welcome and hope and healing, even above the priority of “proper worship”?
- Do we rejoice at the good things we hear being done?
- Do we see in others that they too are a daughter of Abraham even if things are not right?
We may feel, some of us, rather like the woman, bowed down for a long time, but still coming to the synagogue, or maybe she has just started to attend – we don’t know. Faith and hope are not easy when we face long-term “crippling” issues; we use the word “crippling” in a wider sense than just the physical-medical.
Jesus not only heals and restores this woman, but he reminds the assembled group that, even though she was “bound” for 18 years, she was still a daughter of Abraham; she doesn’t become a part of the faith community by being healed, but she is restored within it, already a member, though suffering and bound.
The phrase, daughter of Abraham is unique to this passage. Sons of Abraham and children of Abraham yes, but daughter of Abraham – very rare. It is however used elsewhere of the mother of the Maccabees, she whose seven sons were all martyred for their faith, and who also died for her faith. In calling her a daughter of Abraham, Jesus is lifting her to the highest honour among Jewish women. What a special day when she was freed and restored.
So a final question, or questions –
Do we feel we have been set free by God, do we feel we are elevated to sons or daughters of Abraham? Does this cause us to praise God and rejoice?
Revd Peter Reiss