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 chapter 13, verses 10-17)
Lord of the Sabbath
Jesus loves the crippled woman beyond all telling, that much is clear from this story; He is unafraid to break the social, emotional, and spiritual bonds that have chained her for the last eighteen years. Jesus loves healing the broken and the marginalized – and how many of us have drawn comfort from this Jesus, the Jesus that calls us all to His side for restoration of body, mind, soul, and relationship? I know I have.
So often when I read this passage I am so anxious to get to the healing and protection of Jesus at the end that I breeze past this seemingly innocuous line in the middle of the story:
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” (Luke, chapter 13, verse 14).
The synagogue leader is appalled, indignant — his world and beliefs are being challenged and the people are turning to someone else. One of his deepest beliefs about work on the Sabbath – although held legalistically – is being disregarded. He sees his way of life being challenged in front of him and desperately wants to hold on to it, and so he turns in his frustration and insecurity to the people. He tells them off for desiring restoration and healing on the Sabbath, saying that there are six other days to get things done, and that this isn’t the time or place.
But what would have happened if he had turned to Jesus in this moment?
Where would this encounter have ended if the leader had spoken to Jesus out of his raw anger and indignation? What if the man had realized that the person he was angry at and the person who could help him understand and change that response was the same person, the one right in front of him? Would anything change? Would the synagogue leader have found and known the reality of Jesus in a new way? I don’t know. Maybe these words are exactly what the people and the leader needed to hear.
But I do know that I see myself in that synagogue leader.
I see myself dealing with situations that make me fearful, angry, doubtful, and upset, and instead of turning to Jesus in my raw emotion, I turn to others. I see myself habitually seeking others’ help and validation before thinking to turn to Jesus.I lash out or I ask advice, worried that situations that challenge me will be too much for Jesus to handle, or that bringing these burdensome feelings to God will somehow disqualify me from the universal grace that He promises to provide.
As if I could do anything to dismiss myself from the love of the cross of Christ.
So, I often pray for things I think I should want or try to sterilize what I really want to talk to God about. I find myself praying generally – “I pray for an end to poverty,” “Please give me more patience,” “Please bless my ex,” “Please help me stop being so sad,”– and these prayers aren’t inherently bad. But they do not fully encapsulate my feelings, experiences, and true desires. They don’t capture my whole humanity that I am shielding from the love and healing that Jesus promises to pour out on those who ask for it.
How many opportunities have I – like the leader of the story – missed? How many chances do I have to turn to Jesus in my honest, raw, entire despair for Him to minister to me and I have turned the other way? How many opportunities have I denied myself the love and acceptance of Jesus because I’ve been afraid or have simply not thought that Jesus could handle my problems?
How often am I the synagogue leader, not addressing the Jesus right in front of me?
How often are you?
Rebecca constantly strives to practically share God's love and grace to those around her; she also loves fuzzy socks, her five sisters, pink and orange alstroemerias, calligraphy, and sour gummy worms.
Rebecca constantly strives to practically love people around her. She also loves fuzzy socks, her five sisters, pink and orange alstroemerias, calligraphy, and sour gummy worms.