Luke 13: 10 – 17 Jesus heals a crippled woman on the Sabbath
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.
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This healing miracle is an acted-out parable. Jesus plainly wants to teach something by his actions. This is a healing on the Sabbath. The chief priests and Pharisees objected to healings on the Sabbath on the grounds that healing was work, and work was forbidden on the Sabbath.
St Luke’s gospel sets this healing miracle in the context of teaching about hypocrisy, and about seizing opportunities to be saved. That suggests that the miracle, too, will illuminate our understanding of these topics.
Another clue that this miracle is designed to teach is that Jesus takes the initiative throughout. The woman doesn’t request healing, she’s just there in the congregation. Jesus recognises her need and calls her forward. He doesn’t ask whether she wants to be healed, he simply tells her she is freed from her infirmity, and lays his hands on her. The woman immediately straightens up and praises God.
The synagogue leader’s response is not what you would hope. He tells his congregation to come and get healed on a working day, not on the Sabbath. Jesus’ response is to point out that even on the Sabbath everyone unties their ox or their donkey, leads it outside and gives it water. Water is vital. Animals need it every day. Just so, making people whole is urgent, and every opportunity to do so should be seized, Sabbath or not.
The woman’s response by praising God shows that she hasn’t merely been healed physically, she has been healed spiritually. Jesus has led her to drink from springs of living water.
Now look at the context of this passage. It is part of the teaching against hypocrisy – the synagogue leader’s hypocrisy is plain to see – but it is also teaching us to seize the moment. Jesus healed her then and there. Just as we have been warned not to delay bearing fruit, and we have been reminded that life could end at any moment, here we are being shown that we must lose no opportunity for bringing people to spiritual health by bringing them to Jesus.
After all, what could be better than to see someone praising God for a healed life?
Thank you for the healing brought by Jesus. Help us to bring your living water to those who need it.
In Jesus name, Amen