Summary: Jesus breaks all the Jewish rules.... no wonder the Pharisees wanted him dead. He is the "cloud" of the O. T. in their midst. One Sabbath day, Jesus was teaching in a synagogue. A woman was there who was severely disabled. Her body was all bent over.”
In Jesus Holy Name August 25, 2013
Text: Luke 13:10-17 Redeemer
(Note: some ideas are from Leonard Sweet & "Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes" by Kenneth Bailey
“Cure for an Aching Back”
It is unexpected and agonizing. You reach over to pick up a package, bend down to tie your shoe, or put out your arms to scoop an "arms-up" child . . . and suddenly, something goes terribly wrong. You know it in an instant. A wrench. A tweak. A tear. A back muscle, or disk, or nerve...something has gone completely "off-line." In the twitch of a muscle, moving becomes misery.
Even if you've never studied anatomy ever, you are immediately an expert in just how intimately connected your back is to your arms and legs, neck and shoulders, hands and feet. Everything anywhere near your back, hurts. When there is a "wreck" around the "super highway" of our nervous receptors, all of the other roadways in our body, all the muscles and nerves, all suffer together.
In the “back-to-school” shopping ritual, one of the most important, and expensive, family purchases is a new backpack. Dozens of kids walked by Redeemer this past week. Most of them had a back pack. Does it seem to you too that every year the load our kids becomes heavier and heavier?
In fact, there is real concern among medical professionals about the long-term effects of this “weightiness” on the nerves, bones and muscles of young children. There are long-term studies underway to follow up the muscular-skeletal effects that may result from years of hauling around pounds and pounds of books, sports gear, computers, and all the other portable “necessities” our kids carry on their back ten months out of the year. In later life, the back-packer may develop the newly named syndrome of “backpackilepsy.”
Notice how our story begins, “One Sabbath day, Jesus was teaching in a synagogue. A woman was there who was severely disabled. Her body was all bent over.” Even with her pronounced deformity she was in the synagogue on the Sabbath. I admire her. I wonder if I would have that kind of courage to be in public with that kind of condition.
Even more important she had not allowed her physical condition to impair her relationship with God. She had been this way for eighteen years all bent over and unable to rise up. The pain was sometimes severe. Yet, her habit was to be in worship to praise her Maker. That’s devotion.
I know people who will miss church if they have a slight headache. Or if there is a threat of a little rain or the threat of sunshine for that matter for there are so many other things you can do when the weather is nice. But here was this woman where she was supposed to be on this particular Sabbath: in worship. And because she was there, she received a very special blessing from God.
The visit of Jesus to a local synagogue reported in this week’s text is unique to Luke. It is the last time this gospel writer specifically locates Jesus in a synagogue. In an earlier episode (6:9)Jesus healed someone on the Sabbath, it raised the hackles of the religious establishment. Jesus is “teaching” in the synagogue, so obviously he had been recognized as a qualified leader and scholar of the Torah.
Yet the moment this woman appears in the synagogue, “bent over” and “quite unable to stand up,” he focuses on her and her disability. It is unclear just how separated men and women were in first century synagogue services. Usually in a two story synagogue the women were upstairs. Still, for Jesus to single out and call forward a woman to the center of the synagogue during the Sabbath, was highly unusual.
Jesus not only called a woman forward. He called an obviously diseased woman into his presence. In this first century world when one had a disease it was viewed as a sign of divine displeasure. Remember the story of the man born blind (John 9).... what was the disciples question? Who sinned this man or his parents? This woman’s physical condition suggested a spiritual shortcoming.
Here is the setting. Jesus has been invited on the Sabbath to address the congregation. You have the synagogue ruler off to the side who has invited him. Then you have the congregation who has heard so much about this young man from Nazareth. They are excited to have him there in their hometown synagogue. That’s the scene. The stage is set. Entering in is bent over, frail woman who is known throughout the small community. They call her the cripple.
Society has a way dehumanizing us. When we allow this to happen, we fail to see our worth before God. The hunchback was, in the synagogue ruler’s opinion, only a woman and of little value. The Mosaic Law was more important than a woman let alone a disfigured one.