Summary: What is in our lives that 'cripples' us from receiving the blessings from Jesus
For many years there has been a saying that I have been using. I learned it in business and it has become my tenth beatitude:
“Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape.”
We hear in the Gospel today that the woman was bent out of shape.
Eighteen years she had been crippled, nearly two decades of shuffling through life, head down, looking at peoples' feet. Today we would probably call it osteoporosis, or arthritis or stenosis? But Luke presents it in the manner of his day when he blames the woman's affliction on a "spirit."
Eighteen years is a short time:
• Eighteen years can fly by when life is spent in happiness.
• It can be a joyful time when involved with the blessings of life.
• It can be a thrilling time when you are reaching and accomplishing all you had hoped for.
• It can be a learning time when you are exploring in the challenges and joys of raising a family.
• It can be a rewarding time when you are advancing in your job and enjoying the success and accolades of society.
• Eighteen years can be a growing time when you are surrounded by friends that help you through the complexities of life.
But eighteen years can also be a very long time:
• Eighteen years can seem like ages if you are consumed with the pain of a bent back and broken body.
• It can be a very difficult time if you have to struggle to even leave your home.
• It can seem to be an eternity to a mind that is vexed with despair.
• Eighteen years can seem forever if you are struggling with a mistake that misdirected your life, or wounded your spirit or broke your heart.
The picture of this little woman is terrible. She was badly crippled up, bent at the waist, shuffling steps, ill-fitting clothes, depressed in spirit. Everything she did was done with great difficulty.
It was not suddenly that this took place, but over a period of time. Suddenly she woke up one day and discovered that her life would never be the same again.
She continued to keep the faith, but there was very little peace, no joy, no comfort. It had been so long since she had just been able to feel the freedom of daily life, that it is remarkable that she continued to go to synagogue at all.
It had forever since she had felt comfort and ease, and doubtless, her physical pain had become a huge mental obstacle for her as well.
But someone else also was bent out of shape, and with him it was just a little less noticeable.
He was a synagogue leader, so externally at least he must have respectable and astute enough for the elders to put him in charge of operations for their village synagogue. He would have been responsible for the upkeep of the building itself, as well as for the services that went on inside. Maybe he was well-known, influential and quite likely he was wealthy. Maybe he was particularly pious. Whatever the reason, if it happened in, around, or to the synagogue, he was responsible for it.
But, in a way, he was just as bent out of shape as the crippled woman who struggled to worship at his synagogue. His particular deformity, however, was of heart and mind, caused by a lack of theological rigidity and a lack of compassion. His was a condition that made it possible for him to stand right in the middle of God's glory and power and think only about whether the order of worship was being followed.
These two -- crippled woman and heart-twisted synagogue ruler – came together one Sabbath. Or maybe they didn't. Whether they met each other or not, they both met Jesus. And it's probably not overstating the case to say that it was a meeting neither forgot as long as they lived.
As a visiting Rabbi, Jesus was asked to teach on that Sabbath -- almost certainly by the synagogue ruler himself. The teaching normally would have consisted of the Rabbi commenting on the texts assigned for that day with traditions, parables, and instruction. It was all done in a certain way, with a certain spirit, and the synagogue ruler would not have suffered lightly any action that might possibly have been seen as a disruption.
Given that, maybe you can understand his discomfort when Jesus calls this woman -- a woman –- to stand before the assembled congregation.
Jesus had broken EVERY law of propriety for his day:
• Men were never to acknowledge a woman in public – women were considered property and not worthy of human identity