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Summary: Rules are made to be broken--that is if they stand in the way of ministering to the needs of those around us. Jesus broke the rules and set people free.

Luke 13:10-17 “Breaking the Rules”


The journey of life contains several themes; love/hate, struggle/victory, sorrow/joy. The Bible, which has been called, “The Book of Life,” contains many themes in it, also.

One of the major themes throughout the Bible is that of bondage and freedom.

• During the Exodus, the central event in Jewish history, Moses led the people out of slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land.

• Isaiah writes in his prophecy about the coming Messiah that the Messiah will set the captives free.

• A common image that we have of the cross of Christ is that Jesus is setting us free from the bondage of our sin.

• Paul writes to the Galatians and encourages them to stand fast in their freedom and not to allow themselves to be placed in bondage again.

In the gospel story today, Jesus breaks the rules and in doing so sets people free. He sets the woman free, the leader of the synagogue, and the crowd surrounding them.


The woman is described as being crippled by a spirit. We do not know exactly what her physical ailment was, but it probably similar to a hunchback, or osteoporosis. Luke does not call it a sickness, though. The emphasis is on a spirit that has bound the woman for eighteen years.

Even though it is the Sabbath, a day when the work of healing is not to take place, Jesus frees the woman from the bondage of the spirit and enables her to stand straight.

Jesus not only frees her spiritually and physically, he also sets her free socially. When he first sees the woman, he addresses her as woman. By the time she is healed he addresses her as a daughter of Abraham. This is one of the rare times that this title is used. It elevates the woman onto a level with men and her relationship with God is no longer based on her relationship with a man.

As Christians, we are called to carry on the ministry of Jesus Christ. We do this in a number of ways.

• We set people free by our participation in Habitat for Humanity and other similar ministries where the basic needs of people are met.

• We set people free by donating water and diapers to the homeless, or by participating in a garage sale to help a family in need.

• We set people free by a smile and a word of encouragement. We can ease their burdens and lighten their loads through a listening ear and a heartfelt hug.

The woman, however, was not the only one who was in bondage.


The synagogue leader was in bondage to rules. He was so busy being a good person and keeping all of the rules that he had ceased to be a companionate and loving person. In God’s great scheme of things people always come before rules.

Jesus confronts the man and his hypocrisy. There are certain acts of mercy—toward animals--such as the freeing of a beast of burden that even he would do. Jesus points out that people are more important than animals, and people deserve a greater amount of mercy.

Luke records that the man and those who agreed with him were humiliated, or ashamed. It is hoped that their shame caused them to ponder the priorities of their lives and to be set free from rules.

Jesus’ actions toward the leader of the synagogue challenge us to ponder our bondage to rules.

• How often does the fact that people break a rule limit our ability to love them and treat them with care and respect?

• When to rules such as “never be late,” keep us from spending needed time with family member or coworker? And, when does our fear of strangers prevent us from helping people in need?

Rules give order to our lives and our society. They are valuable gifts that God has given us, but they are never to prevent or hinder love.


The bystanders of this story were set free, also. Luke records that the people were delighted at the wonderful things that Jesus was doing.

God’s priority of love was affirmed to the crowd. They realized that God was not a divine cop waiting to write them a ticket or arrest them. Rather, they understood that God was a loving God who wanted to set them free.

Experiencing the love of Go is a powerful thing. We are set free. We are empowered to live an abundant life.


Bondage and freedom are themes of our lives. As we read about Jesus’ actions toward the woman and the synagogue leader, and how they were freed, we are invited to admit our bondage and turn to God in order to be set free.

The cross of Christ; his death and resurrection has set us free so that we can be truly free.


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