Summary: A perspective on Luke 13: 10-17. Today, wherever you find Jesus in the life of his disciples, there you will find that the people are delighted with all the wonderful things done in his name.
Luke 13: 10-17
Jesus, Lord of the Sabbath
The crippled woman was one of many on a long list of people that Jesus had healed during his ministry on earth. The text is more than just a reminder of Jesus’ divine ability to heal and his compassion towards all people. There are signals and pointers in the text that summon the reader to a closer inspection of the event in the synagogue. The author has used the plight of the crippled woman to display what had happened to the Sabbath itself.
The text begins in a very general way: on a Sabbath, in one of the synagogues, a woman, a sick spirit, as if sickness was a common occurrence throughout the worship centres. The woman had been sick for 18 years. At the time of Jesus, the number 18 had another meaning besides its numerical value. It also represented the blessing of life and it still does today among the Jews. However, in the context of the woman’s sickness the number 18 made a mockery of her condition, she had no life; her life was as if she was dead. Her tragedy mirrors that of the Sabbath.
The Sabbath was always meant to be a time for giving and receiving life. It was meant to be a day set aside in which God could bless his people and restore them to life. It was also a day for praising God for all his goodness. When it was first instituted at the time of Moses, the context had been slavery in Egypt and it was then appropriate to provide a day of rest as a way of giving life to the people of Israel. Over time, the Sabbath became crippled by a sick spirit that bound it with excessive rules, regulations, and traditions formulated by godless men. It could no longer give life. Commandments and regulations are in themselves life giving where required. Unfortunately, they can also stifle and restrict life when the Law is considered more important than restoring someone to life. Human nature itself has a tendency to gravitate and adhere to the Law. Adherence to the law can make one proud and it gives opportunity to lord it over others and make one feel a bit like a god. In the eyes of Jesus, the Sabbath had become like the crippled woman who was bound by a sick spirit and therefore had no life.
How do you live your life? Is it in bondage to the law, or is it also tempered with grace?
In the course of teaching in the synagogue Jesus saw the crippled woman. He immediately stopped what he was doing to attend to her dire needs. Jesus said, “Woman you are set free from your sickness.” Only then did Jesus put his healing hands on her and immediately she straightened up and praised God. Jesus’ proclamation, “Woman you are set free from your sickness” can also refer to the healing of the Sabbath. Through his proclamation, Jesus took charge of the Sabbath. He took the place and duty of the ruler in that synagogue. His act of healing, and the resulting praise from the woman and all the people confirmed Jesus’ status as the Lord of the Sabbath. Through his actions, Jesus had restored the rightful place and function of the Sabbath.