Summary: We are sorely tempted to institute rules that limit our ability to love. In God's kingdom love always trumps rules.
Luke 13:10-17 “Love Trumps Rules”
It is amazing to me that a brief story of a diminutive, hunchbacked woman who came into contact with Jesus in a small synagogue in an isolated village in Galilee over two thousand years ago can have such a tremendous impact on our lives today. Her story contains a powerful message of hope along with revealing insights concerning our human nature.
THE SILENCE OF GOD
Perhaps the most disquieting aspect of a life of faith is the silence of God. We believe that the God whom we worship is always present, all knowing, and all powerful. If these are essential characteristics of a loving and gracious God, then we have great difficulty explaining why God doesn’t act more decisively in history. Why did God allow the holocaust, or the killing fields of Cambodia to occur? Or 9/11, or the Tsunami of 2004, or the earthquake in Haiti, or the Gulf oil spill … the list is endless. (Statistics indicate that Europe’s falling away from God and faith is directly linked to the two world wars that were fought on its soil and the holocaust.)
Questions about God’s silence become more urgent and more troubling when we see our friends and neighbors losing jobs and then homes. Those questions become personal when our prayers for the remission of our aunt’s cancer go unanswered, our prayers for traveling safety end in a tragic accident, a loved one can’t seem to break free from alcohol’s death grip, and our children struggle in school and still get into trouble despite our tears and petitions.
There are times when God seems distant and uncaring. When we are deep in the pit of life, our faith has vaporized and our hope seems to be tragically delusional, the truth of a loving, grace filled, forgiving God appears to be only a figment of our imagination.
In the middle of God’s silence, this story of a crippled woman brings hope.
Our story does not explain or defend God’s silence. There are out Biblical references that struggle with this aspect of God’s presence and activity. This story, though, does proclaim to us that God’ knows!
The woman does not approach Jesus, and the story says nothing about the woman’s faith. Instead, Jesus calls out to the woman. Jesus identifies her problem. Sure, she’s bent over, but Jesus realizes that a spirit has bound her for eighteen years. Laying his hands upon her, Jesus breaks the spirit’s hold upon her and frees her.
The good news that brings hope to us is that the Lord knows our situation. We sometimes forget this important truth. When God is silent, we begin to use our prayers to remind him of our needs and we go into greater and greater detail about our needs. If God remains silent, we begin to give him advice on how he can best answer our prayers. The woman didn’t do this and didn’t need to do this. Jesus knew her needs and Jesus moved to meet her needs. The woman was healed and set free in Jesus’ own way and in his own time.
The story of the crippled woman reminds us that God is a God of love and grace. It is important for us to focus on that love and grace rather than concentrate and worry about our problems.
BREAKING THE RULES
When Jesus acts to set the woman free, he breaks cherished rules. After the temple was destroyed in 70AD, there were only two things that set the Jews apart from the heathens—circumcision and the keeping of the Sabbath. By his actions, Jesus breaks the Sabbath. He declares that love for the woman supersedes keeping rules. Jesus allows nothing to prevent him from sharing God’s love and grace with the woman and freeing her from her bondage
Nothing can prevent Jesus from moving powerfully in our lives and meeting our needs. Our faith can’t limit him. The level of perfection (or lack of perfection) in our lives does not determine his actions and does not change the depth of his love for us. The size of the problem, the depth of need is not a hindrance.
If Jesus breaks the rules to move in our lives, then it stands to reason that we should be will to break the rules in order to share God’s love and grace with others. The important thing for being a person of God is not keeping rules but loving. We might be called upon to break our rules of how we determine who is worthy, or it may mean we break the rules held by our friends.
There is a wonderful scene in “The Blind Side” when Sandra Bullock’s character is having lunch with three of her society friends. She tells them what she is doing and they can’t understand why she’s doing it. She then questions the self-centeredness of her friends. Sandra’s character broke the rules. It was a dangerous thing to do, but her love would not allow her to do anything less.