Summary: This text teaches us that Jesus Christ can fix our lives and give us an identity.
10Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 12When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” 13When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” 15But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? 16And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” 17When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing (Luke 13:10-17)
This text is housed in the gospel of Luke, the 3rd unit of the synoptic gospels. These gospels are called synoptic because they synthesize how we see the mission, message and ministry of Jesus Christ.
In this passage, we see Jesus teaching when a crippled woman comes into the synagogue. By sharing with us that this person was a ‘crippled woman’, Luke the physician is presenting a complex diagnosis. Sociologically, this community was rooted in a patrilineal descent system and patriarchal traditions; women were considered to be second class citizens. Hence this woman not only suffered the stigma of her gender, but also the stigma of being known by her problem instead of her birth name. In more ways than one, she was bent out of shape.
Let’s take a closer look at her. Her crippled state meant that how she walked, slept, ate, digested her food, washed, dressed and cared for her body was atypical relative to most people. Her condition impacted: (1) how she traveled in inclement weather, (2) her prospects for earning a living, (3) her options for recreation, (4) her chances for personal relationships, (5) her ability to nurture a family and (6) how much she could carry when shopping. Her condition meant that her view of life consisted of dirt roads, feet, bugs, rain puddles and animal droppings.
The text says that she had this condition for 18 years. That means that as she was subordinated to her malady, she also had to bear the weight of how life used to be. If she had been born this way, then this condition would have been normal. But she has a mental point of reference that reminds her that things used to be different. She used to be able to look people in the eye. She used to stand in front of the mirror and fix her hair. But 18 years ago, she experienced a new normal. She may have grown accustomed to being crippled, but that is not how life started out. If her social status and physical condition did not have her bent of out of shape, then her memories of better days certainly did.
It was this situation in which Jesus made a difference in her life. If we examine the text carefully we will see that this was a 3 step process:
1. She responded to the invitation of Jesus – no excuses, no hesitation, no doubt
2. She received His grace – after 18 years of bondage, she proudly became a ‘loose woman’
3. She rejoiced for her deliverance – she gave praise to the One who restored her health
We see that she was restored not only physically but also socially. Before her deliverance, we knew her as the crippled woman. But as Jesus tells His detractors, she is a daughter of Abraham. She has an identity; she is a beneficiary of the patrilineal descent system. Physiologically and sociologically, she has been made whole.
So what does this text mean for us? This text teaches us that when the vicissitudes of life have us ‘bent out of shape’ that we can find deliverance in Jesus Christ. If we respond to Him by faith and accept His favor, then we can rejoice in knowing that we are on the path to overcoming. This text presents deliverance in a compressed time period; our deliverance may not be instantaneous. But even though God does not move when we want Him to, we know that His time table is always right.
There is one other aspect of this text that we need to consider. Jesus did not turn back the clock and make her 18 years younger. He did not set history in reverse and undo every heartache, every missed opportunity or any seasons of brokenness. He did not remove the tear stains from her pillow case, nor remove any signs of aging. She had to live with what she experienced, and move on. Likewise for us, when Jesus has delivered us from an abnormal life, we cannot drown in the bitterness of what passed us by. If we are not careful, we could become wrapped up in resentment and regret – meta-bondage – bent out of shape over the fact that we were bent out of shape. What’s done is done. We cannot go back but we can go forward with Christ.