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.