Luke 13:10-17: 10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11 And 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. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” 13 When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14 But 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.” 15 But 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? 16 And 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?” 17 When 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.
Imagine, for a moment, that you are the woman in this account from Luke. Uncomfortable. Never able to stretch out your spine, or even look others directly in the eye…for the last 18 years?! Struggling to do daily tasks on your own. How frustrated would you be?
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus was teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath when he saw this woman who had been bent over double for eighteen years and who was unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over to him, touched her and said, “Woman, you are healed!” Instantly she could stand up straight. She was so happy, that she began to praise God! We might even imagine her song of praise coming from the words of our psalm for today:
1 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. 2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits— 3 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, 5 who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s….. 8 The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
She’s so happy! Wouldn’t you think that everyone in the synagogue that day would be happy and join the woman in praising God, too? Well, we read that that isn’t the case. The leader in charge of the synagogue was very angry that Jesus had healed the woman on the Sabbath. He told the crowd, “There are six days of the week for working. Come on those days and be healed, but not on the Sabbath.” His concern was not for the restoration of the woman’s health and life, but simply following the rules of the Sabbath. And Jesus answered back, “You hypocrites! All of you work on the Sabbath! Don’t you untie your ox or your donkey and lead it out for water? Doesn’t this dear woman deserve to be healed, even on the Sabbath?” The leader was shamed, but the other people were happy and rejoiced at all of the wonderful things that Jesus did.
Jesus knew that rules are important–that staying faithful to the Sabbath was important– but he knew that the needs of people are more important,too. He knew that doing God’s work of restoration and healing were more important. And that the Sabbath isn’t just for rest and rule following, but mainly, for drawing closer to God. And by her healing, the woman indeed drew closer to God.
And so, Jesus meets us on the Sabbath. To restore, and heal and to nourish us for the whole of our lives—for all of the days of the week. On the Sabbath, and every day, he meets us where we are, and invites us to draw closer to God through more ways than following every rule of faith perfectly. But, also through acts of love, service, healing, and restoration that God can work in us to help those around us who are in need of healing, restoration, and the abundant life we receive by the grace of Christ. Amen.