Posted on Sun, Aug 25, 2013
August 25, 2013
14th Sunday after Pentecost
Gospel Text: Luke 13:10-17 “Rules or Freedom” (originally it was “Rules or Healing”)
Jesus Heals a Crippled Woman
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.
As a leader, a businessperson, a teacher, a parent, a child or just being a human being, it is amazing how creative we can become just in order to justify our actions or teachings, good or bad. We wonder why certain people act the way they do. We wonder why or how certain laws came into being, especially when the injustice or the pain or division it my cause is so easily seen and demonstrable. Sometimes the injustice is so blatant, and the saying, “Just follow the money,” becomes the easy way to know where the law, rule or policy was created. Yet, for the average person, we may feel helpless and just resigned to a self-imposed realization that this is just they it is, and there is nothing I can do to change it… It is not surprising to see people rejoice when the injustice is illuminated, the perpetrator is identified and things are made right.
Rules, policy even laws are passed for all kinds of reasons backed up with all kinds of creative spin, arguments or clever justification… but there comes a time, when someone must stand up, identify the problem, speak out, march as one body, and challenge those rules, policies or even laws that oppress or alienate. To not speak up and question, is to shut down a huge part of our humanity. Humans are creatures born to question, explore, seek truth and find meaning.
This is what Jesus was all about. The question is, are we able to look past our ego and self-righteousness and see Jesus as the one who not only didn't always follow the religious laws of the day, Jesus defied the very laws of nature and gave his life so that we could be once again, reunited with God, the source of all truth and life.
Jesus wasn't the radical of his day, human self-righteousness and the pursuit of justifying the God-defying actions that pollute the land and sea, divide peoples just for the sake of wealth and social control, the very act of arrogantly denying the changes that are happening all around us and not seeking new ways to live and even survive together on this planet… this self-centered way of seeing ourselves and the world, was radical.
Jesus was just teaching in villages on his way to Jerusalem. By this time in his ministry, he was very well known, and had done a very good job at creating some powerful enemies… the Pharisees. The Pharisees were a large Jewish “denomination” that believed in the resurrection. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, and therefore, they were the “other” denomination. As Jesus was called a “rabbi” he would have actually been lumped in with the Pharisees; but as his method of teaching, preaching and healing were much more attractive to the populace, because he taught the Truth for the sake of making the Truth of God known in the world. His goal was to teach the people so that they could live in the hope and joy of knowing they were God’s children, not so that the coffers in the synagogue were always full or to instill some sort of fear into the people so that they would feel dependant on the priest as a “go between” for them and God. Jesus also healed, not just to relieve pain and suffering, but also to show people the power and faithfulness of God.
It is the Sabbath, and ironically, Jesus is teaching, therefore he was working… think about that for a while…
But while he is teaching an unknown woman with a terrible back problem who has suffered for 18 years we are told, and she suddenly appears before Jesus and his students. We don’t know who she is, or why she has suddenly appeared before Jesus and his students, but she was there for a purpose as Jesus calls her to come over to him! She didn't ask to be healed; she probably had no idea who this chap named Jesus was. All she could tell is that he was a teacher who spoke with the accent of a Nazarene or Galilean! She may have been just walking to a friend or neighbors house, going shopping, enjoying the morning, we don’t know. But Jesus had plans for her, and she obediently came over to Jesus and Jesus laid hands on her and she was able to stand up straight. She was healed! Sounds great doesn't it?
Why do you think Jesus healed this woman? Why do you think Luke wrote this particular passage in his Gospel about this incident? Of course, when Jesus heals, we know that Jesus is doing something only God could do… This was truly a “God thing!”
But I think Luke had something more important to teach us.
All the while Jesus is teaching and then suddenly healing, out from the dark comes this crotchety old leader of the synagogue, possibly a rabbi with a huge chip on his shoulder! (At least that is how I picture him.)
What is his problem with Jesus? Jesus just did a miracle only God could do, not something any human, or even a rabbi LIKE HIM could do… Rather than praising God for the miracle and expressing joy for the sake of this poor woman, he condemned Jesus for WORKING on the Sabbath. His crime? Healing someone who is suffering.
Really? Was it really just because he “worked” on the Sabbath? Or was it something much deeper… was it because the rabbi could really see Jesus as a threat to his way of life. Jesus was soon showing the world he truly was a man sent from God, and in his teaching, preaching and healing, he became a huge threat to the control of the religious leaders over the people of Israel and the entire Temple ‘system’ that was put in place to control the Jewish people.
Remember, the Romans could not control the Jews just with military might, intimidations and the spear; they needed the religious leaders to control the people of Palestine. Jesus didn't bow down to either group, as he was about doing God’s work, healing through forgiveness and mercy.
The rabbi had the law to control the people, and they used the law for this purpose most effectively. But Luke is clearly telling us that Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath, and not, the Sabbath is the Lord of Jesus. The Sabbath was given as a gift, not as rules created to control and incite fear.
Jesus brilliantly responds in all open honesty, “‘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?’”
What is the Sabbath sin Jesus is speaking about? It is the WORK you must do to PULL a rope and untie it from the manger, and then the WORK you must do to PULL your donkey to lead it to water.
Pulling, pushing, lifting are all considered as “work” and are ‘forbidden’ on the Sabbath… Have you ever been to Jerusalem and wanted to take an elevator up to your hotel room on the Sabbath? In many hotels, not even the elevators work on the Sabbath, because they may tempt you to “push” a button, which is a sin on the Sabbath.
Luke writes, “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.”
The crowd is not rejoicing just because he put the rabbi in his place, the people are rejoicing because Jesus is speaking the truth!
When a person is hurting, we comfort; when a person is hungry, we feed them; when a person is alone or in prison, we visit them; when there is injustice or wrong being done against a person, a group, or even a community, we stand up, illuminate the injustice and stand with those who have been marginalized until all things are made, PONO, shalom, in harmony, in line with God’s plan filled with mercy, hope, healing and life.
If someone even hints that you are anyone less than a CHILD OF GOD, don’t believe them and walk away. It is God who gives you, your neighbor, your family and the world our identity. We are so loved by God, in spite of our ‘imperfections’ God sent His only begotten Son so that we can live as God’s people, not as people defined according to someone not even interested in following in the ways of Jesus.
The ways of pain and suffering going on all over the world, are not in line with the ways of God, but are totally opposed to the Will of God. How do we know this, innocent children are suffering, people are labeling and blaming each other out of ignorance or greed, the ocean and lands are being abused, poisoned and neglected all for the sake of profit. All justified by human beings for their own personal purposes… not for the sake of neighbor, being good stewards of God’s land and seas, or even close to walking in a relationship with God.
We, as a redeemed and empowered people of God, we have to wonder what Jesus would say to the rules, laws and reasons for justifying them that we have created.
In order to bring about our own healing, what would Jesus say to us? What would Jesus call to our attention that needs to change? How would Jesus bring about a new mindset that would help us to truly see each other as brothers and sisters, all members of one family?
Well, Jesus has spoken! Jesus has acted! Through the Cross, Forgiveness and the Holy Spirit, we have been healed, we can have a new mindset, and we can, if we choose, we can live as brothers and sisters, all members of One Family, the Body of Christ. Amen
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