Jesus Heals a Crippled Woman on the Sabbath

Luke 13: 10-21

DIG: How is this Sabbath-setting a problem for the woman? For Jesus? For the synagogue leader? How did the woman demonstrate her faith? Does Christ still heal today? How? When? How did her healing point to Isra’el’s healing? When will all Isra‘el be saved? How does Yeshua expose the synagogue leader’s hypocrisy? How had the Oral Law infected his thinking? What is the proper response to the work of the Great Physician? What is the real intent of the Sabbath? What is the one main point about the parables of the mustard seed and the leaven?

REFLECT: What tensions between caring for people and keeping religious rules do you experience? What tends to win out? Why? When have you felt that your faith was too small to matter? What do these parables teach you about your significance?

Whereas the Rabbi from Galilee’s earlier teaching emphasized His authority over the Sabbath (see Cw – Jesus Heals a Man With a Shriveled Hand), here the issue involves the meaning of Shabbat. This is the last recorded incident of Christ teaching in a synagogue. He concludes the teaching by repeating the parables of the mustard seed and the leaven. The result was that while the people were delighted in this display of God’s glory and power, the synagogue leader and all His opponents were humiliated.

On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues. The drama begins, and a woman was there whom an evil spirit had crippled for eighteen years. Here individual need is emphasized. Since Isra’el was His personal possession, Jesus could take care of individual members (Zechariah 11). She had a curved spine and was bent over and could not straighten up at all. This woman graphically portrayed Israel’s condition in the sight of ADONAI. When Jesus saw her, He called her forward and said to her: Woman, you are set free from your infirmity (Luke 13:11-12). After His rejection by the Sanhedrin, the Lord’s ministry changed drastically (see En – Four Drastic Changes in Christ’s Ministry). He was no longer performing miracles for the purpose of authenticating His messiahship to the masses, but only healing individuals on the basis of faith. Here, this daughter of Abraham, not only by physical descent, but because she was a daughter in faith who responded to the Great Physician’s invitation to come to Him. When she came forward, as a demonstration of her faith, she was healed.

Then Jesus put His hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God (Luke 13:13). Christ still heals today, but He does so according to His own timetable and purposes (Google Joni Eareckson-Tada). This act of praising God is the proper response to the work of Christ (Luke 2:20, 5:25-26, 7:16, 17:15, 18:43, and 23:47).

Yeshua had been calling the nation to Himself, just as He had been calling this woman to Himself. Although Isra’el had rejected Him, the nation’s condition was not hopeless. In the far eschatological future, Isra’el would respond to His invitation of salvation by faith, all Isra’el will be saved (Romans 11:26). This will happen at the very end of the Great Tribulation as the antichrist and the armies of the world tighten the noose around the neck of Petra, the Jewish leaders will have a moment of spiritual clarity, realize their sin, recognize that Yeshua is indeed their long awaited Messiah, turn to Him in faith, and beg Him to come back (see my commentary Revelation Ev – The Basis for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ). He offered to make the nation whole again so that they could walk uprightly before God.1055

While the woman glorified God because of the deliverance granted to her, the leader of the synagogue openly rejected Christ because He had performed this miracle on Shabbat. Indignant and angry because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader gruffly spoke to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath” (Luke 13:14). This man was more angry than wise. He acknowledged Messiah’s healing power, but did not dare to attack Him directly. He did not even try to silence the woman, who was praising God. He recognized that the majority of the people were in full sympathy with the miracle Jesus had performed on this poor, deformed woman. Having no other argument except the traditions of men (Mark 7:8; Colossians 2:8), He appealed to the Oral Law (see Ei – The Oral Law) and totally missed the point. This attitude supports what Jesus had already said about the religious leaders keeping others from entering the kingdom of God.1056

The Lord answered him: You hypocrites! The word hypocrites is extremely important in the narrative. Earlier, He called the crowd and the religious leader’s hypocrites (12:56). Here, Christ repeats His charge. Messiah’s point was that having a pretense of godliness, they were anything but godly. They didn’t even really understand the meaning of Shabbat.

The Son of God pointed out that a person is much more valuable than an animal. Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? The Pharisees themselves didn’t deem this work was a violation, for they recognized that works of mercy and necessity were allowed on the Sabbath Day. They felt responsible for their animals and provided for their needs. Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her? So if animals could be made more comfortable on the Sabbath, why not people? Jesus tore off the mask of his hypocrisy. Is was obvious that Shabbat should be a blessing and not a burden. As a result, when He said this, all His opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things He was doing (Luke 13:15-17).

Here, Yeshua repeats the Parable of the Mustard Seed (Ew), and the Parable of the Leaven (Ex). Here, Luke combines the two, but in a different context. In Luke’s account, we see Messiah teaching on the Sabbath, and He had just healed a crippled woman and humiliated His opponents by exposing their hypocrisy regarding the Sabbath. So when He finally brings in the parables of the mustard seed and the leaven, He changes the metaphor. Jesus seems to be contrasting the kingdom of God with what it had become under pharisaic Judaism. The Pharisees and Torah-teachers had totally missed the point of the greatness of the Kingdom by being consumed over whether or not a crippled woman should be healed on the Sabbath or not.

Then Jesus asked: What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew abnormally large and became a tree, and the birds of the air came and perched in its branches (Luke 13:18-19; Matthew 13:31-32). There will be an abnormal external growth until it becomes a monstrosity and a resting place for birds. When the Bible uses symbolic language, it uses it consistently. The birds that are pictured here as pharisaic Judaism, would be like the birds in the Parables of the Soils (Et). As he was scattering the seed of the Gospel, some fell along the path, it was trampled on, and the birds came and ate it up (Matthew 13:4; Mark 4:4; Luke 8:5b) before it took root. Again, when the Bible uses symbolic language, it uses it consistently. Leaven always pictures sin. Jesus asked: What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like leaven that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough (Luke 13:20-21). The one main point of these two parables is that the sin of pharisaic Judaism would continue to grow and steal the truth of the Gospel from the nation of Isra’el.

An encounter with Jesus always brings great healing and dignity. That is because Yeshua does not see us as we ourselves or as others see us. In His eyes, we all have great value because we are loved by Him and made in His image (see my commentary on Genesis Ao – Let Us Make Man in Our Image, In Our Likeness). The woman whom Christ healed had been so stripped of her dignity that she was considered less important than a thirsty barnyard animal. At least they could be cared for on Shabbat! But Jesus saw this woman differently. He called her a daughter of Abraham, one of God’s chosen people. He healed her so that she could stand as a woman of dignity, no longer burdened by Satan.

Society places such importance on externals, on doing certain things certain ways. The synagogue leader thought little of this daughter of Abraham and little of Jesus. Blinded by his hypocrisy, he could not see what was happening before his very eyes. The kingdom of God had come with great power, calling him to the freedom of being a son of God. But he missed it because of his narrow view of how God would work. He wrongly believed that God would heal only during the “work week” and not on the official day of rest.

Perhaps our experience is like the woman’s. We may be deeply burdened by the Adversary. We may feel stripped of our dignity through painful experiences or debilitating illness. Perhaps we are like the synagogue leader, blinded by commands and duties and unable to perceive the priority of love. We may have become harsh and judgmental to the point that we don’t see how valuable we – and others – really are in God’s eyes.

Let us not feel so sure of how God will work that we don’t give Him the freedom to work outside the boundary lines we have set up for Him. Jesus can set us free from anything that binds or oppresses us, even physically if He so chooses. Let’s turn to Him now so that He can restore us to the dignity that each of us has, as beloved sons and daughters of God.

Lord Jesus, heal us of our illnesses, burdens and wounds. Set us free from the power of Satan and fill us with love for You so that, like this daughter of Abraham, we too might praise You for the dignity you have given us.1057


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