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the activity of Jesus


The activity of Jesus, from the location of where he was teaching to the content he was teaching, to the miracles he performed, was always intentional and multidimensional.

On the Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues…

Luke 13:10

Jesus was teaching on the Sabbath, which hardly seems out of the ordinary, but it is a critical component of this story as this would be no ordinary Sabbath. There was a bigger plan – a greater purpose for those in attendance that day – and Christ, positioning himself in the synagogue to teach, understood and could see the critical nature of this timing.

…and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all.

Luke 13:11

This crippled woman was not possessed by a demon. Her affliction was a result of an oppressive spirit, crippling her from the outside. This spirit could not, and did not, possess her. She was bound up physically. The pain and the anguish she felt – and it should be noted, not because of some hidden sin in her life – was evidenced in her broken body. To shame her for her condition is likened to that of shaming an individual dealing with the crushing weight of depression or a physical illness that has plagued them for years. We tend to fault the depressed and call out their behavior as a character issue- that somehow, they are the maker of their own despair. We have no compassion, no grace, no place in our systems for those crippled by the physiological and psychological constraints of depression. We overanalyze the chronically ill. We can’t figure out why they are dealing with this disease, and why it cannot be remedied, so we accuse. We find a solution that fits our paradigm: “this person must be filled with the sin of bitterness or unforgiveness or addiction”, and we marginalize the wounded and broken that are desperately searching for grace and healing.

This woman, so bent over and so bound up physically, Christ called a “daughter of Abraham” (vs. 16). She was not an outsider. She followed the laws. She was chosen, but she could not claim her position. The enemy was tormenting her. For eighteen years, she was crippled by a despair that few of us can truly relate to. Imagine if your body took on the nature of your depression, anxiety, insecurity, and fear. Imagine the tangled mess of your internal life exposed to the outside world. Imagine the stares and raised brows when you entered a room. Or, perhaps, like this woman, your torment would cripple you to the point of being hidden and invisible. Imagine that feeling for a moment. Put yourself in her shoes.

The blessed assurance of Christ that was, and still is, our hope and security, was his awareness of all things…every detail. While this crumpled-up, tormented woman was invisible to the crowd, she was not invisible to Christ. He saw her…just like he sees you and me. He saw her in her torment; and rather than try to explain it away, or pile on more shame that somehow, she was the maker of this trouble, he had compassion on her. Jesus always had his eye on the marginalized, the unlovely, and the weak.

And his eye is ever upon on our torment, our pain, and our troubled hearts. While the crowd marginalizes, Christ draws out and redeems the broken.

When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.

Luke 13:12, 13

This miracle is saturated with warmth, beauty, hope, justice, and indescribable love. It is a beautiful story of our Savior’s beautiful heart. Christ is always moved to compassion toward the suffering. His word and his touch are a promise of restoration, healing and redemption.

Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”

Luke 13:14

The synagogue ruler passive aggressively spoke to the people crowding in to see Jesus and to be touched by their Savior. Rather than speak to Jesus directly he told the people that their needs held very little value in light of the Sabbath…the holy day. He set the day over the need. He was bound to the system, giving it far greater authority and honor than the One who was the giver of the Sabbath. People became objects, stripped of their humanity, serving the system, rather than the system serving their needs.

There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). From this ancient context – this miraculous event in a synagogue – to today, we see that history repeats itself over and over. Manmade systems will all eventually follow the same trajectory. What may have, at one time, been implemented with sincerity and faith, will eventually become a burden too heavy to bear. The wisdom of man cannot hold the brokenness of this world. It takes the wisdom of Christ, and the redemption of the cross, to carry with compassion, grace and mercy, the weight of the crippled believer. True Christianity places the person- the individual- above the system.

And that is exactly what Christ did for this woman.

The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”

Luke 13:15, 16

Jesus responded directly to the synagogue ruler. He didn’t speak to the crowd as the ruler did. Jesus wasn’t going to triangulate and turn this into a match of wits with the crowd playing the intermediary. He took up this case with the one who was making the accusation, and he made it clear that the system, meant to bring hope and rest to the weary, was abusively broken.

In the world and in the church we are constantly in peril of loving systems more than we love God and more than we love men.

William Barclay

It was actually legal to allow animals who are typically bound up, to be led from their stalls to water on the Sabbath. Jesus rebuked this whole paradigm. At what point did these rulers subordinate the freedom and restoration of a human life under that of these animals used for work? When did an animal hold more value than a human?

Jesus made it clear that, even though he could have waited until the following day to heal this woman, it was unthinkable to allow her to suffer one more minute…especially in the presence of the Messiah.

Jesus Christ came for moments just like this one. He came for individuals just like this crippled woman. He didn’t come to impress the high and mighty. He wasn’t on the lookout for the influencers and the beautiful people. He came for the broken – both internally and externally – the marginalized, the hopeless, the dying, the dead and diseased. He came for the wealthy and the poor, the hungry and the well-fed. He came for the hearts desperate for truth, for peace, for hope, for a Savior.

Jesus always looked for the cast-offs and the marginalized. He sought them out. Even when a poor woman touched his garment and received healing, he knew. His eyes and his ears were dialed in to the sights and sounds of the least of these. And he called them to himself. His compassion and his deep love brought them healing, and most importantly, redemption.

He has called us to do the same. He has called us to seek out the lost, the dying, and the lame. He has commissioned every believer to “Go…and make disciples.” (Matthew 28:19). Regardless of whatever title we may or may not carry, we are all commissioned to bring the lost to Jesus…to help untie the ropes and the constraints that have bound them up and lead them to the living water.

And for those who are bound up, crumpled over and distressed, Christ hears you and sees you. If you have been marginalized, shoved to the side, forgotten or made invisible by an impossible system, I know that Jesus is sitting right in the middle of it, and he knows where you are. He is not unaware. His heart is moved to compassion, and his hands are ready to touch you and heal you. After Christ put his hands on the crippled woman, she immediately straightened up. Immediately. His power to redeem the broken spaces of your life is immediate. And it is complete.

Rest assured that Christ’s power is enough to untie the ropes and set us free. He doesn’t waste time.

When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.

Luke 13:17

The people…that crowd in the synagogue…were delighted. I find myself delighted in picturing this moment. And I find myself walking in delight, knowing that Christ is still redeeming the crippled and doing it in the most unconventional ways.

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