15 March 2013

Luke 13:10-17

"And the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing." (v. 17)


The focus of today's passage is not just on the healing of a woman, but on the confrontation that it causes. It mirrors arguments that have already taken place in Luke 6:6-11 and will occur again in Luke 14:1-6, about what is or is not acceptable to do on the sabbath. It is worth noting that the healing on the sabbath in Capernaum (Luke 4:31-36) didn't seem to cause the same controversy. Perhaps that is another sign of how well respected he was, or maybe how open-minded the people were, in the town he'd moved to live in.

Working on the sabbath was against the religious law. Jesus had been reprimanded by the Pharisees for allowing his disciples to break that law by picking grain in the field (Luke 6:1-2). He clearly thought that the religious leaders should not be focusing on such trivialities and were losing sight of the law's real purpose. However healing a woman on the sabbath, and in the synagogue, could not go unchallenged. The leader of the synagogue not unreasonably points out that there were six days in the week to have helped this woman (verse 14) and her condition was hardly an emergency, having lived with her bent back for eighteen years (verse 11).

Jesus' answer to his critics exposes their hypocrisy and prejudice. In reminding them how they will look after their animals on the sabbath he contrasts that with their reluctance to help a woman on the margins of their society. Just like the woman with a haemorrhage (Luke 8:43), this woman who was thought to be bent over by the weight of an unclean spirit, would have been unable to fulfil her role in society. She would have been on the margins and thought of little higher than the ox or donkey. And yet in the eyes of God she was a "daughter of Abraham" (v. 16). She was valued and loved just as much as any other person listening and watching in the synagogue. No wonder the "entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things he was doing" (v. 17).

To Ponder

  • How we use Sundays have changed dramatically over the last 20 years. Do you have any sympathy with the views of the leader of the synagogue?
  • The Methodist Church, like most other denominations, has set rules and regulations. To what extent are these a help or a hindrance to our mission?
  • Think of someone who is bent over with their cares or concerns. What can you do to help relieve their burden?

Bible notes author

Dr Richard Vautrey

Richard Vautrey is a local preacher and church steward in Leeds, and a former vice-president of the Methodist Conference. He works as a GP, is an elected member of both the BMA council and Royal College of GPs council as well as being the deputy chair of the BMA's GP committee.