21 August 2016

Luke 13:10-17

“… 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?” (v. 16)

Psalm: Psalm 103


Luke is the only Gospel to record this story: an extraordinary event happening in a rather ordinary setting. Jesus is teaching on the Sabbath, as he so often did, and a crippled woman appears who is in need of healing. The word Luke's Gospel uses to describe her appearance in the synagogue indicates that this was sudden, unexpected, something of a surprise: 'behold!' It would be reasonable to wonder if she had been brought there in an attempt to trap Jesus, or, at least, to see how he would react to the situation. But Jesus acted predictably: the woman was healed and she went her way (verse 13). Embarrassed, angry and nervous in his inability to handle the situation, the ruler of the synagogue turned on the crowd: if they had not been there, had not brought the stricken woman, this breach of the law would not have occurred. A classic case of deflected anger!

There are two remarkable things about Jesus' response to the ruler; firstly, he used the law to justify what he had done (verse 15) - those observing the incident would have had no problem in freeing a trapped animal on the Sabbath, the law allowed for it in specific circumstances. Why not then a person? Secondly, Jesus drew the woman, marginalised both by gender and by disability, into the gathering of the faithful; she was a daughter of Abraham, one of the chosen of God.

The love and mercy of God know no boundaries, observe no laws and disqualify no-one. They do not wait for a more suitable time so that niceties may be observed. Those suffering are among us, they are of us, their need cannot wait. Followers of Jesus need always to hold this truth in mind - it is the basis from which to live lives of discipleship.

To Ponder

  • Think of a time when the need(s) of another caused you embarrassment. What did you do on that occasion? And how do you feel about that now?
  • Have the 'rules' of the church ever bothered you and got in the way of what you see to be your ministry? What did you do then?

Bible notes author

Gillian Kingston

Gillian Kingston is a local preacher on the North Tipperary Circuit of the Methodist Church in Ireland and a part-time university chaplain. She is interim Vice-President of the World Methodist Council.