Invite Jesus to come and bring his healing today.
Jesus heals a crippled woman on the Sabbath
10 On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, 11 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. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, ‘Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.’ 13 Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.
14 Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, ‘There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.’
15 The Lord answered him, ‘You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? 16 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?’
17 When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.
Often when people discover that I go to church they quickly assure me that they aren’t religious; but then add that they are quite spiritual. The two words, religious and spiritual, appear at opposite ends of the spectrum, with ‘spirituality’ being a Good Thing and ‘religious’ definitely not! Might Jesus have agreed with them? He healed the outcasts of society (vs 10,11), and he often encountered the disapproval of the ‘religious’ people who didn’t like his ‘spirituality’ (v 14). He was shattering their ideas, their systems of institutionalised religion.
Their nation had had a special relationship with God for generations, but now, Jesus challenged their dry religion to show them the true kingdom of God. The religious leaders wanted the healing to wait until the Sabbath was over (v 14) but Jesus shows that healing can happen at any time (vs 15,16). And he exposes their hypocrisy – animals may be helped on the Sabbath but not a person (v 15).
Jesus doesn’t just heal the woman, he also teaches the people – the healing is a physical parable. A bent back was a symbol of Satan’s oppression (v 11), robbing the crippled woman of her dignity and keeping her imprisoned. The Jewish people were also under oppression and Jesus, the Messiah, had come to set them free. He still comes to bring healing for the broken-hearted and to set the prisoner free.
How are you broken-hearted or imprisoned? What does Jesus say to you (v 13)?
Deeper Bible study
‘For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.’1
At first glance, this story appears to be a straightforward physical healing story, but let’s look closer. The crippled woman is a nameless person, known only as ‘the bent woman’. Her identity must have been consumed by her disease, as her distorted back forced her to stare continually at the ground, rarely looking anyone in the eyes. You can feel her shame and disgrace. In the past I have prayed for someone with severe scoliosis, whose back was twisted and bent like this. It is an excruciating long-term condition.
Jesus addresses her isolation by directly speaking to her and tenderly placing his hand on her – and she is immediately healed. She begins to praise God, as Jesus declares that she is ‘set free’ (v 16) from her infirmity and is able to stand tall for the first time in 18 long years. There is another healing here, too. Jesus calls her a ‘daughter of Abraham’ (v 16), the only occurrence of this phrase in the New Testament. Jesus is celebrating her as an heir to the patriarch of the faith, to whom the promise was given that a great people would come through him.2 She is an heir of this blessing and is now free to become a blessing to others as well.
The petty synagogue leader resents this healing because it is the Sabbath day, but he misses the beauty of it. Jesus makes it clear that compassion for a suffering woman is infinitely more important. He also points out the hypocrisy of the elders in caring for their animals and yet refusing to rejoice when a fellow human being is freed from Satan’s bondage.
The nameless bent woman represents everyone caught in disease, shame, isolation or labels. Where do you need healing? Ask and receive God’s healing power in your own life, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. He is the God who makes broken people into bearers of his promises and blessings.
Bible in a year
Read the Bible in a year: Jeremiah 36,37; Psalm 119:25–48
Pray for Scripture Union
Dan Wicks, development worker in the south east, will be running two one-day sports camps this week, one in West Molesey and one in Romford. Pray for good attendance and for opportunities to share the good news of Jesus.