Freed to Praise God: Luke 13:10-17

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In our walk through the gospels looking at Jesus’ miracles, it seemed that a disproportionate number of miracles happened on the Sabbath. While this may accurately reflect what actually happened, this also could be because no other day of the week prompted the religious leaders to challenge Jesus on what He was doing. Perhaps the friction Jesus created because of His views regarding what was acceptable and not on the Sabbath pushed the miracles Jesus did on the Sabbath into the spotlight and memories of those present.

However, when Jesus healed people, rarely did He ever actually do something that would even remotely have been considered work. In the miracle for this episode, nothing even hints at Jesus doing any action that would be thought of as work, even though a healing took place. In this event, not only do we discover a miracle, but we also discover Jesus sharing a new picture regarding how we should view the Sabbath, or as our chosen translation describes it, as a day of rest – a holy day.

Let’s read what happened. Our passage is found in Luke’s gospel, chapter 13, and we will be reading it from the God’s Word translation. Starting in verse 10, Luke tells us that:

10 Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the day of rest—a holy day [most other translations simply say on the Sabbath]11 A woman who was possessed by a spirit was there. The spirit had disabled her for 18 years. She was hunched over and couldn’t stand up straight. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her to come to him and said, “Woman, you are free from your disability.” 13 He placed his hands on her, and she immediately stood up straight and praised God.

Let’s pause reading here for a moment because what this last verse said prompts us to why Jesus may have healed this woman on this occasion. This verse tells us that when the woman stood up straight, she “praised God”.

Probably the best reason Jesus healed and helped people was to bring God praise and glory, and this formerly disabled woman was happy to lead those present to praise God for what He had healed her of.

But not everyone present was happy with what happened. While the synagogue leader could not argue with praising God, he did take offense to Jesus healing on this day. Continuing in verse 14, we learn that:

14 The synagogue leader was irritated with Jesus for healing on the day of worship. The leader told the crowd, “There are six days when work can be done. So come on one of those days to be healed. Don’t come on the day of rest—a holy day.”

15 The Lord said, “You hypocrites! Don’t each of you free your ox or donkey on the day of rest—a holy day? Don’t you then take it out of its stall to give it some water to drink? 16 Now, here is a descendant of Abraham. Satan has kept her in this condition for 18 years. Isn’t it right to free her on the day of rest—a holy day?”

17 As he said this, everyone who opposed him felt ashamed. But the entire crowd was happy about the miraculous things he was doing.

In this event, Jesus challenges the notion of what is work and what isn’t. Nowhere in this miracle does Jesus deny the synagogue leader’s reference to the Sabbath commandment and it being a commandment about resting from work.

Instead, Jesus challenges the idea of what work included and what it didn’t include. The woman didn’t pay Jesus for the healing, and nowhere that I know of was Jesus ever paid for healing someone. In contrast, doctors earn a living through healing and helping others. By looking at the income angle of this passage, we can see one filter for what is work and what isn’t – and even though the synagogue leader had reduced Jesus to a doctor who could teach the scriptures, Jesus was more likely a teacher of the scriptures who healed people as a hobby.

The comparison Jesus makes in His reply is interesting. Jesus responds to the synagogue leader by first calling them hypocrites, then giving them an example of why. It is likely that everyone present would bring water to their animals on the Sabbath for the animals to drink. This isn’t work. Instead, this is kindness.

However, this act takes more time than Jesus took and more energy than Jesus exerted. But Jesus doesn’t challenge the idea of work based on the difficulty level or on the level of income earned. Jesus challenged the idea on the angle of freedom. If those in the first century were more than willing to untie their animals to let them get a drink, how much more applicable would it be for God, through Jesus, to untie this disabled woman who had been bound up for 18 years. In this miracle, Jesus not only redefined what was acceptable on the day of worship, but He also elevated this woman’s status above that of the animals.

All this is summarized nicely in the verse we focused on part way through this passage. Immediately when the woman was freed from her disability, she praised God, and she led those present who were willing in praising God as well. The only people present who were upset were the ones who held their opinions about what were acceptable activities for the Sabbath over the wellbeing of others.

This idea is powerful. It tells us that when we let our opinions of the world or of certain people become greater than our desire to help the world, this person, or this group of people, then we will become more hostile, bitter, angry, and withdrawn. We see this happen in people who are so far removed from those who struggle that they cannot even grasp what others are going through, and we also see this from people who have grown calloused towards helping others.

God doesn’t want His people to be calloused from helping others, but instead, He wants love, help, kindness, and compassion from all His people, and He has called us to help others because we can help. We are to help both Christians and non-Christians alike, and we are to be known for our love over our religion, our faith, our politics, or any other measure that we can think of.

We are Jesus’ representatives in the world today, and Jesus came and He loved and helped those who needed help.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Always seek God first and look for ways you can show love and help to others. Through Jesus, God stepped down to earth, down to the cross, and down to the grave for you and me. If we accurately model Jesus, we should be stepping down and helping wherever we can, and we should look for people we can help who need help, love, and encouragement.

Also, to better reflect Jesus to others, we should always pray and study the Bible for ourselves to learn what Jesus is like. While it is easy to take someone else’s word for it, the best, most trustworthy source for what Jesus is like is in the pages of the Bible, specifically the pages of the gospels, and in the Bible we can truly discover God’s love for each of us!

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or ignore where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year of Miracles – Episode 38: In a Sabbath miracle, Jesus heals a woman who praises God, much to the dislike of the synagogue leader. Discover what we can learn about how the religious leaders viewed Jesus, and what this has to do with praising God, helping others, and working on the Sabbath.

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