Bowed over for 18 years, imagine that. Dirt. Feet. Floor. Street. Sandals. Trash. Maybe a few children’s legs, a few knees, a few steps, a few chairs. But she could mostly see the stuff nobody really wants to see. Dirt.
The blue sky, fluffy clouds, people’s smiles, the beauty of the trees, the glory of the Temple, the rolling hillsides, the things people do want to see, those she couldn’t really see.
And yet on the sabbath day there she was, in the synagogue.
The men and women were separated in the synagogue, the men on one side, the women on the other side. There was supposedly a good reason for that, but whatever the reason, there was the bowed-over woman, in the right place at the right time.
I have a few questions about why she came that day. Was this her usual sabbath ritual? Go to synagogue, pray the prayers, hear the sermon? Hope for a blessing?
Or was it because she knew Jesus would be there, and maybe, just maybe, he would do something special for her?
By the time this occasion happened, Jesus had done many miracles, some in synagogues. He had attracted great crowds, many followers. He had chosen some to be apostles, and they had gone out doing miracles too. Word always got around pretty fast when Jesus was in the vicinity.
I can imagine the news being spread, can’t you? “Hey, did you hear? Jesus is coming this way!” I can visualize the townspeople telling their families, their neighbors.
I can see the news arriving at the home of this bowed-over woman. I can almost hear her thoughts – I’ve got to get there, I’ve got to get where he is, I’ve got to get near him.
When it was known that Jesus was nearby on the sabbath, everyone knew where he’d go – to the synagogue. It was his custom.
If the bowed-over woman always attended that synagogue on the sabbath, she was well known to the leaders. The teachers in charge, the men and women of the area knew her condition. Their hearts should have been full of sympathy and compassion towards her, helping her to get inside and find a good seat, hoping right along with her for a touch from God today.
That was not their attitude, however.
By then, the Jewish leaders had gotten leery of Jesus. He had become a rabble-rouser, a trouble-maker, preaching about a Kingdom. Claiming to be God! Dangerous nonsense.
He was stirring up too much attention from the Sanhedrin and maybe even the Romans. Miracles? It was as if the miracles had become invisible, not real, while the potential for a Roman crackdown was very real.
I doubt if the sick, the crippled, the blind, deaf and dumb, demon-possessed worried too much about what the Sanhedrin or the Romans thought. They just knew they had needed help and nobody else had helped them but Jesus. No longer sick! No longer blind! Healed, healthy, whole, they were free. Many also became followers.
And the bowed-over woman? Here’s her story:
He was teaching in one of the meeting places on the Sabbath. There was a woman present, so twisted and bent over with arthritis that she couldn’t even look up. She had been afflicted with this for eighteen years. When Jesus saw her, he called her over. “Woman, you’re free!” He laid hands on her and suddenly she was standing straight and tall, giving glory to God.
The meeting-place president, furious because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the congregation, “Six days have been defined as work days. Come on one of the six if you want to be healed, but not on the seventh, the Sabbath.”
But Jesus shot back, “You frauds! Each Sabbath every one of you regularly unties your cow or donkey from its stall, leads it out for water, and thinks nothing of it. So why isn’t it all right for me to untie this daughter of Abraham and lead her from the stall where Satan has had her tied these eighteen years?”
When he put it that way, his critics were left looking quite silly and red-faced. The congregation was delighted and cheered him on. (Luke 13:10-17 MSG)
Several things come to mind.
- The woman was a daughter of Abraham.
- She was faithful to attend services.
- She wasn’t just sick, she was bound by Satan.
- She was not healed by all the sermons and prayers she’d heard in synagogue all those 18 long years.
- She didn’t need another sermon, she needed deliverance.
- She believed Jesus could provide what she needed.
And so, when Jesus called her out, she obeyed him. Even though it might have been physically hard or socially embarrassing, even though the Jewish leaders were trying to discredit him, she came forward publicly.
She got the miracle she needed. With a touch from the Lord she was straight and tall, delivered and healed. She gave God the glory.
A lot of “bowed-over” men and women are faithful to go to church every Sunday, but they don’t really expect Jesus to show up. They pretty much get what they expect. (It doesn’t have to be that way…)