Dave spoke this morning from Luke 13:10-17, the account of Jesus healing a woman crippled for 18 years and the backlash this provoked because the healing was carried out on the Sabbath. The woman in the incident is not named; in fact, she is defined for us by her disability. We feel that she was acutely aware of her infirmity and did not feel like a ‘normal’ person, a bitter reminder that we often label people according to how we see them (and how we see only the visible, not the heart.)

The woman’s disability meant she was bent over, unable to straighten up, able only to look downwards. C. H. Spurgeon says of her, ‘she lived in a posture of forced humility’, and Luke makes it clear that she was ‘bound by Satan.’ Not all infirmity and disability comes directly from the devil, but the despair these things breed in us is typical of his tactics. In this encounter with the Lord, the lifting love of Jesus transforms her situation. She met Jesus in the synagogue (demonstrating a persistent faith even though she was disabled) and was set free by Him. We do not know if he crouched down to speak to her, but we do know that he gave this nameless woman a new identity, calling her a ‘daughter of Abraham.‘ She was no longer a victim, but was to be a blessing, and must have felt like the psalmist in Ps 40:1-3!

The leader in this story was outwardly physically whole, but his attitude was as bent and crooked as the woman’s spine. He had a legalistic bent, living by the rules, and was outraged that Jesus chose to heal the woman on the Sabbath. Jesus’s words to him showed him that God’s love has a greater purpose: if the Pharisees could care for animals on the Sabbath, this woman deserved to be loosed too. In a similar incident in Mark 2:27-28, we see that Jesus said the Sabbath was made for man, and not the other way around.

This incident shows us that we all have a tendency to get bent. Familiarity with God’s law can easily lead to indifference. Traditions become more important than the things they symbolise and we can be cut off from the life of God by our very religiosity. Humility is needed if we are to encounter Jesus. We must let go of the things that keep us bound and bent, be that worry and anxiety, or abuse, or shame or poverty or grief or heartache. We all need God’s loosing, so that we can stand tall.

Jesus took the initiative with this woman. He called her to come to Him. He lavished His love and mercy on her (see 1 John 3:1). We too can know the call and mercy of God, but we need faith to believe that God rewards those who earnestly seek Him. (Heb 11:6) The lady emerged from this encounter whole and able to go forth in blessing; the leader remained bound by prejudice and legalism. Will we heed the call of Jesus and be set free by Him?