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The Tenth Sunday after Trinity is on August 21, 2002.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 13:10-17

13:10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath.

13:11 And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight.

13:12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.”

13:13 When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.

13:14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.”

13:15 But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water?

13:16 And 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?”

13:17 When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Here we have an account about a bent over woman being made straight and bent theology that Jesus wanted to make straight.

Although neither of our commentators says so about this story, there was nearly always a spiritual element to our Lord’s miracles. For that reason, I think that Jesus healed her not only physically but spiritually, too, especially in light of the fact that a demon had caused her condition.

We are in the middle of Luke’s accounts of our Lord’s teaching the Apostles and disciples in the last six months of His ministry. These are in Luke 9 through much of Luke 19.

The Gospel writer does not tell us where this miracle took place other than in a synagogue where Jesus was teaching on the sabbath (verse 10).

Matthew Henry reminds us that Jesus often taught in a synagogue on the sabbath, therefore, we should not neglect public worship on Sundays:

We should make conscience of doing so, as we have opportunity, and not think we can spend the sabbath as well at home reading a good book; for religious assemblies are a divine institution

In our Lord’s era, synagogues were places of worship but, unlike today, they were not led by rabbis.

John MacArthur gives us the background:

A synagogue is not the temple.  It’s simply the word sunagōgēs in Greek.  It means “a meeting place,” a gathering place.  And there were many of them.  Some historians tell us that in the Galilee, which was less populated than the southern part of Israel, Judea, in the Galilee there were as many 240 or 250 different synagoguesAnd in Jesus’ ministry over a year in Galilee, He went all through Galilee preaching and teaching in the synagogue.  It was the perfect place to go to teach.  A synagogue, by the way, was called a house of instruction.  It wasn’t the temple.  That’s where you went for the national ceremonies.  That’s where you went to offer sacrifices.  Synagogues had no sacrifices.  They…They didn’t celebrate the Passover and the other feasts at the synagogue.  It was just a gathering place.

They had no pastor, no preacher, no reigning priest.  They had a lay board of elders and one of them was the ruler or the chairman of that board.  He was responsible to oversee it, but he was the layman.  It was a local gathering place for teaching the word of God, the Old Testament.  They came into existence out of the Babylonian captivity, you remember?  When the Jews were taken captive into Babylon, the time they were in Babylon, of course, they were separated from their house of worship, which was the temple. Before that, there was no such thing as a synagogue.

But while they were in captivity, they first, remember, were gathered together to hear Ezekiel.  Ezekiel came in one of the early deportations.  He gathered the people around and He talked about what was going on.  What God was doing in this time in Israel’s life and Ezekiel spoke to the captives, those who’d been deported and that sort of began the…the gathering of God’s people to hear the meaning of God’s wordAnd synagogues began to develop among the Jews in exileAnd when they went back under Nehemiah to rebuild the city and the temple, they took back the idea of the synagogue and they flourished.  In Jerusalem alone there were about 500 synagogues in just that one city.

And so this was a perfect scenario for the ministry of Jesus, one of God’s timing issues.  And when Jesus came, He could always find the Jewish people, the ones He wanted to reach with the truth of the kingdom gospel gathered on a Sabbath in a synagogue somewhere.  And that’s where He went, but synagogues were getting less and less receptive to Him, even though He was still, as verse 17 indicates, popular with the crowd, who were just kind of stunned by the power that He displayed in His miracles.  The synagogues were getting to be unwelcome and this is the last recorded experience of Jesus in a synagogueWe’re only months before His death.  This is the last recorded opportunity that He has to speak in a synagogue.

Suddenly, a woman appeared, bent over by an evil spirit and unable to stand upright (verse 11).

Matthew Henry describes how undignified and painful this must have been for her. Yet, it did not deter her from going to worship God:

She had an infirmity, which an evil spirit, by divine permission, had brought upon her, which was such that she was bowed together by strong convulsions, and could in no wise lift up herself; and, having been so long thus, the disease was incurable; she could not stand erect, which is reckoned man’s honour above the beasts. Observe, Though she was under this infirmity, by which she was much deformed, and made to look mean, and not only so, but, as is supposed, motion was very painful to her, yet she went to the synagogue on the sabbath day. Note, Even bodily infirmities, unless they be very grievous indeed, should not keep us from public worship on the sabbath days; for God can help us, beyond our expectation.

MacArthur says that she would have been an outcast, because the Jews believed that a physical malady was a divine judgement:

Believe me, this woman was an outcast. The Jews had the…the theological viewpoint that if this was the condition you were in, you were a bad person.

Remember the blind man in John 9, and who sinned, this man or his parents? Remember Job? All his friends said well, Job, you’ve done something wrong. There’s some sin in your life. You’re not coming clean, buddy. That’s why you got all the suffering. The basic view of theology was if you suffer, you’re being punished by God. So here was a woman, who for eighteen years, had been looked at and scorned. Here was a woman doubled over in a terrible position physically, perhaps a more a terrible position socially. And to boot, she’s a woman. And women belonged out of sight and in the back of the synagogue.

Henry says that she had her crippling condition ‘by divine permission’. MacArthur agrees that Jesus was meant to heal her in front of the people at that synagogue to point out the hypocrisy of the Jewish religion of that era:

Jesus was the master of the moment, the sovereign Lord of every event and He’s going to use this woman to intensify the conflict and to bring it out in bold relief

I don’t know how it was that she exposed herself to this demon or why this demon picked on her or why Satan did this to her at the front. I don’t know what the motive of hell was, but I do know that God allowed that to happen for this day.

From the very beginning in the synagogues, Jesus told the people and their local leaders who He was and that, in turn, enraged many:

And that’s why after they killed Him, the population of Jerusalem then went after the apostles, to stop this message. And what was it they hated about the message? Well, what they hated about the message was the indictment in it because it overturned their whole view. There are only two ways that you can believe you can come to God; either on the merits of Christ or on your own merits. It’s either by grace and grace alone or it’s by works or some mixture of grace and works. It’s only two things. There’s only two kinds of religion in the world. The religion of divine accomplishment, the religion of human achievement, Christianity, the true gospel is the religion of divine accomplishment: God does it all, you simply believe. Every other religious system in the world is a religion of human achievement. They were in human achievement. They had satisfied themselves with their own self-righteousness. They had self-esteem. They had all this pride about their religion, etc., etc., etc., and Jesus literally struck at the very heart of the system

And Jesus went everywhere preaching salvation and that’s synonymous with coming into the kingdom. Come into God’s kingdom. “I am the way, the truth, the life.” But you have to recognize that you’re not there now, that you’re in the devil’s kingdom. Well, that was just more than they could bear. They hated Him for that. And so He was teaching in the synagogue and you know what He was teaching. He was teaching about the kingdom. And it wasn’t a brutal kind of teaching. It was gracious. It was compassionate. It was loving. It was merciful. It offered them salvation, but at the same time, it confronted the phoniness of their system, and the false hopes of their self-righteous, legalistic hearts.

And so this obviously set up conflict. And wherever the truth is taught, it produces conflict if it’s taught in a place where error prevails.

When Jesus saw the lady, He called her over and told her she was ‘set free’ from her ailment (verse 12).

He laid His hands on her and, immediately, she stood up straight and began to praise God (verse 13).

Note the word ‘immediately’. When Jesus healed, it was instantaneous and all-encompassing. It was not gradual. For many years and for whatever reason, I was never sure if the healing was immediate or gradual. And I was going to church all that time.

MacArthur makes it very clear:

He always healed immediately. There’s no such thing as a lingering healing, a multiple phase healing. There’s no such thing as: I was healed and slowly, I’m getting better. He healed everything, everyone He wanted to heal, completely, instantaneously, and permanently. And it says immediately laying His hands upon her and saying what He said, she was made erect again.

Now, we’ll tell you this is more than just the casting out of a demon. Something had to happen to a spine to go up straight after 18 years in a bent position. You say whoa boy, after she was healed, she would need some serious therapy. Nobody healed by Jesus needs therapy, nobody. It’s contained in the deal. You bypass the therapy to the wholeness in the instant of the healing. All His miracles were like that.

MacArthur says of the woman and our Lord’s purpose:

Now all of a sudden she becomes the centerpiece of the whole day. And Jesus puts her front and center and makes her the focal point of everything. And I love this about Him. He… He reveals His utter indifference to their system of rank and status. He reveals His utter indifference to their perception of privilege. He reveals His complete indifference to their sense…sense of achievement. He had no affection for their honor system. He honors the outcast woman and He humiliates the ruler. He has no affection for their perverted Sabbath. And He supersedes their authority with His own. He has no interest in their self-righteousness, seeking to be elevated. And He elevates one they would seek to sweep away.

However, the leader of the synagogue was indignant because Jesus had cured someone on the sabbath, calling His merciful miracle ‘work’, telling the congregation that such things should be done on the other six days in the week (verse 14).

It sounds so cruel and so awful.

Henry points out that the leader did not dare to speak directly to Christ, so he addressed the congregation instead:

He had not indeed the impudence to quarrel with Christ; but he said to the people, reflecting upon Christ in what he said, There are six days in which men ought to work, in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day. See here how light he made of the miracles Christ wrought, as if they were things of course, and no more than what quacks and mountebanks did every day: “You may come and be healed any day of the week.” Christ’s cures were become, in his eyes, cheap and common things. See also how he stretches the law beyond its intention, or any just construction that could be put upon it, in making either healing or being healed with a touch of the hand, or a word’s speaking, to be that work which is forbidden on the sabbath day. This was evidently the work of God; and, when God tied us out from working that day, did he tie himself out? The same word in Hebrew signifies both godly and merciful (chesed), to intimate that works of mercy and charity are in a manner works of piety (1 Tim 5 4) and therefore very proper on sabbath days.

MacArthur says:

the synagogue official, he was an establishment man and he was going to wield the club and he was going to make it as tough as he couldLegalists do that, you knowThey have little or no compassion for the suffering, and legalistic religion is harsh and brutal and merciless and loveless.  This is sort of the archetypal legalist.  He’s just seen a woman, a woman who needed mercy and compassion and tenderness and kindness, released.  You would have thought he would have joined in on the chorus and said let’s all stand and sing glory to God.  But Luke describes him with one word: synagogue official, indignant, aganakteō in the Greek text, intense displeasure.

They’ve broken the system.  That by the way is exactly how the system felt about Martin Luther and everybody else who violated the system: anger, displeasure. Jesus had already unmasked and confronted error that day.  He’d already unmasked and confronted the demon that day and now He was going to unmask false religion and boy He did. That’s the reaction of a man who has no heart, a man whose heart God has never changed. That’s not a godly reaction, because God is a God of compassion, is He not?  Do you ever ask why did Jesus come and heal?  Jesus could have done a lot of miracles to prove He was God.  He could have done anything, right?  He could have created a house.  He could have created a temple.  He could have created a mountain, could have caused the sea to disappear.  Could have spun up in the air and spun around like a helicopter and flown around and landed.

Could have done a lot of things to prove He was God.  What did He do?  He healed people and He healed and basically banished illness from Israel.  Why?  Because He was not only showing divine power, but He was showing the heart of God as a heart of what?  Compassion.  But this is compassionless legalism.  They make people suffer. 

Jesus rebuked the leader and the congregation, calling them hypocrites and asking them whether they untie their ox or donkey on the sabbath in order for the beasts to get their water (verse 15).

MacArthur says:

Well, He got them, because they did that.

In fact, in the Mishnah, the codification of Jewish rabbinic law, it prescribes that you can do that. You can take your animal if you put no burden on his back and lead him to water or to eat. It even gives you a maximum of 200 cubits that you can go. And they even have some prescription about how wide the well is so you can see how they encumbered these things. But it was perfectly fine to do that. You phonies!

And by the way, this isn’t the first time He said this or the last. Calling them hypocrites was pretty routine because that’s what they are and all advocates of false religion are hypocrites. They don’t know God. They don’t know the truth. They are really the tools of Satan. It’s a terrible thing to say, but it’s the truth. You’re a phony, He said.

Jesus then asked why the woman, one of their own — ‘a daughter of Abraham’ — should be prevented from being set free from her bondage on the sabbath (verse 16).

MacArthur says that Jesus used a Jewish reasoning method:

Verse 16, “And this woman, a daughter of Abraham, as she is,” a Jewess, He says the same thing in Luke 19 about Zaccheus, a son of Abraham. It means a Jew or Jewess. “She’s one of your own people.” This is not a Gentile. “This woman, a daughter of Abraham, as she is, whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years,” Jesus says, emphasizing the terrible duration of this suffering, “should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?”

He takes the opposite view. This is the perfect day to do this, set her free. This is the best day to do that. And by what category was this work? What was the work? Jesus saying, “Woman you are freed from this weakness”? Or was the work her standing up? What was the work? It’s a very common way for the Jews to reason all through the New Testament from the lesser to the greater, from the animal to the woman, from bound for eighteen years to being released from being tied up to being freed. This was a great moment in the life of that woman.

When Jesus spoke those words, the leader and those who agreed with him were put to shame and the entire crowd rejoiced at all the marvellous things that Jesus was doing (verse 17).

MacArthur analyses the two responses — shame from one quarter and rejoicing from the other:

Verse 17 sums up the result.  “And as He said this, all His opponents were being humiliated.”  Boy they hated that.  What could they say?  They were dead in their tracks.  The people knew what could be done on the Sabbath.  Believe me they knew it well and they knew that they…they watered and fed their animals on the Sabbath.  They knew that.  And I’m sure they were trying to figure out where was the work here.  They had been unmasked.  They had been stripped.  Their pretense had been uncovered.  They looked like fools.  They were… They were put to shame.  That’s a compound verb, kataischunō, they were fully shamed, publicly; both that ruler and all who agreed with him, called the opponents of Jesus.  They were all shamed.  They were all humiliated. Now they weren’t humbled in the righteous sense.  They didn’t become penitent and say wow, I am a hypocrite.  I need to deal with this.  I…maybe this is Son of God.  Not that.  All this did was make them more angry and more bent on getting Jesus out of the picture.

But there was another response.  Look at the rest of verse 17, the entire multitude, those left “was rejoicing over all the glorious things being done by Him.”  They were just absolutely blown away by what was happening.  And I’m sure some of them who were there were already the followers of Jesus.  Some may have been believers in Him.  But this is their typical response.  Back in Chapter 9, verse 43, they were all amazed at the greatness of God.  Everyone was marveling at all that He was doing. I mean, that was pretty much the typical response.  They were just stunned and floored by it.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that they put their full trust in Christ.  We could wish that that were true.  Some did.  Chapter 16, verse 16, some were pressing into the kingdom.  And it is true in verse 31 of chapter 13, look at that, verse 31 of chapter 13, some of the Pharisees actually came to Jesus and told Him to go away and depart for Herod wants to kill you.  There may have been some among the Pharisees who were beginning to see the light.

MacArthur reminds us that Jesus preached only about the kingdom of God, not social or political issues:

He always preached the kingdom. Thirty-one times in the book of Luke the kingdom of God is mentioned. And even after His resurrection, before His ascension and the forty days it says He spoke to them things pertaining to the kingdom of God. It was always about God’s kingdom, how to become a part of His kingdom, by confessing Jesus as Lord, Messiah, Savior.

He also raised — and will continue to raise — the lowly, like this woman:

The Lord passes by the religious and self-righteous, passes by those that say and think they’re good, passes by the religious leaders, and the Lord chooses the lowest of the low. One who would have been deemed to have been a sinner of some massive proportions to have suffered such a fate. He ignores the proud and He chooses the humble. The Lord sovereignly chooses. The Lord sovereignly delivers. The Lord sovereignly straightens up the one who is bent over. The Lord sovereignly produces praise.

This woman then is a picture of the sovereign work of the Lord in salvation, a picture of the enslaved, oppressed sinner under the burden and bondage of Satan, hiding in the shadows, aware every moment of suffering the weight and the burden of sin hopeless, robbed of dignity, bent over like an animal, the image of God defaced. So is the picture of the sinner shuffling one day into the presence of God to hear the word of God. She is met by the Lord and He out of His sovereign love delivers her, straightens her up. This is the picture of the work of God in salvation. God offers salvation to the outcast, the humbled, those bent over by the weight of sin, who will come and hear Him and He will turn them into true worshipers and He bypasses the curious and the self-righteous.

May all reading this have a blessed Sunday.

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