Reverend Dr. William H. Curtis

Now He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up. But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.” And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.

But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.”

The Lord then answered him and said, “Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it? So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound—think of it—for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?” And when He said these things, all His adversaries were put to shame; and all the multitude rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him.

Luke 13:10-17 NKJV

Freeing yourself is one thing, but claiming ownership of that freed self is another.

This woman in the text, despite her infirmity, decided that she was going to church. This 18 year condition now has her bent over and unable to straighten up, but she is still in church. Maybe she goes to church because of her infirmity. Maybe she hopes that something there will change her condition.

The rabbi at the synagogue must respect Jesus enough to turn over preaching and teaching to Him for that day. Things must have been going well, too—until Jesus abruptly beckons for the woman to stand, and He publicly heals her. The synagogue pastor doesn’t want to express his disdain to Jesus. Instead, he does what many of us do. We take it out on the people who we think are not as strong.

He turns his frustration towards the congregation. He tells them that they have every other day of the week to work towards wholeness, freedom, and liberation. They can be healed and released from their infirmities on any day but the sabbath. The rabbi doesn’t have a problem with Jesus delivering the woman. His problem is the day on which the deliverance takes place.

Jesus uses this opportunity, however, to ask a question. He says, if you have an animal tied up and it needed to drink water, you would untie it and lead it to drink, wouldn’t you? The question is rhetorical. They knew the answer was, emphatically, “Yes.”

Jesus makes it clear that it is more important that He responds to the woman tied by an infirmity, who needs to be led to wellness and health. The people are amazed, and glory breaks out in the synagogue—both for Jesus, the liberator, and for the woman, the liberated.

That’s the story. We could go home if we wanted. But there is still tension in the text. This tension is between Jesus and the rabbi. The rabbi had willingly turned the control of his service over to Jesus. When you turn that control over to Jesus, what do you expect? After all, rumors are spreading that wherever Jesus goes, people are getting healed. Demons are being confronted. He is displaying power and performing miracles.

What did he expect Jesus to do? Did the rabbi expect Him to tone down the rhetoric? Not offer healing? Resist setting anybody free?

When we turn our lives over to Jesus, His presence frees us from our bondage. He can change our boundaries, mature the immature parts of our personalities, and change our attitudes.