The Healing Of A Person With A Bent Back

August 19, 2007
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
Luke 13:10-17

1. For eighteen years, the [woman] with a bent back could never straighten [herself] up no matter what. It was not because of [her] age or even due to nature that [her] back was crooked. Since the way it is put, that [she] was "possessed by a spirit of sickness," [her] back was most likely twisted to an extreme point, to an abnormal degree. She must have had difficulties in her daily activities of life; for, since her back was severely crooked, [just] facing forward was most difficult. Also, this woman living with such disfigurement would be viewed by the townspeople as possessed by something evil. That went on for eighteen long years. It was not short at all. But then, she met Jesus. The Lord called her to him and said, "Woman, [your] sickness is healed," and placed [his] hand [on her]. Whereupon, "[Her] back became straight there and then, and she praised God," says the scripture. [This] is a story about a person who had suffered for a long time and who was healed and set free by Jesus.

2. Yet, were it just a story that she was healed by Jesus, then it would be sufficient to end with verse thirteen. This narrative does not end there. What Luke is actually wanting to tell us looks to be in the next section that follows it. In verse fourteen the scripture speaks as follows. "However, the synagogue leader became angry that Jesus had healed a sick person on the Sabbath and told the crowd, 'The days we're supposed to work are six. During that time she should have received healing [from him]. It must not be done on the Sabbath.'," (verse fourteen). We see from how this story is initially set forth that the main point of the narrative is to be put on the exchanges between the synagogue leader and Jesus. "On the Sabbath Jesus had taught in a certain synagogue," (verse ten). Thus then, it is not merely a story about Jesus' having performed a healing but that [Jesus] had healed someone on the Sabbath and that a synagogue leader was enraged over it.

The Person Got To The Point [He] Could Not See What God Was Doing

3. There was some justification to the synagogue leader's being angry because there was [something] stipulated in the decalogue regarding Sabbaths. The following [words] are written in the scriptures. "Remember the Sabbath, and keep it holy. Work for six days, do your work whatever it may be; [on] the seventh day, because your God is Lord of the Sabbath, you must not do any kind of work. It is the same for you, [your] sons, [your] daughters, [your] male and female slaves, [your] cattle, the sojourners staying within the gates of your town," (Exodus 20:8-10). This is the law for the Sabbath. Therefore, the synagogue leader said, "The days we're supposed to work are six." He was saying, "We must not work on the seventh day."

4. In fact, there has been quite a detailed debate regarding the piece that "You must not do any kind of work." The debate is on what counts as "work." For example, it is generally held that even putting out a fire counts as "work." In addition, even medical treatment falls under "work." Therefore, since what Jesus did falls under medical treatment, it is considered as a violation of the Sabbath law. That's why the synagogue leader was angry. He was angry at the person healed, too. That one must not spread this violation of the law like a disease, he admonished the crowd by saying, "Don't seek medical treatment on the Sabbath. Get your healing on the day we're supposed to work."

5. But, we must give some consideration to this. To begin with, the command to "Do not work. Rest." is truly a strange one. The Israelites were originally slaves in Egypt and because of that they had heard to death the command "Get to work. Get to work." There definitely wasn't anybody telling them, "You should rest. Take a break." So why would God have given such a command? To begin with, what is rest for?

6. In fact, there is more to the Sabbath stipulation that I just read to you. After where it has "You must not do any kind of work. You, [your] sons, [your] daughters, etc.," it says the following. "In six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the seas, and all that is in them, and after he rested on the seventh day, the Lord blessed the Sabbath and made it holy," (verse eleven). The [part where God] created the world in six days, as you know, is the narrative of the creation of the universe which is recorded in Genesis. In short, the [part about] the laws of the Sabbath places its foundation in the part where God created the world. God accomplished all of it. The part about the seventh day is the next day. In short, God did it from A to Z. It is the day we think about what God does and has done, that's the Sabbath.

7. We exist because we are granted life and enveloped by the works of God, the creator and the sustainer of the universe. Yet, we pretty much tend to forget that when we keep on the move and keep at work. Our minds are always oriented on our activities and our work. And so we end up thinking we're supporting ourselves and others. That's why we must stop. By ceasing our works, by standing still and stopping, we rest. Then the fact that the one who is really at work for us is God becomes apparent to us. Out of that will emerge [our] praise and thanksgiving unto God. Therefore, the Sabbath becomes the day of worship. Human beings were by nature supposed to live in that fashion. Thus, we could make the statement that the Sabbath was established in order for human beings to recover the original figure of humanity.

8. On that such a Sabbath a woman was healed. The healed woman had probably given thanks to Jesus, but it is clear that [she] did not look at this as merely medical treatment from Jesus. What did she first do with [her] body when [her] back became straight and it straightened itself out? She gave praise to God. She saw the work of God in what had happened. She had seen the work of God, which was filled with God's mercy [on her], and which was filled with [God's] grace [for her].

9. "Hey, if miracles like that happen, anybody can do like she did." Somebody may be thinking like that. But, should they really? At least in this narrative it wasn't like that. This synagogue leader had seen the body of a person with a bent back for eighteen years become straight before his eyes. He saw the miracle right there done on the spot. But he did not see the work of God there. He did not rejoice by having seen the work of God. That's how human beings can be. Even though they experience a miracle, the people who won't see the work of God don't see. Even our own lives are filled with miracles from God. But the people who won't see don't see. Nor do they consider how that they themselves are granted life by God's works.

10. Why was it invisible to the synagogue leader? -- Because he wasn't resting. Because he kept working. It looks like he was still on the clock. He was doing his duty prominently as the synagogue leader. He wasn't resting or anything close to it. As a matter of fact, in as much as he was a synagogue leader, not just the Sabbath law, but he had kept all the laws of Moses with all his might. He had served with all his might so that the law might be kept, that an orderly community might be formed. In fact, he must have borne the responsibility of keeping order in the community. So, he would not allow the order to be disrupted even in the slightest. Had he tolerated the medical treatment on the Sabbath, he thought it would extend to other areas and the rupture would spread. So he promptly warned the crowd against this. He said, "The days we're supposed to work are six. During that time she should have received healing [from him]. It must not be done on the Sabbath."

11. But, when you think about it, what Jesus did, far from being a violation of the law, seemed to me to give rise to what was actually supposed to take place on the Sabbath because everyone was rejoicing as they thought of the work God [did]. But, if all I had in my head was my work, my duty, my responsibility, then the work God [did] would not be visible to me.

The Person Who Couldn't See [His] Neighbor

12. No, indeed, it is more than a case of not being able to see God at work. Unless he took the time to stop and to rest, he would never get to see the people around him or his neighbors.

13. As I read to you earlier ago, the scripture says in the laws on the Sabbath, "It is the same for you, [your] sons, [your] daughters, [your] male and female slaves, [your] cattle, the sojourners staying within the gates of your town." It is not just "you." Not just one's sons and daughters, but even the male and female slaves, and even the cattle came under it. It's not an option to maybe rest the slaves. You must let the slaves rest. In brief, the Sabbath is the day when we let others into our field of vision, become mindful of them, let others rest, and rejoice with them over the works of God. It is even the day when we become mindful of the cattle as well and give them rest. The sojourners in the town have a harsh day to day life. When we don't give them assistance, they won't rest. The Sabbath is also the day when we stop and put our thoughts on the various hard labors of the sojourners and let them rest, and rejoice with them over the works of God.

14. We cannot do this unless we rest and relax in what God does. We cannot do this if we don't think of God's works, and give thanks for being sustained and granted life from A to Z by God's gracious works. When we don't stop and look at God's works and feel at ease within, then we stop seeing our neighbors as well.

15. Was the person with the bent back for eighteen years only in the synagogue on this day by chance? Probably not. Did the synagogue leader catch sight of her for the first time? Probably not. More than likely the people assembled there and the synagogue leader had certainly seen her twisted body there for a long time already. They had surely seen for a long time the suffering of this woman, her figure worshipping with such disfigurement, difficult for her to look in front of her, and still harder for her to look up to heaven.

16. But, what [happened]? When she was healed, what did the synagogue leader do? He becomes angry that Jesus healed a sick person on the Sabbath. He said, "Not on the Sabbath, get healed on another day. The Sabbath is the wrong day for that." You are never to get healing on the Sabbath especially. Wait one day and you won't be in violation of the law. It is correct in theory. But there is something we understand clearly from his words. It is that even though he, at the least, saw this person with a bent back sick for so long, he had never felt, "What a poor soul! How hard it is for her! If she were only healed!" Her crooked body had appeared to his eyes. But, he had not been able to see [her] in the true sense. He could not see the person. He could not see the flesh and blood human being who had borne the suffering and pain upon [her]. Therefore, even though she had been set free, was rejoicing and had been praising God, it did not become joy for him. He could not rejoice with the one rejoicing. He did not rejoice with [her] in what God did.

17. I think it really does [turn out] that way. Upon reading this, I've got to wonder is there something I need to wake up about. Jesus said, "Though she is a daughter of Abraham, she had been bound by Satan for eighteen years. Even though it is the Sabbath, ought I not set [her] free from this bondage?," (verse sixteen). We can certainly make the case that this woman was bound by Satan with a lame body. And then she was healed and set free from that bondage. But, I think we need to think again about who is the one really being bound and who is the one who must really be healed when we speak about "being bound by Satan." Isn't it the synagogue leader? Isn't it the people who were in agreement with the synagogue leader? And isn't it really our own selves, which is being projected by means of these figures?

18. As a matter of fact, we can probably see that the healing and the liberation which happened to this woman point to what kind of healing and liberation are needed by the world. The miraculous work of healing itself that Jesus performed was, of course, a manifestation of God's mercy, but on the other hand it was also a demonstration for all to behold. It was a demonstration of the salvation that God is willing to give to this world through Christ, and it was a sign pointing to God's salvation.

19. Her former disfigurement is the worldly figure bound by Satan. She remained with a crooked back for a long time. Since [her] body was extremely crooked, [her] eyes were always on her feet. It was her own self that came into view first. It was hard to look at those in front of her or near her. Harder still it was to look up to heaven. It was the world's figure in which she was bound by Satan, not rejoicing in God's works, and unable to rejoice with those of her neighbors over God's works.

20. But, she was set free by Jesus, and her body became straightened. She praised God with her upright body. Thus, Jesus has come into this world in order to give healing and liberation. Jesus has already given healing and liberation for us with the cross and the resurrection. Hasn't the work [of God] already begun among us who are here in this place? Aren't we, in fact, lifting our faces here, rejoicing over the works of God together, and giving praise to God? What we are seeing may only be like a small mustard seed. But still, it surely has begun. It will turn into a great tree.