Text: Luke 13:1-20
Many times we can wrongly assume that every person who attends church is fine, free of troubles, and successful in every endeavor. But the reality is that people who attend church are like patients in the hospital. Everyone is sick and is going through the process of healing. The story of this woman has touched my life in so many different ways. She was attending the Temple and was sick for eighteen years. During that time, she probably got used to seeing things from her perspective and every time that she had to raise her head, she did so with difficulty.
Without even realizing the pain in our lives, the struggles that we have to face every day will force us, if we are not careful, to live a life bending over; and little by little we will get used to facing the world with a low view of ourselves. A divorce, the death of someone, the difficulty in conceiving a child, not being able to find a husband, etc. can bend us over, causing us to think that there is no hope for us or even that this is God’s will for our lives. All this while we still attend church faithfully. We are in a hospital, in the process of getting healed; but hospitals are not designed to live in permanently, only temporarily. Once we get well, we are supposed to leave. I’m not saying that we have to leave church. What I’m saying is that our minds must be renewed and healed, and the way we think about ourselves must be transformed.
The Bible says that when Jesus saw her, he called her and set her free of her sickness. Nothing will pass unattended by our Lord; He knew what she was going through. Now, the fact that we attend church doesn’t mean that we are going to be free of troubles, but He promises that He will never forsake us. It is time to raise your head up. Jesus is here and your situation is not going to be ignored by him. He wants to set you free. He wants you to see yourself like He sees you -- a wonderfully complex woman, with a renewed mind ready to accomplish all the things for which you have been created. My friend you are free!
In the opening verses of Luke 13, Jesus is discussing current events, guilt, and repentance. He is calling into questions the common belief that bad things only happen to bad people, and that those who have experienced good fortune must be more righteous than those who are experiencing calamity. Jesus then gives them a parable about a fig tree that has not produced any fruit for three years and is in danger of being cut down; but the gardener pleads for one more year to fertilize the fig tree in hopes that it will finally bear fruit.
I think Luke placed the story of the crippled woman directly after these opening nine verses to draw our attention to certain human assumptions which run counter to the truths of the Kingdom. On the Sabbath, as was his custom, Jesus is in a synagogue teaching and He encounters a woman crippled for eighteen years. In the eyes of her society, she is a woman oppressed by Satan and underneath a curse. People believed that either she or someone in her family must be guilty, because why else would she be suffering for so long with no relief. Maybe this was God’s way of punishing her. In the eyes of her community, she is the fig tree which is not bearing fruit and must be cut down.
Yet, in walks the Gardener. Instead of looking at the outside, Jesus sees her heart – one willing to step forward and be healed; one who will praise God. After years of suffering, this woman is set free both externally and internally because she has encountered the true God, the promised Messiah and has been healed by his touch. His love, his mercy, his grace is the fertilizer that brings new life to her soul.
But the synagogue leader can’t make sense of this interaction. Why is this woman causing a disruption on the Sabbath? Doesn’t she know the rules? Isn’t it enough that she has clearly been guilty for eighteen years, must she keep on sinning by breaking the Sabbath? In the middle of this, Jesus steps in and turns the leader’s narrative upside down. Jesus confronts the leader on the ways in which he treats his ox and donkey better than how he treats this Jewish woman. He reminds him that the Sabbath is the very time when hearts should be restored and prisoners set free.
This crippled woman is not the only one who needs to be set free; the synagogue leader and everyone in the synagogue are in desperate need of forgiveness and healing. The entire people are the fig tree which needs the Gardener to bring it new life, so it can produce the true fruits of the Kingdom. And even though this crippled woman seems small in the eyes of so many, and even though the Jewish people seem small compared to the nations, God can turn this small mustard seed into a great tree (13:19). He can use this woman’s words of praise to leaven the whole loaf (13:20). He can bring His kingdom into their lives in such a way that the whole world is changed.
How are you like the fig tree that needs to be restored? How is the Gardener inviting you to be healed and to bear fruit? Will you follow this woman’s example and boldly step forward to be healed? Or maybe, like the leader, how is Jesus calling into question the assumptions you have made about others? How do you need to repent and have your views of righteousness turned upside down?