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The Woman With a Disabling Spirit

Updated: Mar 7, 2021

Read Luke 13:10-17 along with this issue of A Thought to Take to Heart.

Going to the synagogue was not easy for her. Getting dressed, even walking is a struggle when you are constantly bowed down, unable to stand up straight. For the past eighteen years, she has labored under this oppressive condition – her body bent over, unable to straighten herself, her eyes constantly directed down to the ground. But in spite of it, here she is at the synagogue, lifting up worship to God.

But this sabbath, which began like so many before it, will end so differently. Instead of shuffling home with downcast eyes, for the first time in eighteen years, she will walk home with her head held high. Because on this sabbath, she met Jesus and he pronounced her free of her disability. And the moment that freedom came, she glorified God.

Sadly, not everyone at the synagogue that day found God’s glorify in her freedom. In fact, the ruler of the synagogue was indignant. He argued that what Jesus did is work and should not be done on the sabbath. Jesus’ response reveals the problem – the ruler was neither consistent nor compassionate. He would do for an ox or a donkey what he would not allow for this suffering woman. His problem was not with her healing – his problem was within his own heart.

The law made provisions for taking care of physical needs on the sabbath – such as leading an animal to water – but the ruler refused to allow this for a suffering woman. To him, the law was a burden to bear, not a blessing to enjoy. With their man-made traditions, the Jewish leaders had made the law a burden on the backs of God’s people. Just as this woman was bowed to the ground by her disability, so the people of God were crushed under the burden of Pharisaic tradition.

God’s law is no burden. It liberates from the oppression of sin. It lifts us up so that we can freely serve our Lord. It leads us to offer loving obedience to the one who loves us so. God’s law – the perfect law of liberty – is sufficient to lead man in the right and to restrain from error. It needs no help from man-made tradition.

And when the people saw and heard what Jesus did for that woman, they rejoiced with her. We too can find joy in God’s freedom – freedom from sin in Jesus Christ. Freedom that discovers its purpose under the perfect law of liberty. Freedom that delivers us to live the life for which God created man.

Thomas Larkin

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