Luke 13:10-17 – Jesus healing a woman on the Sabbath
Grace to you and peace in Jesus Christ, who heals us and frees us from our burdens. Amen.
Today we hear a story about Jesus on the Sabbath. Now, there are a lot of stories in the Gospels that occur on the Sabbath day. And they all have one thing in common. In each of these stories, Jesus gets into trouble. I don’t know why, but it seems like Jesus' favourite day to get into trouble is on the Sabbath day.
Sometimes he’s teaching on the Sabbath, sometimes he’s healing somebody, sometimes he’s driving out a demon. But whatever Jesus is doing, if it’s on the Sabbath, chances are he’s made SOMEBODY upset. If it’s the Sabbath, chances are Jesus is getting into trouble.
So what is the Sabbath? (Wait for responses)
The Sabbath is the day of rest. And according to the Bible, the Sabbath is the seventh day. Now for Jewish people, a new day started at sundown, so the Sabbath was (and still is) from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. Now the early Christians started worshiping on Sunday because Sunday (the first day of the week) was the day that Jesus was resurrected. So every Sunday was almost like a little mini Easter. So there’s a difference between how Jews observe Sabbath, and how Christians observe Sunday.
Now the Sabbath is important. It’s even named in the Ten Commandments. Remember the Sabbath Day, and keep it holy. So how does the Bible call us to remember the Sabbath day? Do we have a big party on the Sabbath? (etc.) How are we called to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy? (Rest/do no work)
Now the Bible gives two reasons why the Sabbath should be a day of rest. The first comes from Genesis: after the six days of creation, God rested on the Sabbath day. But there’s another reason that you may be less familiar with. In Deuteronomy, it says: “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.”
This is a pretty powerful reason, isn’t it? Do you think the Israelites got a day off when they were slaves in Egypt? Probably not, right? The Bible has stories about the people of Israel being worked to the bone in Egypt. So by resting on the Sabbath, the people of Israel reminded one another that they are no longer slaves: that God had freed them from their slavery. And the Bible is clear that no one in the land of Israel was to work on the Sabbath: not even slaves or servants.
Everyone from the king to the dung-shovellers was to have one day off every week.
Now I don’t know about you, but perhaps the commandment to remember the Sabbath is the one I struggle with the most! (Maybe that sounds ironic to you. I mean, I’m a pastor, right?) But I find it very difficult to give myself a day off. It always seems like there’s more work to do! What would it be like to take a full 24 hours of rest every week?
OK so back to our story. Jesus is teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath. And we know that he’s going to get into trouble because Jesus always gets into trouble on the Sabbath. And he sees a woman there, who has a disability. She is bent over – she cannot stand up straight. And the text tells us that she has had this disability for eighteen years.
Can you imagine? Eighteen years of living with this disability. Eighteen years of suffering from pain and discomfort. Eighteen years and no one can help her.
So what do you think Jesus is going to do? He’s going to heal her, right? And what’s going to happen after that? He’s going to get into trouble for healing her!
And that’s exactly what happens. The leader of the synagogue stands up, and he is outraged. “There are six days to do work. Come on one of those days to be healed!” he says!
Now, what do you think? Do you think that this leader of the synagogue cares whether Jesus is getting the rest he needs? Is he really saying, “You know Jesus, I think you’ve been working way too hard. You should really take a day off.”
No, right? This guy’s just upset that Jesus is so popular. He’s feeling intimidated. Maybe he’s worried that if his synagogue starts following Jesus, he’ll lose all his power. So he’s not saying this because he cares about Jesus, or about the woman either. I think he’s just trying to pick a fight.
But Jesus actually cares about this woman who has come to be healed. He has compassion for her. She’s been bearing a burden for eighteen years. Every day, she bears the burden of her disability. Every day, she has had to navigate a world built for straight-backed people: a world that isn’t interested in accommodating her needs. And if you live with a disability, or if you love someone who lives with a disability, perhaps you know the burden that it can be to try to navigate a world built for able-bodied people.
Because of this woman’s disability, she hasn’t had the luxury of a day off in eighteen years.
And this Sabbath, Jesus is about to change that. This Sabbath, Jesus is about to give this woman her first day off in eighteen years. This Sabbath, Jesus will finally lift this burden from her shoulders, and she will finally stand up straight.
If the Sabbath is truly for rest, then Jesus wants today to be the day for this woman to finally experience rest.
So Jesus lays his hand on this woman. And she is healed. And she stands up straight. And she praises God. And the whole synagogue cheers, because they have just witnessed a life transformed by God’s grace.
What burdens have you brought to this place of worship today? How long has it been since you have had rest from these burdens? And is there something that you have experienced today – perhaps in the Word, perhaps in the Sacrament, perhaps in the community – that helps you to trust in Jesus Christ a little more today, so that he can take that burden off of your shoulders, so that you can know the healing rest that comes from God?