Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

by Crossings

Luke 13:10-17
Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
(Proper 16–Sunday Between August 21 and 27 Inclusive)
analysis by Cathy Lessmann

10Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11And just then there appeared a women with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 12When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your aliment.” 13When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the Sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the Sabbath day.” 15But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? 16And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day?” 17When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

DIAGNOSIS: Under the Sabbath Rules

Step 1–Initial Diagnosis: Crippled
As much as the crippled woman and the ruler of the synagogue may not appear to have much in common, they are both under a crippling spirit. The woman is physically bent from an eighteen-year-long affliction. The ruler is bent out of shape (“indignant”) by the rules of the Sabbath with which Jesus had taken liberties. The ruler also is unable to stand up straight with his concern to Jesus, preferring to go behind Jesus’ back and bring his appeal to the crowd (v. 13). All of us are crippled by forces beyond our control, that can leave us crippled by their effects.

Step 2– Advanced Diagnosis: Bound
The crippling, however, is not simply on the surface of things, but is deeply spiritual. So controlling are the effects of illnesses, rules and regulations, that our spirits are bound by ropes and chains which we are unable to loosen. The fact that the woman was “quite unable to stand up straight” (v. 11) is a commentary on her lack of faith as well as her physical impairments (and not only hers, but ours as well). The cowardly acts of the ruler also point to his hypocritical heart (v. 15). The bondage runs deep into our souls.

Step 3–Final Diagnosis: Shamed
Ultimately, however, our problem comes under the microscope of God’s revelation, exposing our bent condition (physically and spiritually), and putting us to shame (v. 17). Even animals seem to get fairer treatment than we have been able to give human beings. But God judges the acts (or failures to act) even on the Sabbath. There is no hiding behind rules and regulations; there is no covering the shame of our illness. God sees all, and brings it all to light. Indeed, none of us can stand up straight before that judgment.

PROGNOSIS: Under the Sabbatheology of Jesus

Step 4–Initial Prognosis: Over-ruled by Jesus’ Rule-from-down-under
Jesus is not interested in shaming, but in overcoming, over-ruling, the shameful judgment. His method of over-ruling, however, is by standing under the judgment with us, placing his hands on the illness of our bent condition. His hands would be outstretched on the cross as a consequence of his activity to overrule rules and regulations of God’s law (clearly his most critical “opponent” in death, v. 17). But through that sharing in our deadly consequences, he would “shame” the law for its execution of God’s own Son; and we would be set free from the bondage that has long constrained us.

Step 5–Advanced Prognosis: Rejoicing
Our hearts are liberated from the heavy weight of the burdens that had kept them from having any hope of rescue. The parallel imagery of animals freed from their bonds and being led to water is a symbol of the nourishment and healing we experience in Jesus’ compassionate act for us. Once healed, the woman “immediately stood up straight.” So may we, standing erect and tall, and full of spirited-life. Since Jesus has countered the shame of judgment, we are free to rejoice in “all the wonderful things” he has done for us (v. 17).

Step 6–Final Prognosis: Untied
Living a life of promise means living free from the shackles that once had bound us. To be sure, there may still be illness and controlling forces that will seek to hold us in check. It didn’t work on Jesus’ liberating plan; neither will it work on us. We are free to be the promising agents, in spite of any and all evidence to the contrary. And we are free to be liberating agents for all who need their shackles loosened.


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