"This lesson invites all of us who seek to follow Jesus today to ponder the ways in which our own rules, customs, and habits of what is right and proper have in fact become "Bad News" for the poor, the blind, and the oppressed - and to break those bonds so that we might ourselves be proclaimers of Good News of release, recovery, and freedom."
Season of Pentecost
Sunday Between August 21 to August 27 Inclusive
Proper 16, Ordinary Time 21
August 22, 2010, Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost
Click here, Luke 13:10-17, for an easy to print or email Adobe PDF version of this note.
Sermon by the Rev. Dr. George Hermanson, "to be added."
This is the second of 3 healings on the Sabbath that only Luke reports:
- Luke 6:6-11. Man with a withered hand.
- Luke 13:10-17. Bent over woman.
- Luke 14:1-6. Man with dropsy (swollen legs).
These stories may have caught Luke's attention and not Matthew, Mark, or John because Luke himself is a physician. Or it may also be because, it is Luke alone who presents Jesus proclaiming a Year of Jubilee - a year-long Sabbath, Luke 4:18:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release
to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.
Questions about proper Sabbath observance will be a key source of conflict between Jesus and the religious authorities because Sabbath observance is the heart of Jewish practice - established by God in the very fabric of Creation; commanded directly by God to Moses in the Ten Commandments.
New teachings about the Sabbath could only come from God - or one authorized directly by God.
Nothing is more challenging to any religious community than changes to its Sabbath!
As Malina notes (Page 281, see footnote below), anyone with a physical deformity would also be socially deformed - that is, they would be shunned and outcast - lose their family support and become poor.
In other words they were precisely the people for whom Jesus has come! See Luke 4:18 above.
Verse 12. Notice that Jesus sets the woman free. This is not "healing" as we understand it - it is freeing someone from what has bound them; it is having authority over powerful inner demons.
The process of healing-freeing begins with Jesus speaking to the woman - in so doing, he initiates a relationship with her that everyone else would have studiously avoided - this may have been the first time in 18 years that anyone has ever directly, personally spoken to her.
Jesus addresses both her, "Woman," and her reality, "you are set free from your ailment." And so he restores both her social and her physical well being. The social aspect of healing will be emphasized in Verse 16 where Jesus further identifies her status as a member of the community, "a daughter of Abraham," that is to say, "one of us, as we too are all daughters and sons of Abraham."
Verse 13. Notice that the woman rightly praises God - not Jesus - for her freedom. Everyone in the room would have been awed by what has just happened, and they would be very aware that a powerful Holy Man, Jesus, was in their midst.
Aside: Remember that at the time of Jesus it was dishonourable to boast, to draw attention to oneself, to claim higher status, power or authority than one was born with. And Jesus was born at the bottom of the social ladder. So as Jesus goes about preaching, teaching and healing - others start gossiping about him and his public status does grow. That is fine. Others can honour you, but you must never deliberately seek such honour or even explicitly accept it. And it is especially important for an honourable son to NEVER act as an equal with their Father. They must always and only be seen as acting on behalf of the Father, with the Father's permission. Thus when Jesus says, "You are set free," the woman, and everyone else, would understand that the authority and power to set free is God's alone - it is not Jesus, but Jesus on behalf of God. And so it is God, not Jesus, who is to be praised and thanked.
Verse 14. However, since healing violates the Sabbath requirement for rest, Jesus' action is a challenge that rightly provokes a response from the leader of the synagogue whose "job" is to enforce Sabbath laws.
Verses 15 and 16. Jesus meets this rebuke by first demonstrating his familiarity with Sabbath law - the permitted care of animals. And then asks an unanswerable question that silences his opponent.
Verse 17. Jesus' opponents are NOT ashamed because they have suddenly realized that, "Of course! How could we have been so stupid! Of course, it is OK to heal on the Sabbath!"
No. They are ashamed because Jesus has out-debated them; because he has crafted a legitimate question for which they can give no honourable response that would also be acceptable to the watching crowd.
Shaming authorities - those who control armies, police, and courts with force of arms - is dangerous today, and was more so at the time of Jesus.
This lesson invites all of us who seek to follow Jesus today to ponder the ways in which our own rules, customs, and habits of what is right and proper have in fact become "Bad News" for the poor, the blind, and the oppressed - and to break those bonds so that we might ourselves be proclaimers of Good News of release, recovery, and freedom.
Might the watching world - and God - also rejoice at all the wonderful things we were doing?
* Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Bruce Malina, et. al., Social Science Commentary on ... The Synoptic Gospels; The Gospel of John; The Book of Acts; The Letters of Paul; The Book of Revelation; and others.
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