Set Free on the Sabbath

Posted: June 4, 2017 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 13:10-17, “Set Free on the Sabbath”

Freedom.  What we give for it.  Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen regularly offer up their lives for the sake of freedom.  It is venerated in our songs and patriotism.  It is immortalized in iconic movies like “Braveheart,” where it becomes the rallying cry of the main character.  We instinctively say that we would die for it, and perhaps many of us would.

Yet, what is it?  We recently celebrated Memorial Day when our nation is supposed to pause and remember those who have died in military service – but typically the long weekend is used for movie openings & hamburger cookouts.  Is freedom simply the ability to eat what we want & enjoy leisure time?  Or is it something more?

Without context, “freedom” is meaningless.  After all, the word implies that we’re free from something.  A POW experiences freedom when he/she is released from captivity.  A slave experiences freedom when he/she is emancipated.  What is it from which we have been freed?  In regards to the United States of America, our nation experienced freedom when it became independent from the kingdom of Great Britain.  Our men & women in uniform fight to maintain that freedom (and freedom from any opposing nation) to this very day.

That’s on a national level, but what about individuals?  Are we truly free?  After all, there is all kinds of bondage that exists beyond national citizenships.  Do we (who live in the freest nation on earth) actually experience real freedom from day-to-day?  No.  Addiction runs rampant among us, be it in the form of alcoholism, drug abuse, pornography, or even more benign things like food, sports, and screen-time on the internet.  By definition, addiction is slavery.  Paul wrote: Romans 6:16, "Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?"  What is it we obey?  That is our slave-master.  It may be pleasure – it may be pride – but whatever it is, it has us trapped.

What do we need?  Freedom.  Where is it found?  In Christ Jesus.  Jesus gives freedom!  This is exactly what Paul goes on to write: Romans 6:17–18, "(17) But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. (18) And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness."  We are set free when become slaves of King Jesus.  When He delivers us into His kingdom, as His servants & citizens, that is when we are truly free.

What does any of that have to do with our text?  Everything.  Jesus encounters a woman in bondage, and He sets her free.  Instead of rejoicing in the miracle, a religious leader declares that he’d rather see her bound.  Jesus calls out that sort of legalism for what it is: hypocrisy.  He came to set people free, and we are to remain in His freedom!

Coming into this section of Chapter 13, it may seem as if it has little or nothing to do with what came before, but that’s not the case.  Granted, it is difficult to see how it fits chronologically, but thematically, it fits perfectly.  To get the full picture, we have to go back to the end of Chapter 11 & beginning of Chapter 12.  Jesus had seen blatant hypocrisy among the scribes & Pharisees, and He called them out on it.  They had burdened the people, and gave them no help in lifting it. (11:46)  They had taken away the key of knowledge to the kingdom, neither entering it themselves, nor allowing others to do so. (11:52)  Jesus warned the multitude against engaging in this kind of sin, calling it “the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” (12:1)  He taught people of the need to be ready for the judgment of God, and to keep humble and repentant hearts.

But after all of that, Jesus found a religious leader that exemplified the Pharisaical hypocrisy He had earlier condemned.  This man did the opposite of everything Jesus had taught.  He had not prepared himself for judgment – he had not discerned the signs of the times – and on top of it all, he was willing to let another person suffer to satisfy his own legalistic religious interpretations.  Jesus didn’t put up with it.  He came to give true freedom, and that’s a freedom in which we can rejoice!

Luke 13:10–17

  • The miracle (10-13)

10 Now He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath.

  • Several scholars note that this is the last time that Luke shows Jesus teaching in the synagogue, which may be true, but somewhat misses the forest for the trees.  The point is that Jesus was teaching in the synagogue.  He had not yet been totally rejected by the Jews, and He had an extremely active teaching ministry.  This was part of His regular, normal practice.  As a Jew, Jesus was in the Jewish synagogue every Saturday as a part of the normal Saturday Sabbath observance.  As a rabbi, it was common for Him to be asked to teach the gathered congregation, even though this was not His hometown.  It may not have been too unlike a travelling missionary or pastor being asked to say a few words when visiting another congregation on any given Sunday (though Jesus perhaps gave the entire message that day).
  • So far, so good.  All of this appears to be totally normal…and that’s the idea.  Luke paints the picture of just-another-Sabbath, and just-another-synagogue…although nothing about Jesus’ ministry could be considered “just-another” anything!  It was what was about to happen that would mark the day as being drastically different.  Vs. 11…

11 And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up.

  • Where did the woman come from?  How long had she been there that day?  How long had she been coming to that synagogue?  We don’t know the answers to any of those questions.  On one hand, it sounds as if she suddenly appeared – but Luke could just have easily been using a rhetorical device to draw our attention to her.  Jewish women commonly attended synagogue services, so the presence of a woman would not have been unusual at all.  What stood out about this woman (pardon the expression) is that she couldn’t stand at all.  Dr. Luke describes her as having “a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up.”  Today, she might be diagnosed with a condition called Scheuermann’s Kyphosis, which is similar to scoliosis, but instead of having the spine abnormally bent from side-to-side, the spine is bent forward.  Perhaps the more common (though crude) name for it is having a “hunchback / humpback.”  In the case of Kyphosis, it apparently shows up in some teenagers, and is correctable if caught early.  But it isn’t difficult to imagine a situation in ancient Judea where a teenage girl contracted the condition, and it remained with her for 18 years.  If this was the case, she was probably in her early-to-mid-thirties at this point (perhaps the same age as Jesus), and perhaps never wed.  By any outside measure at the time, this was her life, and this was the way it would always be.  She was trapped.
  • Have you ever felt trapped?  For this woman, she was literally trapped inside her own body, locked into this terrible position.  For us, our captivity may not take physical form.  There may be circumstances from which we cannot free ourselves, though they were no fault of our own.  Other times, maybe we actually did something – but we can’t shake ourselves of the label or results.  Or maybe it’s something like a form of addiction.  99% of the time we hate it, but it’s the 1% that keeps us coming back…we’re trapped.  What do you do?  We can’t “raise ourselves up” – we can’t give ourselves freedom.  We need to be freed.  We need someone to come and emancipate us.  There’s only one Person who offers that kind of hope: the Lord Jesus Christ.  He gives us freedom from sin – He gives us freedom from our past.  In Him we have new life, new opportunities, and a new future.  It doesn’t matter how long we’ve been trapped & enslaved: 8 years, 18 years, or 80 years.  Jesus offers freedom from it all!
  • It’s interesting that Luke describes the woman has having “a spirit of infirmity.”  Being a physician, one might expect a different sort of diagnosis from the doctor.  Yet Luke understood something that modern doctors sometimes forget: there is indeed a spiritual world, and we have a spiritual enemy who has come to steal, kill, and destroy. (Jn 10:10)  Luke never describes this situation as an outright possession, but there’s no doubt of the devil’s involvement.  Jesus personally points this out in vs. 16.  A man or woman doesn’t have to be possessed by a demon in order to be afflicted by spiritual warfare.  We tend to think of these things in black/white, this/that sort of categories.  In reality, it’s not that cut & dry.  Physical ailments aren’t easily (or often) separated from spiritual issues.  As Paul wrote to the Ephesians, we do not battle against flesh & blood, but against rulers & principalities – i.e., spiritual forces. (Eph 6:12)  Does this mean that Christians should avoid medical doctors?  Absolutely not!  Medical issues are to be dealt with medically, and we ought to be grateful for the abundance of medical knowledge & technology that is available to us in this country.  That said, we shouldn’t ignore the spiritual component to these things either.  Seek medical treatment, yes…but seek the Lord as well.  Go to the hospital, but pray while you’re there.  Ask the elders of the church to pray for you & anoint you with oil. (Jas 5:14)  It’s not an either/or; it’s a both/and.
  • Of course when the incarnate Son of God is physically in the room, doctors are a bit superfluous.  This woman’s plight may have gone unaddressed for 18 years by everyone else, but Jesus gives her His full attention the moment He sees her.  Vs. 12…

12 But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.” 13 And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.

  • He healed her…immediately!  Jesus saw her, Jesus spoke to her, and Jesus laid hands on her.  Any one of those acts would have been enough to physically and spiritually heal this woman.  The only thing truly required was the will of God, which Jesus obviously had.  Everything else was just an outward expression of that will, and Jesus gave it in abundance.  This woman would have stood up straight simply by Jesus’ thoughts toward her; He wanted her to know why she now stood.  Her new life and healing was due solely to the grace of Jesus poured out upon her, and there would be no doubt about it.
  • Her response was only natural: she “glorified God.”  Jesus performs a powerful act of healing, and the woman glorifies God.  Is this right or wrong?  It’s right!  Did she understand that Jesus is God?  Maybe – maybe not.  Luke doesn’t give us enough information to determine whether or not she came to faith in Christ.  There’s certainly no reason to assume that she didn’t – but it’s impossible to say for sure.  Regardless, to glorify God for the grace of Jesus is absolutely appropriate.  Jesus’ own desire was to glorify His heavenly Father (Jn 12:27-28), so we ought to do the same.  Of course, being that the Son of God is the 2nd Person of the Trinity, when we give glory to God, we are glorifying the Son.  However one looks at it, it’s the right response.  We answer grace with glory.  Jesus showers us with grace, and we give glory to God.
    • Is this your reaction?  If you know Jesus as your Savior & Lord – if you have believed upon Him crucified for your sins & risen from the dead – then you have received grace upon grace from Jesus.  You have been forgiven of your traitorous deeds against God, cleansed of your lusts & defilements, brought into the family of God, and given an eternal inheritance with the Lord Jesus Christ.  You have been given incredible blessings that you could not have possibly deserved – but God gave them to you because He loves you.  What other response could we have other than praise?  How can we keep silent in the face of grace?  Glorify God!  The word comes from the same word that we get “doxology” from.  What do we do in the doxology?  We sing – we give God praise – we magnify Him with our lips & exalt Him in our hearts.
    • Is this what you do when you enter a church worship service?  Do you come with the expectation of actively exalting the God who gave you grace?  Or do you just show up, getting through the “singing” as painlessly as possible?  The reason we glorify God is because we get to glorify God!  It is a privilege given to us because we have been forgiven by Him.  So come with excitement – with anticipation – with joy that you get to sing to God and give Him praise!
    • Don’t think it’s limited only to congregational singing…it’s not!  You can praise God in your prayers.  You can exalt Him when you wake up in the morning, when you do your daily exercise, when you’re running your errands or on your commute.  There’s no limit as to when & where you can consciously & joyfully give God praise & glory.  Take advantage of every opportunity you have!
  • Notice how her healing is described: it’s freedom.  “Woman, you are loosed.”  The word for “loosed” comes from a common word in Greek that can be translated a number of ways.  This particular form is a strengthened form of the basic verb, and (depending on the context) can be rendered: “set free, released, pardoned, let go, dismissed, etc.”  Figuratively speaking, the word could refer to forgiveness, as someone is loosed from the eternal consequences of his/her sin.  In the case of this woman, her “loosing” was literal & physical, but no doubt there were spiritual applications with her just as there are for you & me.  Again, with sin comes slavery, and it is from slavery that we need freedom.  Jesus releases us from the power that sin holds over us.  The cross and resurrection are His declarations to us that those who have faith in Him have been loosed!
    • Have you been set free?  Are you living as if you’ve been set free?  There can be a big difference between those two questions.  Many Christians will say yes to the first, remembering a time when they consciously and intentionally put their faith & trust in Jesus as Lord.  Yet from that point forward, their faith has wavered, and there are times that their lives appear just as much enslaved to sin as they ever were in the first place.  That’s not what Jesus intends for us!  What would it have looked like if Jesus declared this woman to be loosed of her infirmity, have her thank Him for His loosing, and then bent over again as she walked out the door?  It’d be ridiculous!  We’d shout at her, “You’ve been freed…walk straight & upright!  Why put yourself in that position any longer?”  Perhaps the same thing should be shouted at us.  We’ve been freed!  We’ve been given liberty from sin by the Lord Jesus Christ.  He has personally freed us from the eternal penalty that was due our sin – He has freed us from the wretched power that sin has over our daily lives – and one day He will set us free from the very presence of sin as He receives us to Himself in heaven.  We have been freed!  So stop stooping over as if you’re enslaved.  Stand straight – walk tall – walk rightly with God as He has equipped you to do.
  • This woman was overjoyed to be loosed, but not everyone shared her joy.  Vs. 14…
  • The criticism (14)

14 But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.”

  • If it weren’t so common in the Scriptures (and sadly among religious legalists today), then this would be unbelievable.  How could anyone possibly witness this miracle done by Jesus and do anything else other than rejoice?  Yet not only does this man not rejoice & glorify God, he gets mad.  He “answered with indignation.” This act of Jesus was an offense to him.  What was Jesus’ crime?  He “had healed on the Sabbath.”  Although barely a hand was lifted & a word spoken, it was obvious that an act of power had been performed.  This was intolerable to this synagogue ruler, and he demanded the strictest adherence to the Sabbath Day traditions.  He even implies sin on the part of the woman, saying that she could “come and be healed” on the other days of the week, as if she showed up at the normal synagogue service for the specific purpose of forcing Jesus to perform a miracle.  (Since when is being healed a work, anyway?  She was the recipient of the miracle; not the giver of it.)
  • Even if the focus is only upon the work of Jesus, was the ruler of the synagogue speaking the truth?  Was his complaint (though poorly worded) theologically accurate?  The 4th Commandment is pretty clear: Exodus 20:8–10b, "(8) “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. (9) Six days you shall labor and do all your work, (10) but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work:"  Work could be done from sundown Saturday to sundown Friday, but that final night and day were holy to the Lord, set apart by Him.  God rested on the 7th day, and He set it apart as holy.  Had Jesus broken the clear commandment?  Jewish tradition divided work into 39 categories of things forbidden on the Sabbath, and interestingly enough, healing is not one of them.  Jewish tradition even has a principle called Pikuach Nefesh (Hebrew: פיקוח נפש ) in which the preservation of human life overrides other religious considerations.  The woman’s life was probably not in immediate danger (she had lived 18 years with the condition already), but it is evident things aren’t nearly as cut & dry as the synagogue ruler implies.  (Actually, the course of action Jesus took is pretty clear cut…it just isn’t favorable towards the view of the religious leader.)
  • What are the issues here?  Legalism – a lack of love – even a lack of the fear of God.  Issue #1: legalism.  Here was a guy demanding adherence to the letter of the law, without any regards to the heart of it.  This is something that Jesus addresses in His own response.  It’s not that God doesn’t care about the letter of the law & the details of His word, but He also wants us to understand the heart & spirit of the law.  This is evident from the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus addressed some of the Ten Commandments.  The law says that “you shall not murder,” but Jesus said that if we are angry with our brother without cause, we are danger of judgment. (Mt 5:21-22)  The law saws that “you shall not commit adultery,” but Jesus said that if we look upon others with lust, we have already committed adultery in our hearts. (Mt 5:27-28)  The heart of the law is for God’s people to seek after God’s righteousness, and that is something greater than traditions regarding the legal details.  It’s the same thing here.  The detail of the law is to “do no work” on the Sabbath day.  The heart of the law is to sanctify the Sabbath unto the Lord and to rest in Him.  Jesus hadn’t chopped wood or engaged in any other kind of physical labor that distracted Him from His worship of God.  In addition, He had sanctified the Lord because the miracle performed was a reason for God to be glorified.  The woman was now resting in the Lord because she had been freed from her infirmity.  The heart of the law had been kept to the full; it was the man’s own legalistic interpretation of it which was violated.
    • As Christians, we need to be careful of two dangers of legalism: (1) That we are not burdened by it, and (2) that we not engage in it.  The first might seem obvious.  We see the Pharisees around us, and we have a relatively easy time recognizing when someone tries to push their own expectations upon us.  Even so, we need not feel pressured.  Certainly if we are confronted with possible sin in our lives, we need to examine ourselves, looking at our behavior in the light of Scripture, prayer, and solid Biblical counsel.  But if it all of that is clean, then the legalism of others ought to be disregarded.  Jesus died to give us freedom from the law, so we should stand fast in that freedom, not being entangled with a yoke of bondage. (Gal 5:1)  On the second point, we need to realize that Pharisees aren’t always other people; sometimes, they can be us.  Just because we have certain expectations for ourselves regarding Scriptural principles doesn’t mean that those same expectations apply to everyone else.  One Christian believes that he/she should never smoke, drink, dance, or get a tattoo.  Are any of those things inherently condemned in the Scripture?  They can certainly be abused & done in clearly sinful ways – but the Bible does not comprehensively forbid every use of them.  By all means, hold to your convictions…just be careful when you expect others to hold the same ones.
  • Issue #2: a lack of love.  This is something else Jesus addresses in His response.  There had been a woman in need, and Jesus had the power to do something about it.  How could that not be celebrated?  To condemn this miracle was to wish that this woman had remained in torment for at least another sundown, or maybe even longer.  After all, who can say what Jesus’ travel plans were?  He was an itinerate minister, going from place to place.  Perhaps He was leaving in the morning, or after sundown.  From the woman’s perspective, she might not ever see Jesus again.  This was her chance at healing – it was downright hateful for someone to hold her back from it…especially under the guise of false piety & religious custom.  A loving heart would take someone to Jesus; not forbid them from going.
    • Jesus calls us to love!  We are to love one another, showing compassion on them like He has shown us.  We are to model the love of Christ to all the world.  If they don’t see it in us, where will it be known?
  • Issue #3: a lack of the fear of God.  This is not something Jesus addresses directly, but it is certainly implied.  A miracle of God had just been performed in the midst of all.  Every person attending synagogue that day would have been astounded.  This woman was not a stranger to them.  They had seen her for 18 years, many of them probably knowing her before this affliction took hold of her, and they had witnessed her body slowly degenerate and hold her captive.  Now, in an instant, she stood upright and glorified God, all due to a Man of God in their midst.  That was a reason to worship; not condemn.  God’s hand was evident, and yet this synagogue ruler thought he knew better.  He identified the work of God as being sin, declaring it to be a violation of God’s Sabbath law.  That’s within a hair’s-breadth of being the same sin as the Pharisees’ blaspheming of the Holy Spirit, and it demonstrates that the synagogue ruler had no true fear of God before his eyes.  He wasn’t seeking to worship and glorify God; he was looking to put down the work of God & elevate himself.
    • Those who say we know Jesus ought to be able to recognize His work.  Those who are filled with the Spirit ought to understand the things of the Spirit.  That’s not to say that we need to agree with all things done by all people who claim to be Christian.  But we should still be able to rejoice in the things of God when they occur.  For instance, there are some TV “evangelists” that are outright heretics & should never be given a platform anywhere.  Yet sometimes, people get saved at their meetings, in spite of the speaker at the microphone.  We can rejoice in the work of God, even as we denounce the false teacher at the front.  Whatever the example, we need to recognize God’s hand when He moves, and give Him the glory.  We seek Him and His kingdom; not our own sensibilities & preferences.
  • The response (15-17)

15 The Lord then answered him and said, “Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it?

  • Before we get into the response, notice how Luke describes the manner in which Jesus responded.  “The Lord then answered him.”  The kind of spiritual abuse and manipulation handed down from the ruler of the synagogue was not going to be ignored by the Lord Jesus.  The Son of God was in the room, and He would respond with all the truth of God back at the man.
  • What was the charge?  Hypocrisy.  Just like the lawyers who took away the key of knowledge from the masses & stood in the door of the kingdom (11:52), so did this ruler of the synagogue.  Just like the Pharisees speak one thing in open & another behind closed doors (12:1-3), so did this man.  On the one hand, the synagogue ruler held himself up as a paragon of virtue – someone who truly cared about God & honoring the Sabbath rest.  On the other hand, he would rather see a woman bound with sickness & he openly disparaged a work of God in his midst.  He was a hypocrite in true form.  Someone who sincerely followed God in truth would have rejoiced at what had taken place, and especially in the One who performed the miracle.  As a hypocrite, the man not only denigrated the miracle, but also the miracle worker…and all in the name of his religious piety.  It was false piety, and Jesus called it out for what it was.
    • Once again, we need to be careful about pointing too many fingers.  It’s easy to point out the religious hypocrites around us.  Sometimes we almost make it a game, seeing how many false teachers & otherwise hypocritical Christians we can point out by name.  (That itself can be dangerously hypocritical!)  What we really need to be careful of is becoming hypocrites ourselves.  We’ll demand something of someone, while having another expectation for ourselves.  We’ll slip in & out of “church-face” depending on what person we’re talking to.  We’ll give ourselves grace, while pushing law upon someone else.  That’s hypocrisy, plain & simple. 
    • How do we deal with it?  Humility.  Humility is the antidote to hypocrisy.  People who have humble hearts don’t seek to exalt themselves, so there’s no point to try & prove.  People who have humble hearts want to seek the Lord exalted, so they’re not going to try to insert themselves along the way.  When you see hypocrisy creeping into your life, humble yourself before God.  Recommit yourself to following Jesus as your Lord & King, allowing Him to have full reign in your life. 
  • The proof of the hypocrisy?  The Jews did less for livestock.  Jesus had loosed a woman from her sickness, which was a gloriously good thing.  How could that break the Sabbath, when a basic example of animal husbandry was not?  Culturally speaking, the Jews did not cook meals on the Sabbath, but meals prepared beforehand were eaten.  They did not fast from food & drink every Saturday.  Neither did they force their animals to do so.  Milk-cows needed to remain healthy to produce dairy the other six days of the week.  Donkey & oxen needed to remain strong in order to be used for farm work.  These animals still needed to be fed & watered, and even if hay was left out for them to eat, it was no violation of Sabbath to lead them to drink.  The legalism of this synagogue ruler had led him to ridiculous conclusions.  If animals could be loosed from a stable to be led to water, how much more a human being be loosed from bondage to freedom?  Vs. 16…

16 So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound—think of it—for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?”

  • If an ox or donkey was “loosed,” this woman was “loosed” to an even greater extent, and for greater reason.  At this point, an animal is no longer in view, but a human being…and more than that, “a daughter of Abraham.”  Jesus’ focus isn’t so much on her femininity, but rather her status as a child of the Promise.  She had inherent value even beyond her basic humanity.  She was a spiritual sister to the leader of the synagogue who had condemned her.  The man who had likely taught her of the blessings of Abraham should have seen her as a recipient of the covenant of Abraham.  She too, was included in the promise.  She too had value.  She was someone whom God loved, and one who God had set apart as His own.  She ought to have been befriended by those within the synagogue; not chastised by its leader.
  • This gets back to the lack of love so evident in the man’s criticism.  He hadn’t seen the woman as he ought to have seen her.  When Jesus spoke of her illness, He literally said, “behold, ten and eight years,” calling the man to look upon her (“think of it”).  Part of the problem is that he hadn’t looked at her.  For 18 years she had come to the synagogue, hunched in bondage and pain, and he didn’t take notice of her condition.  How callous it was for him to claim there were six other days on which she could be healed!  She had come for 18 years & had not been healed!  This man hadn’t looked at her, nor had any compassion upon her.  He didn’t value her as a person, or as a daughter of Abraham.
    • The man in question was a ruler of a Jewish synagogue, but it could just as easily be said of modern-day Christians.  How often have we blinded our eyes to the people around us who are suffering?  Not just strangers, but fellow Christians – people we know.  These people have value as men & women of God.  They are brothers & sisters in Christ.  We may not be able to help them miraculously as Jesus can, but certainly we can see them through Jesus’ eyes.  We can look upon them in compassion, and demonstrate grace.  Even if all we can do is pray with them & for them, that’s something.  The opportunities we have to love one another are endless, but we need to open our eyes.  We need to look.
  • What had the woman been loosed from?  Satanic bondage.  Yes, there was a legitimate physical illness experienced by the woman, but that doesn’t mean Satan wasn’t involved.  Even if the woman wasn’t demonically possessed, she was certainly demonically oppressed.  It was from this Satanic oppression that Jesus set her free.  She was loosed from this bondage – released from spiritual and physical slavery.  And the Sabbath day was the perfect day on which to do it!  How so?  The Sabbath is all about rest.  On the seventh day, God rested from all of His work in creating the universe.  Thus the Sabbath is how we celebrate our rest in God.  For the Jews, this was an outward sign of their covenant, as they showed their trust in God as their provider, by resting in Him & His promise every week.  Today, is our rest found in a 24-hour period?  Is it found in a physical land of promise?  No.  The author of Hebrews understood that those things do not bring true rest: Hebrews 4:9–10, "(9) There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. (10) For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His."  How then, do we enter the true rest of God?  When we rest in Jesus by faith.  When it comes to the work of salvation, Jesus has done it all.  As He declared from the cross, “It is finished!” (Jn 19:30)  There is nothing we can do to add to it – it is complete.  So we rest in Him.  We place all our faith & trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, believing upon Him for our salvation, and we find it.  That’s when we enter into His rest.  And that’s what made the Sabbath a perfect day for this daughter of Abraham to be loosed & find freedom!  She was no longer bound by Satan – she was no longer oppressed in her body & spirit by the devil – she was loosed from bondage, and could rest in the freedom given her by Christ.  This was no violation of the Sabbath; this was the fulfillment of it!
    • You can experience that same fulfillment.  You, too, can enter into the rest offered by Jesus.  Stop struggling to free yourself from sin & bondage – stop working to try to prove yourself worthy of eternal life.  Rest!  Place your faith & trust in Jesus, resting in the things He has already completed – resting in the God that He is.  In Jesus’ rest, there is freedom.

17 And when He said these things, all His adversaries were put to shame; and all the multitude rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him.

  • Quite the turn-around!  The ruler of the synagogue had turned an experience of joy into an uncomfortable moment of awkwardness when he accused both Jesus and the woman of sin.  With Jesus’ response, the tables quickly turned, and it was the synagogue ruler who was “put to shame.”  And apparently, he wasn’t alone!  He was the only one that Luke recorded as speaking, but there were others who joined him in his disapproval.  Likewise, they joined him in his public disgrace.  The truth of God cut like a knife (just as it is supposed to do), and exposed this legalistic, hypocritical false piety for what it was, and those who held to it were put to shame.
  • The rest of the people “rejoiced.”  This was the response that should have come all along.  This was what was begun by the woman, and now carried over by the crowd.  They were witnesses to the miracle, and they rightly rejoiced and recognized it as a “glorious” work for which God could (and should) be praised.

Do you rejoice in the work of God?  Do glorify God for the freedom He has given you?  We may not have had our backs bent like this woman for 18 years, but we certainly know what it’s like to be in bondage.  Before we met Jesus in faith, each one of us was enslaved to sin.  We had been ruled over by the devil, and we did the things of his will, even while we engaged in lusts and rebellion of our own.  But then we saw Jesus, and He gave us freedom!  We have been loosed from our slavery – pardoned from our sin – released from the power that Satan had over us.  If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus, you have experienced a miracle – a personal emancipation – and it is something for which you can praise God.

So praise Him!  Give Him glory!  Exalt His name!  Thank Him for all the things He has done for you, and continues to do for you in Christ.  Enjoy His freedom, and stay in His freedom.  Others might come along with their own legalistic bonds, but don’t be entangled by them.  Don’t let them steal your joy.  You have been set free in order to serve Christ, so serve Him; not anyone else’s expectations for you.  (That’s not license for us to sin; it’s liberty for us to live for Jesus!)

Beware the trap of legalism.  It’s not only a danger to ensnare us, but it’s a danger that we might ensnare others.  Be mindful that you point people to Christ; not to yourself & your own expectations.


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