Jesus cures the Crippled Woman
Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, on the Sabbath. There were two different ways of worshipping in first-century Palestine:
There might be a leader of the synagogue, but any man who could read, who knew the Scriptures, and who was respected by the community could be a speaker - Jesus obviously fitted this description. A leader, in this case Jesus, spoke from the middle of the room, reading the Scriptures and offering comments; then there was a general discussion of the text he had read.
There was a woman there, listening to Jesus. She had been crippled for eighteen years with a spinal deformity that left her body twisted. She may have had acute arthritis. The people of the time thought that she was crippled because her body had been taken over by a spirit or demon.
Spirits and demons appear frequently in Luke’s gospel, in different guises. Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit (1:35); at Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit descends on him in the form of a dove (3:21); Jesus is tempted in the desert by a spirit or demon (4:1-13); Jesus teaches that ‘the Spirit of the Lord is upon me’ (4:18); Jesus frees people from unclean spirits and from demons that cause cosmic disorder. Luke therefore shows Jesus as being
The woman in the story could not straighten her body, so she could not look upwards or forwards. The shape of her body, always bent over towards the ground, was a symbol of people who are stunted and distorted by ignorance, prejudice, anger or malice. As it was, she could see only the dirt at her feet, as many people can see only the bad side of things. She could not look up and see the possibilities before her. She could not see the smiles on people’s faces. She could not see the sky. She could only see downwards to the dirt.
Jesus called her over into the center of the synagogue, from the side where she
had been standing.
He told her that she was free from whatever had twisted her body into a deformed shape. He put his hands on her, and immediately she was able to straighten her body. She could look upwards, and she could see forwards. It was not just her body that was healed, but her soul as well. Her immediate response was to praise God.
The leader of the synagogue reminded Jesus that curing of the sick was only permitted on the Sabbath to save a life. After all, there
were six other days in the week when healing could be done. The Sabbath should be kept
special, set aside as a time for praising God, not to be used for anything else.
Jesus argued that if you could water an animal on the Sabbath (which was allowed) then you should be able to help a woman who was ill.
Jesus was not alone in holding this opinion. Several other Jewish rabbis at that time taught that the Sabbath was made for people’s benefit, and should not be a burden for people.
The story finishes by noting that everyone was happy with the wonderful things that Jesus did. Everyone was rejoicing. Surely, says the author of Luke’s gospel, what Jesus did is right. He has observed the true purpose of the law, because people praise God as a result of what he has done.
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