June 4, 2020

Loosing the Captive to Stand Up Straight

Today’s Gospel: Luke 13:10-17

According to Luke’s portrayal, Jesus’ mission was clearly stated:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,

that the blind will see,

that the oppressed will be set free,

and that the time of the L
ord’s favor has come.

(Luke 4:18-19)

The healing miracle described in today’s text, unique to the third Gospel and one of the last signs and wonders Jesus did that is recorded by Luke, is a poignant example of how Jesus fulfilled his mission.

Imagine this poor woman. For eighteen years, a strange ailment had incapacitated her. So unusual and inexplicable was her condition that everyone suspected more than simple physical infirmity. A “spirit of weakness” was somehow responsible. Jesus himself recognized “the bondage of Satan” in her situation.

Of course, Jesus notices her right away. Seeing her need, he invites the poor woman to approach. With a word and a touch, eighteen years of pain, limitations, and living on the fringes of the community are over. Her body, long bent and disfigured, straightens into vibrant health. Her spirit, long downcast and troubled, rises up in joy and praise to God.

Another captive released. Another oppressed soul set free. Once more, new creation breaks into this long suffering world. The subjugated children of Abraham see yet another illustration of what their Messiah has come to do.

“Straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near!”

(Luke 21:28)

Now imagine that you are one of the congregation on that Sabbath. After the disturbance created by Jesus’ actions, the ruler of the synagogue calls for attention. He is red-faced, his jaw clenched, eyes pinched with righteous anger. He avoids looking at Jesus or the woman. Instead, he scans the audience and then warns you and your neighbors that the synagogue on the Sabbath is not the place for this kind of commotion. There are other days of the week to gather and conduct business. This is a day for prayer and hearing God’s word. This is a day set apart!

You wonder why he is so upset. After all, this woman just received the first “rest” she’s had for eighteen years. God is being praised. There’s a sense of hope and enthusiasm unlike anything felt for a long time in that community.

If Jesus can do things like this, he must be something special. Perhaps all the children of Abraham will find release from their captivity in him. Perhaps we can all straighten up and lift up our heads.

Perhaps redemption for us all draws near.

Luke 13:10-17—(NLT)

One Sabbath day as Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, he saw a woman who had been crippled by an evil spirit. She had been bent double for eighteen years and was unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Dear woman, you are healed of your sickness!” Then he touched her, and instantly she could stand straight. How she praised God!

But the leader in charge of the synagogue was indignant that Jesus had healed her on the Sabbath day. “There are six days of the week for working,” he said to the crowd. “Come on those days to be healed, not on the Sabbath.”

But the Lord replied, “You hypocrites! Each of you works on the Sabbath day! Don’t you untie your ox or your donkey from its stall on the Sabbath and lead it out for water? This dear woman, a daughter of Abraham, has been held in bondage by Satan for eighteen years. Isn’t it right that she be released, even on the Sabbath?”

This shamed his enemies, but all the people rejoiced at the wonderful things he did.

Comments

  1. Thank you. That’s what it’s like, when we experience God — straightening up after years of being like Alec Guinness in the box in “The Bridge on the River Kwai.” Left, to myself, I’d curl back up again, but he doesn’t leave me to myself! God is good.

  2. Tim Becker says

    It would seem that saving people from spending eternity in hell would be the most important thing Jesus did. Yet all he didn’t mention that as being part of his mission! I wonder why?

    • That gets into the whole issue of Christus Victor vs. Penal Substitution. And as much as I’d love to get into that discussion, I suspect that’s best saved for another day and another blog.

      • Tim Becker says

        Point well taken. It was just a thought that popped into my head while reading the text. Consider it food for thought then.

    • The passage Jesus quotes from Isaiah is about declaring “Jubilee,” the OT year of release of debts. Isaiah and Jesus are applying it more broadly, and I would think it includes setting captives free from eternal condemnation as well. Today’s passage uses the “bound” and “loosing” language to refer to a woman who has in some sense been captive to Satan, and so you can see the broader implication in that. Charles Wesley’s hymn, “And Can It Be” expresses it better than I can:

      Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
      fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
      thine eye diffused a quickening ray;
      I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
      my chains fell off, my heart was free,
      I rose, went forth, and followed thee.
      My chains fell off, my heart was free,
      I rose, went forth, and followed thee.

  3. When “The Spirit of the Lord” is’t upon us don’t we always substitute with legalism?

  4. The poor do have the Good News. This article I saw today explores why “lower-income people were more generous, charitable, trusting and helpful to others than were those with more wealth.” It seems that the simple act of being wealthy keeps one bent double and crippled, while the poor, sick and oppressed who need the Good News are the most attuned to what it means.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/22/magazine/22FOB-wwln-t.html

  5. Thanks, Mike, for reminding us that Jesus is the ultimate liberator. Unfortunately, that’s something His church seems to forget for centuries at a time.