She Was Healed On the Sabbath
by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)
Text: Luke 13:10-17 KJV 10 And he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11 And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up (herself). 12 And when Jesus saw her, he called (her to him), and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity. 13 And he laid (his) hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. 14 And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day. 15 The Lord then answered him, and said, (Thou) hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or (his) ass from the stall, and lead (him) away to watering? 16 And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day? 17 And when he had said these things, all his adversaries were ashamed: and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him.
Introduction: Many times in the Gospels we read where Jesus went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day. On some of these occasions, He performed miracles of healing. Sometimes diseases are caused naturally or as a result of coming in contact with a sick person. Other times, diseases were the result of unclean spirits. This was one such case. Jesus healed the woman and defended what He did when a synagogue official protested.
I The Woman With The Problem
God made people “male and female” in the beginning; Adam was the first to be created from the dust of the ground and then God made Eve by taking a rib from Adam’s side. Even in Jesus’ day, the time when He was physically ministering to people on this earth, He reinforced the idea that God made “male and female (compare Genesis 1:27 and 5:2 with Matthew 19:4)”.
Even though there is a difference between male and female in terms of genetics or biology or whatever other reason there may be, one unifying principle exists. That principle is that no person is to be denied access to God because of their gender. Paul would later write that there is no difference at all between ethnicity, gender, or anything else (Galatians 3:28).
It’s also clear that both men and women share a common problem, namely, sickness! As mentioned, sometimes the sickness is just the result of a virus or other contagious disease but sometimes, the sickness was because of a demon. And this incident in the synagogue wasn’t the first time our Lord had to deal with that kind of a problem. Very early in His ministry, He was in contact with a man with an unclean spirit (Mark 1:21-27) and then He was brought face to face with another man who had a “Legion” of unclean spirits (Mark 5:1-20). This was no problem for Jesus: He simply cast out the demons or evil spirits and the people were healed!
So now, on a Sabbath in the synagogue, Jesus finds a woman who had a “spirit of infirmity” and, even worse, was bowed together—we might say she was “doubled over”—and had a hard time lifting herself up. And, Luke adds, she had been in that condition for 18 years!
Would she ever receive healing?
II The Teacher With The Solution
Luke’s narrative is simple and respectful. He first says that the woman was in the synagogue but still in her condition. One wonders what the other worshipers might have said or pondered when they saw her. The important thing, however, is that Jesus saw her and called her to Himself.
It’s true that Jesus used different methods when He healed people. Sometimes He healed people from a distance—examples: the Roman centurion’s servant (Matt 8:5-13), the son of the nobleman at Capernaum (while he was speaking to Jesus at Cana, several miles away (John 4:46-54)!), and the Syro-phoenician woman’s daughter (Mark 7:24-30). Other times He delivered people from demon oppression and/or possession (Mark 1:23-27, 9:14-30; Luke 8:26-39) by simply using His words. On still other occasions He actually touched people, just like He did for this woman at this particular time.
This brings us to the moment of healing. Jesus and others are in the synagogue, the woman was one of the people there (v.11), and Jesus sees her. Not only does He see her, He laid both of His hands on her and then says, “Woman, thou art loosed!”, or, in more up to date terms, “You’re set free!” from her medical problem. Immediately, Luke records, she was healed! She could stand up straight—not possible for 18 years—and she glorified God.
We could make a few observations here. First, Luke does not say that Jesus actually cast out the spirit which caused the woman’s problem. Clearly Jesus did but we are not given any specific information about it at this time. Second, Jesus did this act of healing right there in the synagogue. Other healings took place in other locations but this one was done in the presence of all who attended this Sabbath service. Third, we do not know the woman’s name but Jesus addressed her with a title of respect, “Woman”, which is the same word He used when He spoke to Mary at Cana during the wedding (see John 2 for the story).
As an aside, Jesus used different words when addressing different women. Here, and in John 2, He called the women “woman”; in Mark 5, the woman with the issue of blood who touched His robe, He called “Daughter”; and He called Jairus’ daughter, who was 12 years old and had died, “Little girl”. Dr. J. Vernon McGee said in a Bible conference several years ago that Jesus literally used the words, “Little lamb, get up” at that incident.
Wouldn’t this be a cause of rejoicing for all the people? Someone had been healed after a very long illness! Quite a few people had seen this take place so wouldn’t everyone be happy?
Sadly, no. At least one person was quite upset with this.
III The Dialogue With The Official
Incredibly, the synagogue ruler was upset! He didn’t rejoice in the healing, nor did he thank Jesus for assisting the woman. He stated, in so many words, “this is the Sabbath day, and you could have been healed on any of the other six days in the week!” Much discussion has taken place over the original intent of the Sabbath, given by God to the Israelites after they left Egypt; and the “okay/not okay” decisions made by the Pharisees and other religious leaders. Someone explained it by saying that it was all right for a person to receive healing on the Sabbath but if anyone actually tried to perform the healing, that was considered work and was therefore a violation of the Sabbath!
But he didn’t count on Jesus and His rather direct reply. He must have fastened His eyes on that ruler (interestingly, the man’s name is not recorded here) and called him a hypocrite! For those not familiar with the term, the word “hypocrite” refers to actors who wore a mask while performing on stage. The audience could see the sad faced-mask, for example, and would understand the idea or concept the actor was trying to display—regardless of the emotions or feelings or facial features the actor wore behind the mask. The “hypocrites”, then, were about the same thing as play-actors, as several expositors and commentators have explained.
And following His declaration that the ruler was a hypocrite, Jesus asked a couple of pointed questions. The first dealt with the basically humane treatment of one’s livestock. His question was, “don’t you take your ox or donkey out of its stall and take it to the water?” Technically this was breaking the Sabbath—you would be “working” by taking care of your livestock—but this was a provision for the good of the animals. Sacrifices were still part of the Dispensation of Law in the days of Jesus so people would need bulls, sheep, goats, and so forth for the proper offering at the Temple. The question was, isn’t a human of more worth than an animal?
The second question deals directly with the current issue, namely, the woman’s healing. Jesus asked, in so many words, “She—this woman—is a daughter of Abraham, bound by Satan for 18 years, so why should she not be loosed or freed from this condition on the Sabbath?”
No doubt the woman, and those who were with her in spirit, rejoiced when the ruler was silenced! Even though we are not told how Jesus cast out the demon, or if Satan himself was inside her at the time, we know that she was completely healed. The lack of details or information Luke provided in this story detracts in no way from the miracle Jesus performed on a very sick woman.
Conclusion: A woman with a serious problem came to the synagogue. We don’t know what she was expecting but she found deliverance when Jesus healed her! And when the ruler, who should have rejoiced, protested, Jesus put him in his place. Our Lord is wonderful!
Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV)