11And, 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. 12And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity.13And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.
16And 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? 17And 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.
Luke recounts a moment in the earthly teaching ministry of Jesus. In this instance it is in a local synagogue on the sabbath.
Luke does not record what Jesus said, but focused on what he did. There in the midst of the gathered worshippers was a woman who was exhibiting the signs of demonic oppression. Verse 11 indicates she had a spirit of infirmity which exhibited its influence through her posture, she could no longer stand erect and upright. Jesus indicates in verse 18 that her physical ailment came from Satan, as a form of binding her, debilitating her entire life.
Jesus laid his hands on her, and with Devine power delivered her from her infirmity. Not only was she healed of her physical problem, she was “loosed” from the bonds that held her in that state. She was delivered from Satan’s bondage. She responded by glorifying God.
Right before the eyes of those in that worship gathering they witnessed a physical manifestation of his teach: “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)
We mustn’t get so focused on the physical elements of this account to miss the vital spiritual point that is being made. The woman’s situation clearly had a spiritual element because it was Satan who had brought her to such a pitiful state. This is not to say the woman was not at fault, but Satan, through the helpless state of her humanity, seized upon this woman to try to ultimately kill and destroy her. The physical ailment was a manifestation of something deeply spiritual and becomes a type of the human condition wherever, and whenever we find it.
Let us consider this woman as a representative of humanity. This woman is for us a type of all of humanity – people who are spiritually lost until Jesus touches them with his saving grace.
Three gospel themes as seen in the synagogue woman
1)Her situation is hopeless apart from the work of Christ.
There was nothing the woman could do to change her situation. That is evidenced by her being in her sorry state for 18 years. She went about her daily routine as best she could, even making it to sabbath day worship at the synagogue.
No doubt she was known by the people who attended the synagogue as well as those in the greater community. At that time there was a commonly held belief that sickness and sin were closely tied together. The extreme end of this view held that she was the way she was because she was a wicked sinner. Her community, perhaps even those in the synagogue, would have thought that she must have be harboring something heinous for the Lord to have stricken her with such a disease.
This in turn left her as a social outcast, similar to another woman Christ healed when he was on his way to Jairus’ house. (c.f. Mark 5:25-30) In that account Jesus healed that woman’s constant hemorrhaging. She, a woman perpetually unclean according to Jewish law, was healed through the compassionate virtue of Christ.
In a similar way the anonymous woman at the synagogue was visibly “defective” according to societal standards. This appeared to be her “lot in life” and she was unable to lift herself out of this deplorable state.
Contrary to the popular opinion of her day, sickness is not necessarily a punishment for sin. But, sickness is a result of sin. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, though originally placed in a in a state of blessed bliss, chose to sin. That sin brought death. Death brings entropy. Entropy is seen all through creation as things die – from plants to animals – all things die. Things are winding down rather than up. Human beings begin to physically die the moment of birth. Physical sickness eventually leads to physical death. For even so called “old age” is a sickness that will lead to death.
Sickness then is a reminder of sin. And sin is something that permeates all of creation, but has its ultimate effect on the human race. For the bible indicates that the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). This is both physical and spiritual death. Spiritual death is eternity of punishment in a place called hell. Our lack of love for God, our disobedience to his laws, our choosing selfish gains over more noble endeavors are all signs that we are sinners in need of a healing, a spiritual healing.
We must recognize that not only was the woman in the synagogue in a hopeless state physically. She, like all people was in a hopeless state spiritually. Her infirmity was an outward manifestation of the inward problem we all have. We have a sickness, all of us, called sin.
Isaiah’s prophesy concerning the Messiah links the metaphor of physical sickness to spiritual sickness.
4Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
5But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5)
This “he” in his prophesy was fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Isaiah uses “healing” as a metaphor for the work of Christ on our behalf. Jesus’ death through crucifixion, his burial, and his resurrection heals the disease of sin (iniquities). The only remedy for sin sickness is the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
The question for us all is: “Do we see ourselves spiritually in this unnamed woman?” We should. We must. For in that realization comes a grip of need in our lives. We are hopelessly in sin and only Christ has done what is necessary to provide the remedy for our spiritual illness.
2)She is representative of those burdened by the law.
First, we read in between the verses of our focus that there is a criticism levied on Jesus by the Pharisees. (vs. 14-15) The Pharisees were the arbiters of the Jewish Law. They had even amassed more laws than those given at Mt. Sinai when God gave his law to his people under the leadership of Moses. They had developed laws to keep laws. So much so, that no one could possibly keep track of them. This “letter of the law” system had become so great a burden to the sons and daughters of Abraham that compassion had been all but abandoned.
Secondly, this woman lived in a Pharisaical system of worship that had become a works righteousness based system. The Pharisees kept note of those who were obeying God’s law as well as the rules they themselves had added to ensure God’s law was observed. People who kept such laws were deemed righteous regardless of where their heart was toward the God who gave them the law.
Moreover, people who were healthy, wealthy, powerful, and strong were considered the pillars of both community and the life of the synagogue. One could say and do all the right things yet never be a true follower of God.
In both cases the law had become an end in itself. So rigid and focused on dotting every “I” and crossing every “T” the focus on a living relationship with the one true God had been all but eclipsed. It looked spiritually alive, but it was actually a dead and lacked a vibrant grace that God is so willing to shed abroad in the hearts of his people.
Many today see Christianity as nothing but a set of rules to keep. As they gaze upon the “rules” they realize they don’t measure up. Many know there is something wrong with humanity and perhaps even themselves. But, they just go on about their lives. They push down what God requires perhaps even rationalizing to themselves that since they don’t “measure up” why bother and simply make a way of their own choosing as they go about their lives.
Still others, believe they are on the right track. If they just balance the scale of what they determine to be good and bad that somehow their effort will win them favor. Folks such as these often do a comparison and contrast with themselves and others. They would never place themselves in the same category as the bent over woman in the synagogue. They aren’t, spiritually speaking, in that bad of shape. Yet, their thinking has succumbed to the oldest lie in the world, that they could be as God judging good and evil. That they could determine the necessary righteousness to please a God they cannot see.
When Jesus said to this woman “Thou art loosed” he was not only healing her of her infirmity, and the oppression of the evil one, he was freeing her from the burden of the law as a means of redemption. He was setting her free to worship God with a heart free to worship God through the compassion of Christ she experienced right there in that synagogue meeting.
So, it is that Christ is ready, willing, and able to declare us “loosed” from the infirmity of sin and its consequences. When we turn from legal maneuvering to loving truth in the Savior, we find that we are lifted out of our pit of sin.
3)She is representative of one who experienced Jesus’ compassion.
Notice that her experience, probably for as long as she had been infirmed, was not one of compassion.
The Pharisees saw her as nothing more than a pawn to be used to challenge the authority of Jesus. No doubt week after week she attended that synagogue and was simply looked over. As a woman she would have sat on the woman’s side of the room, perhaps even in the back of the room, and the synagogue rulers just looked past her.
As already noted her profoundly stooped position would have marked her as a defective person by the community at large. Her ability to do work, contribute to society, and even care for her house would have been greatly compromised.
Moreover, the one who seeks to “kill and destroy” Satan had worked the opposite of compassion in her. Instead, using her as a means to defame the image of God within her.
Yet Jesus laid his hands on her. He pronounced her healed. He called her a daughter of Abraham. This later designation meant that she was in the true line of Abraham an earnest believer and one who belonged to God not only by ethnicity but, by the touch of the Master’s hand.
Compassion is one of the kind and gentle virtues that is often lacking in human living. Many are victims of the devil’s schemes to rob them of their dignity, their humanity, and even their connection with the greater human community.
Yet, in Jesus Christ there is a true manifestation of compassion on the one who is lost in the throes of sin. Not only does Jesus embody God’s compassion, he is the only one who can truly bestow it upon us.
Jesus’ ultimate expression of God’s compassion is dying on a cross for the sins of humanity. His death was to atone for our sins to propitiate a Holy God. That act of compassion on a sinful people, becomes the pathway whereby he compassionately forgives our sickness of sin.
How does one apprehend such compassion as this? Where does one begin to find healing for the sickness of sin? Believe in Jesus, what he has done for you. Believe that his death paid the penalty for your sickness of sin. Trust in him, ask him to forgive you of your sin. Ask him to become your Lord. For today is the day of salvation.