Jesus heals the crippled woman on the Sabbath

August 25, 2019

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Summary

From when my youngest daughter was still little, we noticed that she had a particular interest for colors and color effects in the nature.  She often expressed her fascination for distinct phenomena on the sky, in the woods, mountains and so forth. She quite often interrupted us from whatever we were doing to ask us join her in admiring the beautiful colors, the rainbow, the sunrise or the sunset. As we are living in this beautiful country with variations of seasons, we are blessed to have our little Hope who always reminded us not to take the beauty in the nature for granted.

So, when it was time for my daughter to get her own phone, we gave her one that can be used for capturing some of those her ‘wow’ moments on a photo.  She surely enjoyed that phone for that purpose and more for about two years.

However, one afternoon this last fall, I got a phone call from my daughter, this time not from her own phone but from a borrowed one. The reason she called was to inform me that her phone was accidentally broken as she was doing some silly playing with her friends at her afterschool activity.

When I heard what happened, I responded calmly that she did not have to worry about that because I would be there to pick her up before the activities were over, and she should just be waiting form there. Then, the question I hear from the other end was, “Does that mean you are not mad at me?”

I was already sorry for her losing her phone but now I am even more sorry because she was on top of that worrying about mom being mad at her.

The controversy of the commandment of the sabbath

In today’s text we read about Jesus healing a crippled woman.

His healing of the woman caused some theological controversies because it took place on a Sabbath.

The law teaches that work should not be done on the day of the sabbath. The commandment says, “Six days you shall labor but on the seventh day you shall rest”

When Jesus healed the crippled woman on a day of rest, it was understood by some around him as breaking the commandments since they had regarded healing as doing work.

This healing took place in a synagogue while Jesus was teaching there. The synagogue leader was obviously one of those who were not pleased about Jesus performing healing miracles on the day of sabbath. Although he did not say it directly to Jesus, he pointed out to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.”

Jesus responded to the synagogue leader’s comment by giving a fuller meaning and purpose of the commandment of Sabbath. Jesus said, don’t you all give water to thirsty livestock on a day of sabbath? Then how much more appropriate is it that this dear woman be set free from 18 years long suffering.

When Jesus pointed out specifically for how long this woman was suffering, he indicated that the woman is in an urgent need of help. Jesus wanted to note that this woman should not be suffering any longer. 18 years is a long time.

This incident is not the first time when Jesus’ was confronted for not keeping the sabbath rule. The gospels tell us that he was engaged in controversies with the religious experts over this same issue in multiple other occasions. In one of these occasionss, Jesus responded to his opponents by saying, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.”, which means that the Sabbath was made for the benefit of people and not people to meet the requirements for the Sabbath. God had intended this day to be a blessing to human beings.

Many times, the rules that are given for our own benefit would over time evolve into becoming traditions and customs and thus lose some of their meaning and purpose. If scriptural instructions are applied in such a way that they restrict the flow of God’s loving and transforming power, they lose their initial purpose and they miss their point. God gave us rules and instructions for our protection and benefit even though it is not always simple for us to see.

We are told to work six days and have a rest on the seventh day. God wants us to have time for resting. God wants us to have time to worship and fellowship with him. God wants us to think for more than just ourselves. God wants us to have time to share his love with one another.

Jesus healed the woman knowing that the controversy would arise. He was not willing to overlook her because of respect for some frames and customs made by man.  He also knew that the discussion over the healing opened a door for him to teach the fuller meaning and purpose of the rule of the Sabbath and how the people can faithfully follow it.

Jesus wanted to heal the woman at the same time he also wanted to free the people from their faulty understanding and application of the scriptures. Which means it is not only the woman with the physical disability who needed restoration but everyone else was also in need of Jesus’ intervention. The woman is physically disabled but some of them are spiritually ignorant. Even some of them Jesus referred to as hypocrites v. 15.

First of all, Jesus explained how valuable this woman is in the eyes of God, hence telling them that each individual is valuable. When responding to the criticism of the synagogue leader, Jesus asked that if it were not appropriate that this woman, who is a daughter of Abraham, should be set free! Although the woman’s visible disability may have made her less visible among the community, Jesus recognizes her as a daughter of Abraham. To be ‘Decedents of Abraham’ is a concept that the people used to pride themselves with. So, Jesus meant that the woman also belonged in with the flock. She was part of the promise. She actually belonged to him. If the livestock that belong to the people mattered to them, for sure the woman who belonged to Jesus matter to him.

Second, Jesus was restoring the crowd from restrictions of traditions and customs by teaching them the correct understanding of the scriptures. Yes, you can love and care for each other even on a day of rest. It is permissible to do good.

God loves us

God’s heart’s desire is to give us freedom and hope. He has put certain rules to show us the path and to protect us. He always loves us and cares for us. He always forgives us. He is not mad at us, no more than I was mad at my daughter for the accidental breaking of her phone.

When my daughter’s phone broke there were other kids who were also together with her and who for days worried because they thought I was going to make them pay for the phone. That is how much their young heart understood the extent and depth of the love of a parent. So little did they know that parents realized that kids are kids.

It is possible that I have instructed my daughter to take a good care of the phone. But the phone was bought for her benefit and not the other way around. If you are wondering what happened to that broken phone at the end, I have paid for the repair of the phone and we were able to retrieve all the picture in it.

Sometimes we are so immature to grasp the depth of God’s love for us. We may think we have gone too far or he is mad at us. No, he is not mad at us. He loves us all eternally, we are all his children. We belong to him. He has paid all our debts. We are free. God does not want us to be bound by rules and rituals. He wants us to be free and he wants us to have a relationship with himself and with each other.

Amen

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