People who met Jesus : 24 : The Crippled Woman
Lk 13:10-13 On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.
The human spirit is quite amazing sometimes – it has to be, living in a Fallen World where things go wrong. Sometimes we cope in amazing ways – simply because we have to. Previously we considered the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years and we considered the limitations of that, recognising that it was one of those embarrassing things that we suffer that we don’t want others to know about. But then there are those sorts of afflictions that are patently obvious and the whole world looks on and feels sorry for us – or not! The woman in our verses today is like this. She is bent over and cannot straighten up – and she’s been like it for eighteen years! In other words she can remember a time when she wasn’t like this.
Now there are some interesting points in this story that make it stand out. The first thing is that Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues. No longer is he merely a visitor; now he is a welcomed teacher. They give him space to teach. The second thing to note is that this woman is there in the synagogue and it would appear that she is no stranger and not just there because Jesus is there. If she had not normally attended synagogue then it is more likely that she would have waited for Jesus to come out if she had wanted to ask him for healing.
Two things flow from this: first she doesn’t approach Jesus; he approaches her. This suggests she has grown to accept her state and almost doesn’t think to ask for healing. This is a very common state for those of us who suffer with some form of affliction that we’ve had for a long time. Many years ago my mother smoked, had a smoker’s cough, and had bronchitis every winter. I suggested to her that she ask the Lord to heal her and set her free from smoking. I had already shared the Gospel with her but she wasn’t yet a Christian. The suggestion came almost as a surprise to her and she shrugged it off with, “Oh, I expect He’s too busy with important things than worry about my smoking.” So I left it but, when I visited home several months later I found she was not smoking and not coughing (and she never had bronchitis again!). She confessed she had asked Him, He had answered, and she had then become a Christian! But how many of us tolerate these things, stoically thinking it must be God’s will. I am challenged and embarrassed by the incredible accounts of Jesus healing all who came to him in the Gospels – and some, like this woman, who didn’t come to him.
The second thing that flows from this woman’s presence in the synagogue, as we commented in the case of the man with the shrivelled hand, is the inability of the religious leaders there to do anything about it. This was a powerless religion! Is ours similar?
But there is something else there that is strange. The text says she had been “crippled by a spirit for eighteen years.” Now intriguingly it doesn’t say ‘an evil spirit’. Sometimes we may refer to ‘a spirit of anger’ or ‘a spirit of bitterness’ or ‘a spirit of unforgiveness’, and although this may eventually involve the demonic, it starts out at least, by a strong attitude that we take on which takes us over. Now such things, experience tells us, can physically incapacitate us.
Now this interpretation of this situation is strengthened by the fact that Jesus did not drive out and evil spirit from her but simply spoke healing. Now in such situations we might seek for repentance in this lady from whatever wrong attitude brought about this infirmity before we prayed for healing, but Jesus just seems to read her and, we must assume, read her willingness to turn from that past attitude, and thus he speaks healing over her, which follows as he places his hands on her. This latter action, we assume, is either to strengthen faith within her, or to impart power, the same power we saw and spoke about in respect of the lady who had been bleeding for twelve years. Perhaps this change of attitude that Jesus, we assumed, reads, is confirmed by the fact that she gives glory to God immediately she is healed. It is a simple thing, but I wonder how many of us are truly grateful to God when we are healed of something, whether by the miracle of direct healing or by the work of doctors?
There is yet a further rider to be considered to this story which would suppose, as we said earlier, that ultimately, even if it is just brought about by our initial wrong attitude, Satan does have a hand in such things, and is able to use our wrong attitude to bring worse. In a dialogue that follows, as Jesus scolds the leaders of the synagogue for their hardness, we find: “Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen.” (v.16). We have a mystery here but the truth seems to suggest, as we have noted at least twice, that if we open ourselves up to sinful attitudes which we maintain, we open the door to Satan to come and lock us in to them. The lesson is that we need to deal with all wrong attitudes and ensure that they do not persist and open the door for worse to come. May we hear that!