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Saturday, October 09, 2010

She Glorified God: The Woman with the 18 year Infirmity

A Daughter of Abraham is Healed on Shabbat
Note: The first half of this study was erased while I was writing it. Please be patient in its reconstruction.
Jesus has recently left Bethany where Mary and Martha lived. He also has, before the healing at hand, cast out devils. En route from Bethany to Jerusalem, Jesus confronts a tragedy, which is on the hearts and minds of all who are attending to his teaching: a tower has fallen and crushed many to death in Siloam, and Pilate has killed worshipers and mingled their blood with their sacrifices.

Luk 13:1 There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
The question at hand was whether it was their sin or not which had caused the tragedy:
Luk 13:2 And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things?
Luk 13:3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
Luk 13:4 Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?
Luk 13:5 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish

Israel throughout its history, had a sense of immanent justice: that sin brought judgment, and they conversely reasoned that if sin brought judgment, then when one suffered tragedy or severe consequences, there must have been an antecedent sin. Jesus though seeks to teach the principle that "the rain falls on the just and the evil alike". He warns Israel, that whether or not the grave consequence is judgment or part of the natural occurrences of life, that repentance from sin should be ever at hand, as should the 'handbreadth' of our days: repentance is required always as we do not know the moment of our death.

The Lord turns to teach the parable of the fig tree, also right before the healing, with relevance both for the healing and the wellbeing of Israel. A man has a fig tree, and it is left with the vinedresser to care for. The man comes looking for the figs in the third year. (In Levitical law, the third year of a tree, the first fruits, belong to God). Finding no fruit, the owner is willing to have the tree cut down. The vinedresser, though begs the owner for one last chance at the fruitfulness of the tree, when it is given proper loving care, and carefully attended to.
Luk 13:7 Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?
Luk 13:8 And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung [it]:
Luk 13:9 And if it bear fruit, [well]: and if not, [then] after that thou shalt cut it down.
Note that the owner finding no fruit, declares that the tree, without its right purpose of fruit, is 'missing the mark': it 'cumbereth the ground' or essentially is taking up space for no reason. The vinedresser though begs for one more year: when the tree is properly tended, then it will bear fruit or not: the vinedresser begs for mercy. The tree is Israel, and the Lord has come looking for fruit in the third millennia, finding none, the Messiah begs for the fourth year, when healed and loved, it will bear the expected fruit in its right purpose.

The Synagogue and the Woman with the 18 year Infirmity

It is no small coincidence that immediately prior to this healing, that Jesus tells the parable of the fig, and points to a lack of repentance toward God in the prior passage. Jesus takes his place teaching at the Synagogue this Shabbat, and the woman with the 18 year infirmity is there. The word for 'infirmity' in the Greek is:

or astheneia which refers to a weakness or illness of a bodily sort, or generally a disease or sickness.

Eighteen years is a long time to be plagued with a condition which keeps one weak and unable to live life unencumbered---just as the fig tree did not have the proper ground and care to grow, so the woman was being held captive in her condition. Her condition was so serious, that she could not lift herself up:

And behold there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity of eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself. Luke 13:11

Some physical conditions are so debilitating that they bind a person in a literal prison of flesh: this woman was so bent and weak that she could not stand nor sit.
There is no witness that the woman sought help, probably assuming that the lengthy condition was beyond the healing of God. In this healing, unlike many others, it is Jesus himself who reaches out to her:

And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman thou art loosed from thine infirmity.

It is one of the healings that involves the Laying on of hands:

And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. Luke 13:13

One can barely imagine the joy of being suddenly free of a lifelong affliction. The response of the healed in Israel was almost always joy and praise. She glorified God. Who beside God could have healed such a permanent ailment?

The Healed Woman's Reaction vs. The Ruler of the Synagogue

Consider the utter joy and praise of the healed woman whom Jesus encounters in the synagogue. He is there teaching like no other, and in the midst of the teaching, the great work of God is done, and the healed woman rejoices. That is drawing near to God: that is a relationship with God. Consider also though, the reaction of the Ruler of the Synagogue near at hand. His concern? The healing took place on Shabbat. Is it right to heal on shabbat? We have seen this dilemma elsewhere in many healings; the man with the withered hand is healed on Shabbat, and so are several others. Jesus makes it clear, though, that Shabbat and healing go together: Shabbat was for healing. The Ruler is displaying 'religion'; the woman is displaying the joy unspeakable of being in the presence of the Lord and Savior, and seeing his work. It is the dichotomy and conundrum of the ages in the Church: that a miracle of God occurs in front of all, and the religious want to assess instead of praise God. The ruler is very austere in his condemnation, using the Word itself to find fault, a practice known since the Garden:

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.

The Ruler is concerned that healing is work, but the command of the sabbath regards 'servile' work. Jesus is master of the Sabbath, of Shabbat: he is the 7th day rest: healing is rest and restoration. Healing is the work of God. Jesus is just as succinct though in the defense of the healing:

The Lord then answered him and said, Thou hypocrite, doth noth 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 form this bond on the sabbath day? Luke 13:15-16

Notice that the Lord refers to her as a daughter of Abraham. Why shouldn't mercy be shown on Shabbat? With the Lord right there intrinsically declaring the righteousness of the healing? She was set free from a Satanic binding: she was delivered, on Shabbat into fullness of right purpose, because the proper ground had been given her, just as with the fig tree.

On more than one healing when the issue of healing on Sabbath is brought up, Jesus notes that the religious of the day will pull an ox out of a ditch, to protect their pocketbooks and the animal, and yet they find fault with showing mercy on the day of rest. This woman had been in captivity 18 years! Under the worst of taskmasters! The Lord of Abraham, healed a daughter of Abraham to her right purpose. How could we not even still glorify God for restoring his people to wholeness!

The People Rejoice

Until this point, the people in attendance at the synagogue are not mentioned, but now, seemingly with permission, they rejoice:

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. Luke 13:17

The ruler of the Synagogue, the Pharisees and Sadducees, and other religious officers, had such a legalistic bind on Israel, that the fulfilling of ordinances and interpretation of ordinances was more important to them than the fullfilling of the Covenant, the everlasting Covenant. Their binding of the people was as serious and as lengthy as the 18 'astheneia' or infirmity: they had Israel bowed and bent in a permananent palsy, unable to look up, stand up or sit up. Jesus was out for faith and love: the Rabbi from Nazareth and heaven wanted them delivered, healed and free, properly nutured to be the fullness of who they were: sons and daughters of Abraham.

Till next time.

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