Cold Religion versus Christ’s Compassion—Luke 13:10-17

INTRODUCTION

 

Do you think yourself to be a compassionate person? Or have you been regarded by others to be cold?

 

Christians are supposed to become more like Jesus, but often we fall into the trap of a cold religion. This passage the contrast between the compassion of Jesus and the coldness of a religious leader.

 

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. (Luke 13:10–17)

 

THE BOWED AND BOUND WOMAN (13:10-13)

 

Luke 13:10 And he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath.

 

A “synagogue” is a Jewish meeting place for worship and scripture instruction. They originated after the Babylonians destroyed the temple in 586 BC. Decades later, the temple was rebuilt, but the Jews continued to use synagogues because they proved useful. Sacrifices were still done in Jerusalem at the temple, but the local synagogue was were the ordinary Jew went to worship on a regular basis—especially on the sabbath.

 

A group of elders led each local synagogue, and one of them was appointed to be “ruler of the synagogue” like we’ll see later in the passage. Traveling rabbis taught in the synagogues, and it was the ruler’s responsibility to approve who would teach. He would have approved Jesus, but I’m sure that after this service was over, he would never want to approve him again! In fact, this is the last recorded instance in Luke of Jesus teaching at a synagogue.

 

Luke 13:11 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. 

 

Some say that this “woman” was in the synagogue to begin with and others say that she came in later while Jesus was teaching—because the term “behold” might suggest that she suddenly appeared. It could go either way, but I think she was just sitting there like she always had. The “eighteen years” comment makes her seem like a regular fixture in the community.

 

She was afflicted with “a spirit of infirmity,” which does not appear to be demon possession. Jesus does not address a demon as he is prone to do with demon-possessed people (e.g., Luke 4:33-35; 8:27-33). Furthermore, no demon is recorded as having been cast out.

 

That said, she was definitely “bound by Satan” as Jesus says in verse 16. I take this to mean that her physical condition was somehow affected by Satan’s influence almost two decades before. Not every medical condition humans have can be considered an attack by Satan, but this woman’s condition sure was. 

 

For eighteen long years, she was “bowed” down, and she could not “lift up herself.” She was permanently hunched over. We would probably call this condition today spondylitis deformans, [Spawn-Dah-Lie-Tis Deform-Mance], which is a condition where the spine is fused together. Satan’s spiritual attacks on this woman had caused a terrible physical condition.

 

Imagine the difficulties this would have caused in her life! Was she married? Did her husband divorce her? How did she survive? Did people mock her? 

 

Whatever she endured, it was more than the physical problem of a spine fused together in an awkward position. This was two decades of emotional trauma as well. And since the common thought that the time was that if you suffered greatly, you must have sinned greatly, she also must have endured spiritual trauma.

 

Luke 13:12 And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, 

 

Don’t miss this. I think the woman was already in the synagogue, attending worship as she had always done. And “Jesus saw her.” Isn’t that cool? It reminds us that Jesus does see us whatever situation that we are in.

 

And then, “he called her to him.” Again, I don’t think this woman came seeking healing from Jesus. She was simply there. And Jesus called her to himself. She gets up from her seat and shuffles painfully up to him, wondering what he wanted. And then, Jesus…

 

and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity. Luke 13:13 And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.

 

We can see the woman’s faith, while not explicitly mentioned, in the fact that she “glorified God.”

 

Why did Jesus lay hands on her? It could have been just a part of the healing process. But what it if was something else? Perhaps the woman, hearing that she was “loosed” from her “infirmity” did not comprehend what had happened.  She continued to be bent over out of habit! Jesus then gently grabs her and pulls her straight up.

 

So the woman did not seem to be seeking to be healed. Jesus, in a sovereign act of compassion, notices her need and chooses to heal the woman. Jesus’s great compassion is set in stark contrast to the coldness of the religious ruler of the synagogue. His coldness is what we see next. 

 

THE COLD RELIGIOUS RULER (13:14)

 

Luke 13:14 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. 

 

Can you just imagine the scene? The woman was glorifying God. The people no doubt looking at each other in amazement and perhaps expressing praise to God. 

 

And then the religious ruler angrily addresses all of them (he’s too cowardly to address Jesus face-to-face): “You’ve got six days to work…let people get healed on those days…the hospital is closed on the sabbath!”

 

Grrr. Why is it that religious people can be so ice-cold? So uncompassionate? Such snobs? Get this…he just saw a miracle! He admits that it is indeed a miracle! He says that she was healed! And still, he’s upset. He is angry. So no, if unbelievers see miracles, that does not mean that they will repent and turn to God.

 

Why is he angry? Because Jesus healed on the “sabbath day.” God had indeed made a law that they were to rest from work on the sabbath. It’s even in the Ten Commandments (at Exodus 20:8) along with others like worshipping God only, not murdering, not lying, and not committing adultery. It’s an important commandment. 

 

So why is this religious ruler wrong? Because it wasn’t God’s sabbath law that Jesus was breaking, it was the ruler’s sabbath law—his and the rest of the religious establishment. God’s law was simple: rest on the sabbath. Worship on the sabbath.

 

But over the centuries, the Jews added dozens, if not hundreds, of sub-laws to God’s simple sabbath law. They felt that they needed regulations to know what it meant to not work! 

 

For instance, one of the rules regarding animals on the sabbath in the Mishnah, goes like this:

 

D. One should not tie camels to one another and lead them.

E. But one puts the ropes [of all of them] into his hand and leads them,

F. so long as he does not twist [the ropes together]. (Jacob Neusner, The Mishnah : A New Translation [New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988], 185)

 

Heaven help you if you twist the halter ropes together and someone catches you! This was the religious ruler’s mindset. You had to follow his religious rules, not God’s.

 

THE CALL TO COMPASSION ON THE SABBATH (13:15-17)

 

Jesus’s response is not to abolish the sabbath as some people mistake it to be. His response is a call to showing compassion and doing good on the sabbath.

 

Luke 13:15 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? Luke 13:16 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?

 

Luke 13:17 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. 

 

In the next chapter, Jesus will again address this attitude that it’s not right to heal on the sabbath. There Jesus says, “Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?” (Luke 14:5). In other words, there are acts of necessity and compassion that are right to do on the sabbath. You don’t wait to show compassion or mercy!

 

The American fast food chain Chick-fil-A is a favorite among Christians for the owners’ unwavering stand against Sunday opening. But it turns out this unwavering stance has some jiggle room to it, when needed…

 

For Chick-fil-A, an exception occurred this past December [2017] when the Atlanta International Airport was hit with a complete blackout. This is one of the world’s busiest airports, and the blackout resulted in hundreds of cancelled flights and countless stranded passengers. While Atlanta’s municipal government was busy trying to find accommodations for these passengers they tweeted out that the passenger’s meals would be handled by someone else: “@Chick-fil-A will provide food for passengers.”

 

So a store that’s always closed on Sunday was happy to open their doors on this particular day of rest because thousands of people needed their help. (https://reformedperspective.ca/chick-fil-a-is-always-closed-on-sunday-except-when-an-ox-falls-into-a-pit/)

 

Specifically, how does Jesus answer the religious ruler in Luke 13? First, Jesus calls the ruler a “hypocrite” (hypokritēs). A hypocrite is someone who pretends to be something that they are not. The opposite of a being hypocrite is being a person of integrity. Integrity means being the same on the inside as you are on outside.

 

How is the ruler a hypocrite? 

 

Jesus says that it is because everyone rightly takes the time to water their animals on the sabbath—they exhibit compassion and care for their animals. Yet, the ruler denies that compassion and care should be extended to “this woman,” a human being created in the image of God, on the sabbath. Aren’t humans more special in God’s eyes than animals?

 

Furthermore, she is a “daughter of Abraham,” meaning that she is a member of God’s special chosen people. She, from the passage, seems to be a daughter of Abraham not just in an ethnic sense, but also in that she is a true believer. She immediately glorified God when she was healed (verse 13).

 

So, Jesus is calling this man a hypocrite because he would extend compassion and care to his animals on the sabbath, but not to a fellow human being and believer in God.

 

Jesus also says here that, doesn’t it seem appropriate that the woman “be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?” He is making a statement about what the sabbath day is about. The sabbath is supposed to be a day of restoration. It’s supposed to be a day that we restore our physical condition with rest, our mental  and emotional conditions by taking a break from the routine of the week, and our spiritual condition with corporate worship of God. 

 

“Now,” Jesus is saying, “since the sabbath is about restoration, doesn’t it seem appropriate that a woman be spiritually freed from the bonds that Satan put on her and physically restored?”

 

I think a baseline that we can personally set for the sabbath ourselves is this: do what restores you physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. 

 

Do something to care for yourself physically. Take a break from the normal routine mentally and emotionally. Attend church and worship God for your spiritual rejuvenation. 

 

Make the sabbath what God always meant it to be for you: restoration.

 

CONCLUSION

 

Jesus shows us here that God’s law was never about nit-picky regulations that would cause us to be uncaring to our fellow human beings.

 

How can we get the kind of love that Jesus wants us to have for others? We could start with pondering his love for us. Just take this one verse.

 

32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32)

 

We are born sinners. That means that we are disobedient rebels to God, no matter how sweet or kind we are. Our sin, even the small stuff, carries a stiff penalty—eternal death (Romans 6:23).

 

But Jesus came to earth as both God and man. He lived a completely sinless life and then died on the cross for our sins. He rose again from the grave and is alive, victorious over sin and death and hell. 

 

Jesus offers complete forgiveness to anyone who will call on his name and trust him as their Lord and Savior.

 

That’s how Christ has forgiven you. We can be forgiving when we remember how much Christ has forgiven us. We can be tenderhearted and kind when we remember Christ’s tenderheartedness and kindness to others.

 

Don’t let your relationship with Christ turn into a cold religion. Let your relationship with Jesus Christ make you into a person who shows compassion to others, not only on the sabbath, but every day of the week.

 

Levi Durfey—LDM-42-Luke 13.10-17-LKA#071-20190908FBCAM

 

 

 

 

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