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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Some Early Thoughts on the Bent-Over Woman of Luke 13

I’ve been reading and digging and studying and getting myself ready to preach this upcoming Sunday from Luke 13: 10 – 17 – the story of Jesus’ Sabbath day healing the woman who had been crippled for 18 years.  What follows are some of my early thoughts and questions about this story.

It may be important to note that Luke has 3 of these Sabbath day healings (6:6-11, 13: 10-17, and 14: 2 – 6).  In the two other stories Jesus confronts “lawyers and Pharisees” and “Pharisees and scribes.”  The leader of the synagogue so vexed by Jesus in this particular story is not described specifically as a Pharisee, but he rather sounds like one.

Luke attributes these 18 years of crippling to a “spirit of infirmity” or “weakness,” and has Jesus attribute it to “Satan”  - but the woman’s cure reads more like a healing – he lays hands on her and she is immediately well – than an exorcism; nothing is cast out from the woman.

And speaking of Satan (which means opponent or adversary) – should we draw a connection between that arch opponent / adversary and the opponents / adversaries who were put to shame by Jesus’ healing and rebuke?  I’m inclined to think that maybe we should.

But just how many opponents to do we have in this story?  The leader of the synagogue (singular) is vexed by Jesus’ healing of the woman and he rebukes the crowd telling them to come back for healings any of the other 6 days of the week.  Then Jesus shouts out “Hypocrites! Does not each one of you…” – Plural.   

Some have suggested that this might indicate that this statement of Jesus originally circulated independently of the story to which Luke has attached it.  Others argue that Jesus recognized that the crowd agreed with the synagogue leader and so included them in his rebuke.  But if this is the case, then why does the crowd rejoice for what Jesus is saying and doing, rather than sulk off in shame with the leader of the synagogue?

This is the last time (in Luke anyway) that Jesus is seen inside a synagogue.

I don’t know what I’m going to make of this story; I’m still working on it.  But I’m more than a little intimidated by something I read in Adam Clarke’s commentary: “A preacher will know how to apply this subject to general edification.”

This is my always and continual fear- that I don’t know how to apply it – any of it – to general edification.  I can only share what I’ve found to be helpful, and trust that it might be of some value to you as well.

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