August 21, 2016
Introduction: When we think of Jesus and his insight into religious practice we may assume his would be the ‘norm’. Not so, at least according to the lesson in today’s Gospel from Luke. A woman enters the synagogue while Jesus is teaching. We may wonder just what Jesus was thinking versus the others in the synagogue when she came into the synagogue. Several issues come to mind beyond his ‘working a miracle’ on the Sabbath. In some synagogues at least there was a special gallery for women, her entering where the men were may have been considered a breaking of religious law. Also someone who was disabled may have been understood to be ritually unclean or even been inflicted by disease due to their or their parent’s sinfulness, and thus unable to enter a holy place. Finally coming into a place where perhaps only men were allowed during the time of teaching since women were not taught how to read might have been seen at the very least an intrusion.
I) We might therefore speculate on the reasons for the leader of the synagogue to have been upset beyond Jesus’ healing her of her infirmity. Certainly the leader was concerned that Jesus was not following the law most especially in this holy place of all places! On the other hand, Jesus shows no sign of hesitation, seeing a person in distress, we must assume when he had her come forward she or someone else said she had been suffering low these long eighteen years.
II) The leader condemns Jesus’ action. As we alluded to above there may have been other concerns beyond her being healed on the Sabbath! He seems unconcerned that the woman who has evidently come to Jesus to be healed has been suffering so long. His primary concern seems to be about focusing on the letter of the law and not its spirit.
III) Jesus is unapologetic over having focused his attention on her need and not the keeping of the law. Certainly Jesus understood the importance of keeping the law because this in part helped make Israel a holy people. This would be especially important living among those who were Gentiles or pagan and more important still, had the power to rule over them. Instead of being compassionate over their fragile place in the world he lashes out and calls them hypocrites. He points out that they are more willing to take care of their livestock and make sure they are comfortable than this daughter of Abraham. Note he does not say Sarah. He goes on to note that they may have associated her ailment with her sin, Jesus saw her ailment as the result of evil, and thus having to do with not her own poor choices but even perhaps her being a good person, note Job, and having been inflicted with this disease which now he on God’s behalf has come to bring her release from her estate.