Jesus is teaching in a worship service in a synagogue on the Sabbath.
And as we read in our text:
And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight.
When Jesus interrupts the service to free her from her condition, the leader of the synagogue is indignant. He is fixated on the worship service! On things as they always are! On what makes them comfortable. He believes the primary emphasis of this service is on God and honouring the law and the Sabbath.
Jesus’ view is that God and the Sabbath are about alleviating all suffering and freeing people for more life.
The Uniting Church New Testament scholar William Loader asks:
What is God really like? What if God’s chief concern is not to be obeyed, but something else? What if God’s chief focus is love and care for people and for the creation? Then the focus moves from God’s commands to God’s people and world.
And to be open to God’s new ways means the disruption of the usual way of doing things.
For there is always more to be seen, a complexity to engage!
Un-wrappings to perform.
Jesus sees more than the woman’s challenged condition, being bent over and unable to stand straight, suffered for 18 years. For Jesus, she was more than an object of need, an object of the philanthropic gaze.
Jesus discerns “a spirit of weakness” which the New Testament commentator Culpepper suggests is about her social and religious status as a woman: “this weakness has left her bent over and unable to stand straight, Jesus offers her respect and equality and addresses her with the general term ‘Woman’!” She is a “daughter of Abraham”. Jesus releases the captive, frees the oppressed.
As in other scenes in Luke in which Jesus responds to the needs of a woman, this scene points to a new status for women in God’s new life.
Tannehill (commentary on Luke) informs us that “the description of the woman as daughter of Abraham is unusual.” And Tannehill continues:
“the promise to Abraham will be realized only through social upheaval, which includes reinstating people like the bent woman in the promise and God’s emerging new values, habits and life.”
As Loader reminds us,
The basic assumption of Jesus is that God’s will (in the Law as elsewhere) is focused on people’s well-being. He is not riding roughshod over the Law and replacing it with new ways.
Loader applies this to us today:
The key issue is alive and well in Christian churches today. How we imagine God is directly related to how we imagine what it means to be a decent person.
For many generations the most highly valued person was the one with greatest power, wealth, and, sometimes, knowledge. …It is a very different model of God and produces a very different way of handling human life and biblical tradition.
Rev Vladimir Korotkov