10th Sunday after Trinity - Martham Luke 13 10-17
In the passage of scripture today there are two people who were bent out of shape; one was a woman who was physically bent out of shape and the other was a religious man who was spiritually bent out of shape; one was crippled by a spirit of weakness and the other was crippled by a spirit of legalism and bitterness. Jesus was able to help one of them, but the other one stayed bent out of shape.
First, let’s consider the woman – we are not told her name.
Jesus was teaching in the synagogue when He saw a woman who was so bent out of shape she couldn’t stand up straight. This was more than just a case of osteoporosis; she had been this way for 18 years. Picture her, bent over so much that she couldn’t look up and see the stars or the sky. She had spent the last 18 years looking down into the dirt at her feet and everyone else’s feet. No doubt, eating and drinking were difficult and she could only rest curled up in a fetal position. She could not look at people when they spoke to her. They probably spoke over her as if she was not there. She had become a ‘non’ person.
Luke is a physician and he uses interesting words to diagnose her condition. He doesn’t use the word that would mean “illness, disease, or injury.” In verse 11 he uses the phrase “crippled by a spirit.” Jesus uses the word “infirmity” the Greek word asthenia, which doesn’t mean “sickness caused by disease” it means “weakness.”
It is possible her weakness was caused by demonic influence because Jesus says in verse 16 she had been “bound by Satan” for 18 years, but we have to take on board the fact that a lot of unexplained illness was attributed to Satan in those days.
However there is no doubt that demonic spirits can influence a person in a variety of ways. Maybe a lying spirit had convinced this poor woman that she couldn’t stand up straight. From the language Luke uses it seems she had no medical cause for her affliction. Doctors today can testify of the amazing connection between the mind and the body. Some people are ill because they think they are sick and there is no physical reason to explain their illness. They are just as sick as someone who has an infection but the illness started in their minds.
I can imagine that for years, people told the woman, “Stand up!’ And she would say, “I can’t!”
“Lift up your head!”
Some of us may have a good case of the “cant’s” . Stop drinking! “I can’t!” Stop overeating. “I can’t!” Stop telling lies. “I can’t!” Stop being bitter! “I can’t!” Forgive that person who hurt you! “I can’t!”
I am sure at some time in our lives we will need Jesus to deliver us from our “cant’s.”
Meanwhile, back at the synagogue, notice the steps Jesus follows to deliver this woman. Firstly He looks at her, and then He calls her. I wonder if Jesus bent down and looked into her eyes? Imagine Him as He looks into those fearful but hopeful eyes. He smiles and says, “Woman you are set free from your infirmity.” She is still bent over, so Jesus reaches out and touches her. I love verse 13. It says, “Immediately she straightened up and praised God.” I don’t know what she said or sang; it just says she started praising God. If she were here today, maybe she would have sung, “Love lifted me, love lifted me! When nothing else could help, love lifted me.”
WHEN JESUS TOUCHES US WE WILL STRAIGHTEN UP AND PRAISE GOD!
Maybe you feel the weight of the world has doubled you over. You feel bent out of shape because of the burdens you have to carry. Worry and anxiety can bend you over. Heartache, pain, grief, loneliness, frustration, and suffering can bow you down and bend you over. You have lost your job, you’ve been hurt, abused, or rejected and it seems as if you can’t look up. You may be trapped in some sin, or carrying around some deep, dark secret and you feel bent out of shape. People say, “Just look up!” And your reply is “I can’t!” They say, “Just shake it off!” You say, “I can’t!” They say “pull yourself together” but you just can’t.
Jesus wants to do the same for us as He did for this woman. Firstly, He sees us and He knows our pain. You can hide your pain from others behind a smile, but Jesus always sees behind the façade. This morning He calls us to Himself. “Come to me all you who labour and are bent over with care, and I’ll give you rest.” But, best of all He touches you. Every time we encounter Jesus in worship, He touches our soul, as we receive him in bread and wine by faith; he restores our soul.
Jesus longs to straighten us out, He wants us to be able to walk tall.
But the woman was not the only crippled person there that day. We also see a man who was bent out of shape by Religious rules.
The woman who had been set free was praising the Lord, and all her friends were rejoicing and shouting, “Hallelujah, Praise the Lord!” But the leader of the synagogue couldn’t stand it. This was out of the ordinary, and he didn’t like it one bit. He became indignant. In the midst of the rejoicing, he jumped to his feet and ordered everyone to be quiet and stop singing. Things are NOT going to get out of hand in HIS synagogue! There wasn’t going to be any healing in HIS synagogue on the Sabbath.
Apparently, the synagogue ruler had a few others who agreed with his action because Jesus addressed His words to a group. Eugene Peterson paraphrases it in The Message: “You frauds! Each Sabbath every one of you unties your cow or donkey from its stall, leads it out for water and thinks nothing of it. So why isn’t it all right for me to untie this daughter of Abraham and lead her from the stall where Satan has had her tied these eighteen years? Jesus accused them of treating their animals better than they treated people!
Sadly, the descendants of this self-appointed religious expert are still with us today. You can usually spot them when people get happy and start praising God. Like the man in our text, they are quick to complain because they think if you are enjoying yourself, you can’t be very spiritual. Most of them have perfected what I call the “Holy Look” that is an expression that looks like a cross between acid indigestion and a migraine headache.
It’s nothing new. It was happening 3,000 years ago. In II Samuel 6 there is an interesting story about King David. The Ark of God had been out of Jerusalem for a long time, and finally David arranged to have it brought back to the city of Jerusalem. As the priests were carrying the ark into the city, David got so excited that he, “danced before the Lord with all his might!” I don’t know exactly what that means, except I suppose David was so full of joy he just got happy feet. His wife, Michal, saw him and despised his behavior; she got all bent out of shape. She mocked him and in words dripping with cold water and she accused him of being “undignified.”
Every organization including the church has members of “the cold water brigade.” Whenever there’s a new and creative idea, they pour cold water on it. Their favorite phrases “we don’t do things like that here” or “we’ve never done it that way before,” or even worse, “we tried that and it doesn’t work.” We all need to make sure we are not members of that group – for membership will eventually bend us out of shape. Isaiah in our Old Testament reading tells us if we cry to the Lord for help he will say ‘here I am’. He also warns against pointing the finger or speaking evil, muttering behind the woodshed.
Whatever is broken in your life, Jesus will come and touch us, if we let him. Whatever is bending us spiritually out of God knows and longs to set you free. Jesus came to set us free, and when He touches our lives we will never be the same again, but first we have to be willing.
We can all be like Humpty Dumpty in the nursery rhyme.
At some time in our life we may fall off the wall and we can’t get up. The reality is we live in a world full of broken people. Life is fragile; it should be handled with care, because people break easily. All the self-help programs, and the religious rules cannot fix broken hearts, broken hopes, and broken homes of people around us.
Jesus Christ was the only person who ever claimed to be able to heal broken hearts – he did it then and he can still do it today. As we come to the table to meet him this morning, remember it is Jesus who makes bent people out of shape straight again. Allow him to look into your your heart and show you the thing that is binding you and ask him to touch you and heal you. His ancient promise still hold true today. He will guide us, satisfy our needs when we feel spiritually dry and parched. He will make our bones strong so that we can’t stand up straight. Don’t go out of this place weighed down when you can be free. Just as Isaiah instructed. Call upon the Lord, cry for help. If you feel you need some help talk to someone here this morning.