[Jesus] was teaching in one of the meeting places on the Sabbath.
There was a woman present, so twisted and bent over with arthritis
that she couldn't even look up. She had been afflicted with this
for eighteen years. When Jesus saw her, he called her over. "Woman,
you're free!" He laid hands on her and suddenly she was
standing straight and tall, giving glory to God.
The meeting-place president, furious because Jesus had healed
on the sabbath, said to the congregation, "Six days have
been defined as work days. Come on one of the six if you want
to be healed, but not on the seventh, the Sabbath."
But Jesus shot back, "You frauds! Each Sabbath every one
of you regularly 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?"
When it put it that way, his critics were left looking quite
silly and red-faced. The congregation was delighted and cheered
<The Message >
One of the best studies of women in the gospels I know is Do
What You Have the Power to Do by Helen Bruch Pearson,
published by Upper Room Books. I can't do any better with this
series of encounters of Jesus with a woman, a religious leader,
and a congregation than Helen's own words.
"The Bible is both a religious and a political book that
speaks clearly about issues of justice and the fair treatment
of every human being. The bent-over woman, whom Jesus healed
on the sabbath in the synagogue, helps us distinguish between
justice and charity. In reading and and discussing her story
... we are confronted with the teachings of Jesus that seek to
move our discipleship beyond acts of charity and into works of
"This session will uphold the urgency with which Christians
must be engaged in the struggle against unjust laws and traditions
that keep some persons and groups bent over and burdened down.
Participants will move toward a clearer commitment to make visible
the root causes of the social/economic/political injustices in
our global community. The struggle against these 'principalities
and powers' is not for their sake but for our sake. To make justice
for all a reality instead of a forgotten dream is a single common
struggle on the part of Christians everywhere. The affirmation
that no one stands upright as long as others remain bend over
is a way to critique, evaluate, and judge structures and systems
that manipulate, devalue, and oppress other human beings. Justice,
as the way to effect lasting change, is a primary focus of this
Are you looking at this as an individual healing or a healing
of a community, a congregation?
"The healing of the bent-over woman was not a private event.
After the public rebuke of the synagogue ruler by Jesus, the
entire congregation got involved. This healing was a community
affair. Everyone experienced empowerment. They all
[rejoiced]. In a sense, they were all set free from the bondage
of a tradition that placed more importance on keeping the law
than on responding to the welfare and needs of human being. When
the bent-over woman was healed, they all stood straighter. Indeed,
no healing is without its positive social side effects for the
This is a healing story told without reference to forgiveness
or faith. As such it stands as a reminder of the "kingdom"
coming quickly. Won't it cause great rejoicing when the United
States finally and suddenly deals with its bent over citizens
through some form of universal health care. How long must this
human right be delayed because of some laws and traditions?
"Those of us who call ourselves disciples must also be willing
to let our hands be an extension of our commitment to do away
with unjust and unfair traditions and laws. We must be personally
involved in helping those who suffer and in challenging the structures
of our society that keep so many bent over. We must call out
in public places and in public ways. We must recognize and confess
our participation in that which is unfair and unjust. We have
heard and we have seen. We are no longer innocent. To ignore
the sicknesses of this world is to hear Jesus address us with
'You hypocrites!' and to be exposed to the truth of who we really
There may be a way in which the congregation needs to identify
with Jesus calling the religious leaders, "Frauds!"
before they can see how they have been co-opted and have given
away their experience and freedom. In this self-imposed impotency
they have been frauds, too. Now the comes the results of celebration
by those who have been frauds who can see a new way and a hardening
by those who have been frauds and need to continue as such.
May we all hear Jesus call us, "Fraud!" and respond
with, "Wow, Yes, we have been frauds. But no more!"
With that affirmation comes great rejoicing.
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