When you sit opposite from my neighbor Geraldine, you don't notice that there is anything amiss. She is a spry and sparkling example of 89 years old at its best, when seated. She sits up, looks you in the eye, and makes casual conversation with a clever wit on almost any topic. She picks up her teacup and cookies like there is no difference between the any of us. Nothing is out of place..., that is, until she stands up.
It is then that the 89 years seem to drop on her body like a heavy weight, born about the shoulders, crushing weight bearing down upon her small, and now frail looking body. Deterioration of the spine, the result of years of degenerative disease, has taken its toll and it has left Geraldine bent and broken. As she stands, the sparkle goes out of her eyes and the breath is drawn, with more with intense labor. You wish it were possible to attach a string to her head, like a marionette puppet, to help pull her up straight. But her body is not limp, but gripped with pain.
Yet, without complaint she labors to the door, opens it and lets me out. I think of her and pray for her, body and soul. Although I know my body is not bent like that, there are parts of me, indeed all of us, that on the inside are of a bent and broken nature not visible to any but the most trained of eyes, perhaps visible only to the eyes of God. So some of us are like the woman in our Gospel for today and Geraldine, literally bent over, bound by some evil, the rest of us, simply out of shape, not as God intended, seeking to be set free.
This passage from Luke is all about how Jesus can set us free. As we watch Him deliver this sick woman from the bondage of her sickness, we get a picture of what He can do for us.
This was a woman who, like Geraldine, was in severe physical pain. Her body was bent double at the waist. Every day was a struggle for her. She found herself in a physical condition that prevented her from looking up. She could not see the sun, or the faces of those she loved without pain. All she could see was the ground, and her feet below her. She could not, by her own power, overcome her condition. Sadly, many of us have found ourselves in a spiritual state in which we cannot look up either. We are totally unable to see past the torment we are experiencing in our lives. We to are bent over and cannot see the possibilities or potential that exists around us.
This bent-over woman is one of the most powerful pictures of faith and faithfulness in the New Testament. She has been in this condition for 18 years. If she has been to the synagogue every Sabbath for those 18 years, she has attended some 1,000 meetings there. She has been sick for 18 years – a generation. She has not been healed, still she believes in God. She prays, but even when it seems like God isn’t going to answer, she remains faithful. She comes to the services, in spite of the fact that no one would think a thing about her if she did not. She attends services even though she is in pain. She makes it a priority in fact. She persisted in her faith, even when life didn’t go her way, because she loved the Lord. She continued to be faithful because she knew that God knew best. She loved Him and she would worship Him in spite of the obstacles she faced. Like Geraldine, she is an example of living faithfully in the midst of chronic adversity.
This woman wasn’t the only one who came to the synagogue to worship. Jesus was in attendance that day and He came to worship as well. The Bible says, “He saw her”. Jesus initiated the healing, not her. When Jesus saw her, He called her to Him. When she had struggled her way to where He was, He spoke to her. He called her “Woman”. Others may not have recognized her significance, but Jesus did. He loved her like she was. Then He spoke the words that must have thrilled her soul, “Woman, You are set free from your ailment.” What she or anyone could never could have accomplished, Jesus did with a word.
When this miracle occurred, the people in the synagogue began to rejoice, as the woman herself praises God, as well they should have. This is true Sabbath worship. However, the ruler of the synagogue told the people that they could be healed any of the other six days of the week. He was implying that the Sabbath was more important than the needs of the people. The ruler of the synagogue was showing how crippled he was – crippled in heart for not rejoicing in the old woman’s healing. His religion was a crippled form of the true Law. Jesus told this man that he was placing the needs of animals above the needs of people. Jesus calls him a hypocrite – someone who processes one thing but whose actions or words say another. He loves his religion more than he loved God, or God’s people. In contrast, Jesus calls the healed woman a “daughter of Abraham.” Nowhere else does this appear in the New Testament. It means Jesus sees her as an intricate member of the covenant community – a loyal descendant of Abraham, the Father of the Jewish people. She is precious is God’s sight and worthy of healing.
Life would never be the same for her again. Her condition had forever been changed. She was whole she was straight and she was free from the bondage of her condition. That is the power of His touch. It is life changing and it is powerful. When God touches us, straightens out what is wrong and gives us His healing, we will never be the same again.
In this story, notice that Jesus made the first move. He called the crippled and bound woman to come to Him. She responded to His call, came to Him and got the help she needed. Jesus is alert and attentive to the needs of those around him. We can take confidence that Jesus is already moving toward us. Is there something in our life that has us bound or crippled? Some past hurt? Some secret sin? Some guilt over things long gone? Some bitterness and unforgiveness that has wedged itself into our hearts? He is already there. The passage teaches us to go to him -- that the only way to get the help we need is to go about His way. That is, when He calls, we come to Him. When He calls we respond. When we do, we are promised that He will be there to meet us and to help us get the healing we need for our lives.
We have all heard the statement, “Let go and let God.” Have you ever thought about where it originated? The story goes something like this: A college student back in the nineteenth century took six postcards and wrote a large letter on each one of the postcards: L–E–T-G–O–D. He then put them on the mantelpiece in his room where he was living at school. One evening a draft blew through the window and the “D” blew away. As he picked it up, what he saw seemed to be a message from God, the secret of the Christian life. Only by letting go can we let God carry out His will in our lives. Let God and Let Go – so we can be children of Abraham – set free indeed. Amen.