Jesus Heals a Crippled Woman
10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11 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. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” 13 When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” 15 But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” 17 When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.
25 See that you do not refuse the one who is speaking; for if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much less will we escape if we reject the one who warns from heaven! 26 At that time his voice shook the earth; but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.”
27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of what is shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; 29 for indeed our God is a consuming fire.
What does it mean to be unshakeable? Is that possible? Seems like there’s a lot in life that leaves us shaking, wondering what could happen.
Sometimes, being shaken is literal. While I was in class at Fuller Seminary one day, I experienced an earthquake. Its epicenter was only a few miles away and it shook the windows and it felt like the floor beneath me was very wobbly! I didn’t know what to do, I looked at my friend sitting next to me, Igors from Latvia, we both looked at the professor who started to head out of the classroom. All of our other classmates ducked under their desks. It lasted a few moments and then it was calm.
Class was dismissed and I began to walk home. While walking, I looked up into the mountains surrounding Pasadena, CA and began to get a bit weak and emotional as I thought about the awesome power of that earthquake…and how God’s power is overwhelming and more powerful than anything in all of his creation. It was a humbling moment.
Friends, we have a powerful God who has been revealed to us through Jesus by the power of God’s Spirit. That power is flowing all around us and in us! This is an awesome God who has made promises to us, and has made God’s dwelling with us, in us. We are not alone. We live in Christ and participate in Christ’s movement from conception, to birth, to life, to death, and then to resurrection! It’s a powerful cycle that is infused with God’s presence throughout…and even into eternity.
Life may leave us shaking, but we have an inner strength from Christ that can give us a measure of confidence…that strength comes from a deeper sense of awareness of who we are, of others, and of God. This is a power that is unshakeable, a power that can be overwhelming, terrifying really, painful even, yet, can also move mountains both in reality and figuratively.
I see this unshakable power often in others who have been crippled, impaired in some way. Yet, they have been able to overcome and find a deeper strength that is simply beautiful. I have been following a few runners and athletes on Instagram who have inspired me. These are folks who compete at a high level even though they may be missing an arm or a leg. It started in two ways: when I ran the Boston Marathon injured, my time was off and I ended up running with some blade runners. The other is the work that my wife does in physical therapy. Her clinic works with some amazing folks who have had powerful traumatic impacts on their bodies that have left them paralyzed physically, yet they have a deeper power that they tap into…it’s amazing.
I still can’t quite comprehend what it must have been like for the woman in our gospel story. For 18 years she probably didn’t have crowds cheering her on. As a cripple, in that society, she was considered on the margins, outside of society. Even the religious order of the day did not fully embrace her in her humanity. They seemed to be more focused on their sense of order, propriety, or doing the things they way they’ve always been done that they had forgotten their own shared humanity. They had reduced religion to rules and not relationships. They were blind and deaf to God’s very heart of relationship and could not recognize this woman’s humanity….they could not even recognize Jesus as the messiah, the one who came to give us our humanity back.
Our passage doesn’t say what she was crippled with, but that she was crippled by a spirit.
She was so harassed by something that it physically affected her.
I can somewhat relate to that, so can many of us. We can be crippled by spirits of fear, anxiety, the unknown, even change. We can let the spirit of our selfishness, I call that our small e egos, that we are crippled if you will to doing the hard work of self and others awareness. Those spirits of selfishness, anxiousness, fear, loneliness, can lead to physical issues. They are powerful narratives in our lives. I am about to go in for my annual physical, my doctor always asks how work is going, how is my family life, how is anxiety showing up physically? Am I experiencing tightness in my chest, back pains, stomach issues? If those are present, how can I reduce my anxiety so that it doesn’t cripple me further? How can I let go of certain things so that I not only survive by thrive.
I think this woman knew that she could not live as she had lived for almost two decades. She didn’t want to be crippled, yet it was what she knew. She meets Jesus and she sees someone who can help her, there’s a deeper power at work. She begins the process of awareness and tapping into that power. She knows she needs to change, she knows that she wants something better, she takes a risk in trusting someone else. Jesus sees her, Jesus touches her, Jesus heals her. And, she dances. She’s been given life!
As she celebrates, as something good happens, as she begins this new life of God’s unshakable belief in her, how did the religious rulers respond? Well, again, they focused on the negative, they couldn’t see beyond themselves and their rules to the opportunities of restored relationship. Jesus had compassion on the crippled woman, and, even the blindness of the religious leaders. He healed the woman, yes, but he also calls out the religious leaders. Jesus goes on to point out that they would take care of their animals on the sabbath, so why shouldn’t Jesus take care of this woman? In other words, the religious leaders had become so stuck in a way of thinking, they couldn’t see their blind spots, or notice others. Jesus doesn’t say much else, he just points out the obvious, this woman, one of us, a human being, has been healed. The religious leaders were shamed a bit as it says, and maybe, just maybe, they knew they had been focusing on the wrong things.
Friends, I don’t know where you are today. Maybe some of us have been stuck in a certain way of thinking for a long time and it’s crippling us…maybe you have experienced change or are getting ready for a big change. Maybe something is happening in your job, in your family, education, maybe you are afraid of what the future may bring you.
I believe that, just like this woman, when we are met by Jesus, when something inside of us is touched by the divine, and we are given the chance to be healed and we recognize God’s unshakeable power flow through us, we should not be afraid to let go of what has been crippling us. It starts with our hearts being moved, then our minds being healed as we
move towards awareness of our deeper selves, then healing can take root and work within us, moving us towards joy and away from what is crippling us.
I believe that Jesus came to heal us beyond in the depth of who we are…we live in the body of Christ to move towards a sense of wholeness, relationship, and joy in the moment no matter what may be waiting around the corner. To be healed and to experience God’s power, to let go of what is crippling us can be hard work, but when we allow ourselves to be touched by the divine, touched by God, allowing ourselves to be dependent on one another and brought into community, we can then dance, celebrate, and live in God’s unshakable love and commitment to us.