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 to 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 being done by him.
Reading the gospel passage this week, I kept on thinking what it could have been like to be this crippled woman. I cannot imagine what it would have been like to have been crippled for 18 years. The thoughts and voices that build up in your head.
I’ve not been crippled, but I have been injured. I’ve actually been nursing an injury recently…Achilles Tendinosis…was hoping to run a marathon this fall, but not sure.
A few years back, when I was training for the Boston Marathon, I injured myself then as well. I was able to train with the injury, but I knew it wouldn’t heal fully until after the race itself and with rest. In the race, the injury kept getting worst, it was painful, but the part that was the hardest were the voices in my head and trying to navigate some decisions. Can I get through this day? Will I need to stop at the medical tent? Will someone be able to help me? Luckily I did stop and eventually found someone that could help me stabilize my leg injury and get through the race. Yet, there were times when I thought I may have to drop out. Yet, even in those times, I was surrounded by crowds of people that kept me going.
But, that was a temporary thing. I knew that I would heal, I had confidence that I could get through this somehow.
That may give me a window of what it means to be crippled, but I still can’t quite comprehend what it must have been like for this woman. 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.
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. She begins the process of awareness. 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, 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 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 education with this new year, 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, 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, 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 and celebrate.