3-3-2024 Sermon

    03.06.24 | Sermons by Jennifer Parks-Snyder

    Luke 13:10-17 Sermon: He Set his Face to Go to Jerusalem and Healed a Woman with a Crippling Spirit by Pastor Jenn

    The first time Jesus went into a synagogue as an adult, Luke writes that Jesus stood before the congregation and read these words from the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19). There is hardly an episode in Luke that does not point back to this pronouncement.

                Now, in this passage from Luke 13, Jesus enters the synagogue for the last time before the cross and sees “a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight.” First off, notice Jesus sees her, we talked about this with the story of Zaccheaus, Jesus sees us, all of us. In this case he sees her even though she would have been difficult to see, bent over, in a congregation, who did not sit in pews, but mostly stood to do their learning. Jesus sees her, calls her over, declares release from her oppressive situation, lays hands on her, she straightens up and right away begins praising God, giving God the glory for her healing. That means she knows Jesus is doing God’s work. This is the gospel, the good news that Isaiah prophesied about.

    The unfortunate part of this story is what comes next, 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.” Notice he didn’t say it once, the text says he “kept saying to the crowd”, one of those annoying disruptive statements like Horseshack “ooo, ooo, Mr. Carter” (that’s for those of you who like me, grew up in the 70’s watching Welcome Back, Carter, where John Travolta got his start) So this leader of the synagogue is calling Jesus out, Jesus, who has reached his limit, and answers him saying, “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?”

    I want to break down his response. First off, know that figuring out what one can and cannot do on the Sabbath was an on-going struggle. While God pronounced it to be kept holy, the scholars of the time debated what that could and should look like. Here’s a reminder of what was said when that commandment was first given: Deuteronomy 5:12-15 12 “ ‘Observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 14 But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. 

    Notice Jesus draws directly from Deuteronomy 5:12-15, the version of the commandment that speaks of caring for animals. But it also connects Sabbath rest to Israel’s liberation from slavery in Egypt as the text continues, 15 Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore, the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

    According to Jesus, keeping the Sabbath holy means to recall and celebrate Israel’s liberation, and for Jesus healing a woman on the Sabbath is an appropriate way to reenact that freedom God gave the Israelites so long ago, much more than leading animals to water and rest.

    That’s why Jesus goes on to say,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?

    Notice what he calls her, a daughter of Abraham. She’s the only person in the whole Bible to be called by that name, just like Zaccheaus was called son of Abraham. Abraham, of course, was the great father of the faith. He was the one who, many years before, received God’s promise that a great nation would be created out of his descendants, a people through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed. This woman, says Jesus, is a daughter of Abraham. She is part of God’s great plan of salvation and blessing for the whole world.

    Further he goes on to state this daughter has been Satan bound, which does not mean that the devil did this to her, rather to use such a phrase was to point to what she was experiencing was against God’s work and will for her life. But not anymore, Jesus has healed her, set her free from her pain and struggles, she is released from her oppression,  and the text ends,  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. In other words, the year of the Lord’s favor was being proclaimed as Jesus set this oppressed woman free, just like he declared he would that first time he preached at the synagogue, and how appropriate to end his adult time in a synagogue too, fulfilling those words.

    What’s the lesson for us? I think the lesson is for us to recognize we are all part of God’s plan to save the world, when each one of us lives into the favor of the Lord, meaning we know, trust, and believe we are loved by God, and that love inspires us to live that love out with others each and every day.

    But we also recognize that there are forces at work so that we may not always feel like sons and daughters of Abraham, because maybe we feel shackled or bent down with the weight of struggles, pain, or labels. And yet, Jesus has come to set us free, to release us.

    Some of you have been following Pastor Lew’s Seriously Methodist book club, and this last time they met, they read John Tyson’s biography of Charles Wesley. And I will confess I did not know much about Charles Wesley, even though I claim to be a Wesleyan. However, when I say that, it’s because I know that both John and Charles Wesley preached and demonstrated a gospel of love in the 1700’s in England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland, a gospel offered to all. In fact, Charles wrote many hymns describing their theology such as Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Christ the Lord is Risen Today, and Love Divine, All Loves Excelling.

    But I learned something new and that was how often the Wesley men had to prove the power of that love to angry mobs. For instance, because the Wesleys started these groups of Methodists who were to encourage faith formation outside of Sundays, they were seen as a threat to the local churches. When Charles and John would go around preaching the gospel of love, they would do so from street corners, fields, anywhere people could gather and hear them. And they became quite popular, thousands would come to hear them. But sometimes they ran into challenges too.

    It is told that in May 1743, Charles was preaching at Sheffield when the local Anglican priest had gone to the local bar to get people upset with the Wesleys and therefore throw rocks and other things while Charles was preaching. They did and it got so bad that women and children were getting hit and knocked down by these men, and so Charles told everyone to leave. He then went to the local building that was the meeting place for the Methodists, but the men followed him and began to tear the house down. He had to sneak out. The next day he came back, and it was torn down to its foundations. Imagine the animosity to do such a thing. Talk about being bound by Satan. Charles Wesley even wrote a hymn about it titled “After Deliverance from Death by the Fall of a House.”

    Here's the interesting part, by Charles not reacting, not fighting back, rather he came back the next day to preach again in Sheffield, he won some converts. One of the main instigators petitioned to join the Methodist movement 5 months later. Because in hearing and watching Charles Wesley, he recognized he too was set free, released with the Lord’s favor. [1]

    Friends, today may we each consider: What is keeping me from claiming my identity as a child of Abraham and  being part of God’s salvation for the world? Is it emotional highs and lows, fear, anger, worry, anxiety? Is it spiritual and physical challenges that are overwhelming and exhausting? What is preventing me from rejoicing in God so others may learn to rejoice and welcome the kingdom too ?  Despite the hardships in our lives, to know and trust God is at work to heal, bless, and help us.

                To experience the Lord’s favor that Jesus preached and lived is to experience the freedom of God’s good will and be released to praise the blessings of God’s kingdom here and now.

     Time of Reflection with Prayer & Lord’s Prayer

    Gracious and eternal God, you call us into a new way of being, and give us so many second chances in life. On this Sabbath day, the day to remember how you set us free for life with you, we turn toward you now and ask that you release us from what is preventing us from claiming our identity as children of Abraham, to be part of Your plan of salvation for the world.

    We offer these burdens now, to You...

    Lord, we want to be like the healed bent over woman, we want to be like the crowd of witnesses when Jesus set her free. Free us Lord from these burdens so that through us, others may learn to rejoice and welcome the kingdom too. Mold us as your people in new and powerful ways, that we may be true disciples of your Son, Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray saying…
    [1] Assist Me to Proclaim pp138-144