Healing a Crippled Woman and Teaching with Parables (Luke 13:10-22)

Submitted by admin on Mon, 2008-06-09 11:21.

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While teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath, Jesus noticed a woman with a “spirit of feebleness.” The expression “spirit of feebleness” appears to point to the perception that an evil spirit was responsible for her condition. For 18 years, she had been bent over and unable to straighten up. Seeing her, Jesus called her to come to him and said, “Woman, you are released from your feebleness.” When he placed his hands on her, she straightened up and glorified or praised God. (Luke 13:10-13)

Jesus effected this cure on the Sabbath. This aroused the synagogue leader’s indignation, prompting him to voice his objection. He told those assembled that work should only be done on six days and that they should come to be cured on those days and not on the Sabbath. (Luke 13:14)

In his reply to him, Jesus also included anyone else who shared his sentiments and addressed them as “hypocrites.” He then showed them up as such with two questions. “Does not each one of you release [or untie] his bull or [his] donkey from the stall [or the manger] on the Sabbath and lead it away to drink? Was it not necessary for this [woman], being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan had bound (behold! for 18 years) to be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” (Luke 13:16)

They were hypocrites, for they had no objection to acting to satisfy the need of an animal but were indignant about responding to the need of a daughter of Abraham, one of God’s people. They insisted on the letter of the law respecting a fellow Israelite but violated the very purpose of the law, which was to provide a day for rest and refreshment and for appreciative reflection on God’s blessing. Jesus’ words made his opponents ashamed, but the rest of the assembled crowd rejoiced at all the splendid things he had done. (Luke 13:17)

His reference to “Satan” may have served to accommodate the common belief of those assembled in the synagogue. The various causes for diseases were then unknown, and Jesus’ listeners would not have benefited from hearing explanations to which they could not relate.

The account in Luke 13 appears to indicate that Jesus continued teaching the people, using parables to illustrate features about the kingdom of God. He likened the kingdom to a mustard seed that a man planted in his garden. That seed grew and became a tree. On its branches, birds nested. (Luke 13:18, 19; the same parable is found in Matthew 13:31, 32, and Mark 4:30-32.)

Though a mustard seed is very small, its potential for growth is much greater than that of many larger seeds. The black mustard (Brassica nigra) may grow to a height of 15 feet. In the fall, the hardened branches of the plant can support small birds such as finches. These birds perch on the branches and feed on the seeds. The “nesting” (literally, “tenting”) of the birds is probably to be understood as meaning their perching on the branches (as if having made their home there).

The main point of the parable seems to be that a small beginning would lead to astonishing growth. This proved to be the case as the apostles and other early disciples began their proclamation about Jesus after his resurrection and ascension to heaven. In less than 30 years, the message about God’s kingdom, with its focus on Jesus Christ as the king by God’s appointment, spread far and wide. (Compare Colossians 1:23.) As a result, many thousands ceased to be part of the world alienated from the Most High and identified themselves as subjects of Christ as their king and, therefore, as belonging to God’s realm.

Then Jesus likened the “kingdom of God” to leaven a woman hid in three seahs of flour, which then fermented the whole lump. Three seahs amounted to about 20 dry quarts and so would have been a large batch of dough. Women commonly used leaven, and so nothing of a sinister nature is suggested when Jesus referred to the “hiding” of the leaven. Once the small amount of leaven is in the dough, only the fermentation process reveals its presence. (Luke 13:20, 21; this parable is also set forth in Matthew 13:33.)

The parable suggests a quiet and imperceptible activity of something that appears to be small but produces significant observable results. This agrees with the way in which the message about God’s kingdom spread extensively and led to amazing changes in the lives of persons who responded in faith and became part of God’s realm.

During the course of his traveling to Jerusalem, Jesus used the opportunity to teach in the towns and villages through which he passed with his disciples. (Luke 13:22) The account in Luke 13 does not provide any information about the reason for Jesus’ trip to Jerusalem. Based on John 10:22, he appears to have been on the way to attend the Festival of Dedication (Hanukkah).