By Pastor Eugene Rushing San Lorenzo, CA.
“And he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself. And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity. And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day. The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering? And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day? “And when he had said these things, all his adversaries were ashamed: and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him.”
Some years ago there was a terrible explosion in the Ferrel Gas Company in Eldon, Missouri. Some of you may be familiar with the horrible event that ruined this building and scarred forever three people who were inside the building. There was a fifty-one-year-old manager, who talked of nothing but taking early retirement in four more years, enjoying his boat and taking it easy. There was a secretary with teenage children, and there was a young man who drove one of the company trucks. One of the trucks was just about ten feet behind the building with its load of propane.
They think a hose broke. The propane, which is heavier than air, flowed for some time until a tiny spark set it off, ripping the building apart. One man saw the three people run out of the building. He could not tell if they were men or women. They were just flames. The manager was burned everywhere except where his boot protected his feet. The woman and the other young man were burned everywhere. In the hospital, the woman tried pulling the tubes out of her body; she didn’t want to live the rest of her life as some freak to be stared at and pitied. The young man was in very critical condition. Why do things like this happen? Why do people suffer, some for years, some for most of their lives?
At least part of the answer is found in an incident in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ that is recorded for us only in the gospel of Luke. It is the last time we read of Jesus teaching in a synagogue and the only time we read of this clue being offered to the mystery of suffering. This unparalleled episode contains such a powerful revelation for us. It is found in the thirteenth chapter of the gospel of Luke, I begin reading at verse 10: And he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. “And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself. 12And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity. “And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.
This is a stirring scene, one packed with drama, in which there are three principal players. Two of them are evident to us and one is invisible, although the results of his work are clearly seen. It is when this missing player is introduced that I believe some of the veil of mystery will be torn away. I would like for you to always think of this text in terms of the involvement of these three.
I. The Woman; verse 11.
What do we know about this woman? One verse says a lot!
· That she was a woman attending the synagogue, we know meant that she worshipped in a room behind a screen, cut off from the men. That she was a woman who was sick for eighteen years, bent over double attending synagogue, tells us that she refused to allow her physical problems to knock her walk with God off dead center. That she was a woman who was in the synagogue when Jesus came to teach tells me that she was rewarded for her faithfulness by meeting with Jesus Himself.
· I know that this woman had a miserable life. She was stooped over for eighteen years. Her spinal vertebrae were fused in some unnatural
contortion. Bent over double, she always looked toward the dust and mud, never toward the sun and stars. The inexorable, relentless pull of gravity twisted her features into a grim mask and the long years quenched the light in her eyes. Of course, being stooped over, she had to use a cane. So, not only her back and face were misshapen, but her hand was gnarled and contorted from leaning her body weight on the head of a cane all those years.
There is no family mentioned in this story, as with other miracles of Jesus. She is isolated because of her physical appearance and imprisoned because of her physical condition. I can imagine the jeering taunts of children as they mocked her condition. She went to draw water at the well when no one else could see her. It was very difficult to carry that heavy bucket and manage the cane. She had a feeling of dread in the pit of her stomach, hoping no children would see her because they would tease her and throw little stones at her, puncturing her sense of self-respect. Life seemed to be a cruel joke unhappily played out.
· There is something else we learn about this woman that makes her dear to my heart. Jesus tells us in verse 16 that she was a …daughter of Abraham. He does not say, as later with Zacchaeus in Luke 19 that she became one. He says she was one. What Jesus was saying was that this woman was a believer; she was in right relationship with God. She did not allow this condition to tear away her relationship with God. She was a daughter of Abraham.
· One other thing we can say, although she was burdened down, she never gave up.
· She could not straighten up, not, would not straighten up.
She was still in synagogue. I wonder, if I had been crippled for eighteen years, would I be faithful to worship God week after week?
Lots of people reading this article are burdened down with weights that cannot be seen.
Sin burdens them down. The Psalmist said, My wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness. 61 am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long. Psalm 38:5-6.
Sorrow burdens them down. Why are you down cast, 0 my soul? My soul is downcast within me. Psalm 42:5.
Suffering burdens them down. Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and forgettest our affliction and our oppression? 25 For our soul is bowed down to the dust: our belly cleaveth unto the earth. Psalm 44:24-25.
But these things are the result of the work of one evil being and his name is Satan. He is the second character I would like to introduce from this story. He is not seen, but this woman was bent over double under the pressure of the crushing power of his sulfurous hand.
II. Satan and the spirit causing infirmity
· We know something about this woman that perhaps she did not know herself. We know it because Jesus tells us in verse 16 and the gospel record introduces us to it in verse 11.
Her problem was caused by an evil spirit; indeed Satan himself had sent one of his messengers to oppress this woman. Literally, a spirit caused this infirmity, this disease. She was not demon possessed; the word here is a strange one; she was “demonized.” Oppressed! She was oppressed by the devil. I say oppressed because it is not a scriptural doctrine that believers can be possessed. When you know God, He is not only resident, but president.
Jesus taught using this analogy, He said, A house divided against itself cannot stand. Mark 3:25
There cannot be two opposing forces in your house, but there can be strong forces buffeting your house. Christians cannot be possessed by the devil. But they can be op-pressed. People outside of the protection of the blood of Jesus are subject to torment by the devil and to possession by spirits of which they are not aware. Demonic spirits cause mental disorder, as in the case of the Gadarene demoniac. Demonic spirits cause people to engage in violent activity, as with the boy who threw himself into the fire. Demonic spirits have miraculous power. They can give people psychic powers, as with the girl in Acts 16.
That power is also used to incite rebellion against God. Revelation 16:14 tells us that there will be spirits of demons performing miraculous signs and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for battle on the great day of God Almighty.
I believe that God puts a hedge of protection around His people, as He did with Job. But, for reasons that are best for us, God allows people inside the hedge of protection to be buffeted by messengers from Satan, as the apostle Paul records for us in 2 Corinthians 12. In Paul’s case, it was to keep him humble. We don’t know whether Paul suffered in a physical way or some other way, but this woman specifically suffered in the physical realm because of the attack of an evil spirit. In this case, we are not given the reason.
I do not believe that all sickness is caused by demons because the Scripture quite clearly makes a distinction. Luke 6:17-19 says He healed their diseases… and those troubled by evil spirits were cured. There is a clear distinction. However, we know that at the root of all suffering in this world, and that includes sickness and unexplained tragedies, is the fact that we live in a fallen world that has been ruined by the fall of Satan.
This woman is one individual example of his cruelty. Every person who has ever tasted of sick-ness, suffering or sorrow has done so ultimately because of the work of Satan. I know that is so because when we are with the Lord in eternity there will be no sorrow, there will be no sickness, there will be no suffering. God Himself shall wipe all tears from our eyes.
That brings me to the third person in this story. His name is Jesus!
Jesus knows all about this woman. He reaches out to her in a process that is still ongoing today.
First, He sees her, verse 12
I find this is the most incredible part of all. She was shuffling off to her place behind the screen. She was bent over double in a room full of standing people, for in those days, the worshippers stood out of respect while the teacher sat on a raised place. Everyone else ignored her, because they thought they knew her.
They had conveniently labeled her. She was a cripple. You may be reading this today and feel as though no one is noticing you and that people have labeled you. But my friend, the Lord Jesus Christ did not ignore her or label her; He looked right into her heart. He saw her!
Secondly, verse 12 also tells us He called her for-ward.
He asked her to come forward in front of all those people. Imagine that! To leave that little room with the other women and step into the area where only men were allowed. Why would Jesus do that?
He called her because he wanted to be kind to her. He did not want her to suffer another minute. This is one of seven miracles Jesus performed on the Sabbath because He did not want people to suffer another day. He explains this when the religious leader begins to be flustered by the miracle, arguing from the lesser to the greater.
He called her because she was His child; a daughter of Abraham. Just as a man is moved for his donkey or his ox, Jesus wants to set His children free. She had suffered long enough.
He called her because He has a deep antagonism for the work of Satan. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil.
Thirdly, Jesus spoke to her in verse 12; Woman, you are free from your infirmity. He spoke a word of faith! He did not say, “You will be free.” He said YOU ARE FREE! It was a personal, definite, uplifting word of miraculous power!
Fourthly, Jesus touched her. He laid His hands on her and immediately she straightened up and praised God! I wish I could have been there to see it. I wish I could have seen Jesus place those hands of power on that twisted back. I wish I could have heard those vertebrae popping back into place. I wish I could have heard the ping of muscles long stretched out of proper shape, immediately and miraculously, without any therapy, restored to proper balance. I wish I could have seen this dear sister, raising her hands and dancing all over that synagogue. I wish I could have heard the ring of laughter in her voice and the shout of victory from her heart as Jesus touched her and set her free immediately!
You may be discouraged in praying for the lost. You may be depressed because of the load you have carried for these years. But my friend, we have the assurance always of victory through Jesus.
It is just a matter of time until sin is destroyed, sorrow is dispersed, and care is dispelled. Isaiah 35:10 still says; Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return and come with singing unto Zion; an everlasting joy shall be upon their heads. They shall obtain gladness and joy and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.
It is time to receive the Word in faith, experience the touch of Jesus, and straighten up and give God praise!